Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt attended the Adidas Maximum Exposure Combine in Pontiac, Mich., on Saturday. Here are five things he learned from watching many of the state of Michigan's top underclassmen.
1. The 2014 class in Michigan has talent
In the last six months, we have seen the emergence of Sturgis quarterback Chance Stewart and Farmington Hills Harrison running back Lorenzo Collins as big-time Division I prospects. Both are in the class of 2014 and both are from the state of Michigan. On Saturday, we saw several more top prospects from the state's sophomore class in action.
Detroit Cass Tech wide receiver Damon Webb has all the tools to be a big-time prospect in two years. He is 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds now, and likely is not done growing. His route running is precise, his ball skills are outstanding and he is already getting the more technical aspects of his position down. Watch for his name to make its way around the country very quickly. Also keep an eye on Collins' teammate at Harrison, linebacker Gary Hosey, who saw significant playing time as a sophomore in a Hawk defense that was littered with Division I prospects.
Oak Park sophomore wide receiver Drew Jackson has not yet seen varsity action, but his size (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) and speed (4.40 40-yard dash) were impressive on Saturday. Offensive lineman Derek Brown from Yale High School was recognized as one of the top offensive linemen at the event, and at 6-foot-4 and 280 pounds he looks on his way to being a Division I offensive guard prospect.
2. It's in the blood
Chelsea (Mich.) RB Berkley Edwards comes from a football family. His father played six seasons in the NFL. His brother won the Biletnikoff Award at Michigan and was the third pick in the NFL draft. The younger Edwards is carrying the weight of those expectations, but his shoulders appear broad enough to handle them.
As a junior, Edwards rushed for 1,520 yards and 18 touchdowns. On Saturday he reeled off a 4.35 40-yard dash, then backed it up with a 4.40 time. He is a quiet and reserved young man and he does not see the success of his family members as a burden. Instead, Edwards has learned from the path his father and brother took and is applying it to his own game.
He is just 5-foot-8, but weighs more than 180 pounds. His physique shows he loves the weight room, and his agility and 40-yard dash times prove he has put the time in on speed training. Edwards is waiting on his first offer, but he is hearing from elite BCS schools from across the country.
3. Junior Days still take precedence
Several of the top prospects expected to attend Saturday's Maximum Exposure Combine at the Pontiac Silverdome dropped out late so they could head over to East Lansing for Michigan State's Junior Day.
The Spartans hosted a ton of top talent from the Midwest, including Detroit Douglass athlete Demetrius Stinson, Canton offensive guard Cameron Dillard and Holland athlete Corey Willis, who we were expecting to see at the Silverdome on Saturday.
Combines are a path to college scholarship offers, but getting face time with college coaches can go just as far. There will be many more camps and combines over the next eight months, but most schools hold just one or two junior days in the winter. It was disappointing not getting a chance to evaluate Stinson, Dillard and Willis, but you cannot blame them for taking a chance to spend time with college coaches and tour a Big Ten program.
4. Morris has company in Michigan
Warren De La Salle's Shane Morris has been generating buzz since his freshman season, and made his college decision to attend Michigan before his sophomore year of high school had concluded. Morris continues to set the bar high for other quarterbacks in his state, and others are stepping up to play on his level.
One of those quickly making a name for himself is Manchester's Nate Bossory. The 6-3, 220-pound Bossory threw for 2,100 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior. He has earned attention from Florida, Stanford, Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State and Indiana. Bossory has hit the offseason with a vengeance and is already working on those areas of his game he feels did not stack up as a junior. On Saturday he unveiled a shorter and quicker release, and very solid footwork. He has the tools to be a coveted quarterback prospect in the 2013 class.
Also keep an eye out for 2015 quarterback Jake Johnson. The freshman is expected to take over under center next year for DeWitt High School.
5. Cass Tech and Crockett are reloading
The Detroit Public School League had won only one Michigan state title before the 2011 season prior to Cass Tech's dominating win in the Division 1 finals this year. The Technicians held their final five opponents to a combined 29 points, in large part because their defense featured seven seniors sporting Division I college offers.
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Their PSL counterpart, Crockett, advanced to the state quarterfinals in Division 4, losing by a touchdown to the eventual state runners-up. The expectations for both programs have been raised, but each school should be able to answer the bell in 2012.
On Saturday we saw Cass Tech's starting junior safety, Delano Hill, reel off two 4.59 40-yard dashes at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. We also got a glimpse of the future Technicians offense with sophomore wide receiver Damon Webb, who is already emerging as a top prospect for the class of 2014. At Crockett, juniors Khalil Hill and Desmond King are lockdown cover corners and tight end Khalid Hill is a sure-handed target over the middle of the field. They all were among Saturday's best at the Adidas Maximum Exposure Combine.