ROCHESTER, MICH. - A few of the top names were unable to attend, but Saturday's Adidas Maximum Exposure Invitational at Oakland (Mich.) University still boasted a strong collection of talent, and all of it was from the state of Michigan. Leading the way was Farmington Hills Harrison wide receiver Aaron Burbridge.
The 6-1, 175-pound Burbridge will draw many comparisons to former Harrison and current Michigan State wideout Mark Dell, but the truth is Burbridge is further along in his development as a wide receiver at the same stage. He is explosive off the line of scrimmage, runs crisp routes, displayed soft hands and natural athletic ability. Burbridge also has the frame to add more good weight and play closer to 200 pounds in college.
On the recruiting trail, Burbridge has yet to pick up his first offer, but that does not concern him. Michigan and Michigan State are sending the most mail at this stage, but he goes into the process with no preferences on schools and no idea what to look for in a college.
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"Growing up I didn't even like football," Burbridge said. "I was a basketball player until I got to Harrison."
Burbridge helped lead Harrison to the Division 2 state title in Michigan last month. He finished the year with nine receiving touchdowns, four rushing touchdowns and five interceptions on defense, including three he returned for touchdowns.
Detroit King running back Dennis Norfleet has been on the recruiting radar of college coaches even longer than Burbridge and he showed once again Saturday why, even at 5-8 and 170 pounds, he is considered one of the state's top offerings in the 2012 class.
Norfleet ran drills with the running backs group, but switched over to the wide receivers for 1-on-1's and 7-on-7's. He made an outstanding one-handed grab with tight coverage by the defender, showing that some teams interested in him as a slot receiver see him there for good reason. Most likely Norfleet will bring his skills to a spread offense that can utilize his running and catching abilities.
The wide receivers and running backs were two positions loaded with talent at Saturday's event. East Detroit's Ron Thompson is an intriguing receiver at 6-4 and 210 pounds. His game is not as polished as Burbridge's at this stage, but he shows natural receiving abilities. Southfield's Leviticus Payne already holds an offer from Iowa. He ran at both wide receiver and defensive back and showed high-level potential at both positions.
Madison Heights Madison boasts a strong crop of talent in 2012 as an encore to the 2011 class that featured Florida commitment Valdez Showers and linebacker Devonte Snyder. Wide receivers Tyree Monroe and Danny Larkins both run their routes well, though the 6-0, 175-pound Monroe brings more playmaking ability while the 5-11, 172-pound Larkins is more of a possession receiver.
Madison running back James Gault also received recognition at his position. He may be the fastest prospect in the state of Michigan for the 2012 class, but at 5-5 and 130 pounds he is always going to face questions about his size.
Chandler Park Academy running back Deshaun Phillips has zero size concerns. In fact, at 5-10 and 225 pounds, Phillips is already has the upper body of a Division 1 ball carrier. His 1,700 yards and 24 touchdowns attest to his ability to produce on the field, and he showed great explosiveness and some ability to catch the ball out of the backfield at Saturday's Invitational.
Norfleet and Phillips appeared the most certain to be Division 1 talents out of the running backs at the Maximum Exposure event, but there were several more candidates who could make a case for themselves in the coming months. They include Orchard Lake St. Mary's Keith Stonestreet, Detroit Crockett's Marquis Thomas and Detroit Cass Tech freshman Johnny Miggins.
Michigan produced sensational quarterback classes in 2007 and 2010. They are poised to produce another strong collection of quarterback talent in the 2012 class, and two prospects who expect to lead that group are Detroit Crockett's Brian Blackburn and University of Detroit Jesuit's Brian Cleary.
The 6-5, 220-pound Blackburn has generated buzz since his sophomore season and physically he will remind many of Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor or Auburn's Cameron Newton. Blackburn has athleticism and the ability to run around, but fancies himself more of a drop back passer than the aforementioned two. Blackburn has taken big strides with his throwing motion since he first started on the combine scene last winter, but he is still developing.
The 6-3, 195-pound Cleary was the most technically sound of the passers at Saturday's Maximum Exposure event. He possesses a compact delivery and quick release, providing for decent velocity and good accuracy on his passes.
The quarterback who generated the most buzz, however, was class of 2013 Warren DeLaSalle signal caller Shane Morris. The 6-2, 175-pound prospect has already grown since last spring and looks to have a few more inches and many more pounds to go on his frame, but he already possesses a rifle arm. Morris has not yet learned to throttle back on certain passes, much to the dismay of those trying to catch the bullets he fired. Potential-wise, he could be a sensation in two years.
The defensive side of the football did not possess as much talent as the offense on Saturday, but Wyandotte Roosevelt linebacker Hunter Matt deserves recognition. He drew high praise from the Grand Rapids Community College coaching staff who instructed at the event. Matt looks to have spent a lot of time in the weight room in the last six months and probably is close to 215 pounds now. He showed good range and control in the passing drills.
Additional defensive standouts include Forest Hills Eastern linebacker Mark Lawson, Detroit Cass Tech defensive back Ruben Lile and Orchard Lake St. Mary's defensive back Kimani Elliott.