April 25, 2007

Detroit talent a focus for UM, MSU

Detroit top 10 prospects | Best of the rest| Sleepers | Vote: Your pick for Detroit's top prospect

The football programs at Michigan and Michigan State have been fighting over Detroit for decades.

For the past few years, the Wolverines have clearly had the upper hand.

This year, the Spartans are coming out swinging. New Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is focused on making Detroit a fertile recruiting territory for the Spartans.

"There's no question that Michigan State's new coaches are focused on becoming more of a player in Detroit," Southeastern coach Donshell English said. "The old coaches tried to work it hard, but Coach Dantonio's staff takes the extra step.

"They not only work the players hard, they spend time talking to the coaches, teachers at the school and everybody involved in the community. They know they have a lot of ground to make up to Michigan, and I think they've already done an amazing job of helping turn things around."

English should know. He has two of the top players in Detroit. One of his stars, athlete Charles Burrell, has already said he is heading to Michigan State. Teammate Fred Smith, who is a receiver, is at the center of one of the most intense recruiting races between the Spartans and Wolverines.

Winning in Detroit could determine the success of the programs. Sure, Michigan should still be able to recruit nationally, but there's no question the Wolverines still must keep the local stars at home.

Michigan State doesn't quite have the national name that its bitter rival does - yet - so it's vital for the Spartans to win some of the battles in Detroit.

The good news for each team is that once again it looks like a very good year for talent in the Motor City. Highlighted by players like Smith, Burrell, Detroit Cass Tech corner back Boubacar Cissoko, Detroit County Day running back Jonas Gray and Novi defensive end Tyler Hoover, the city once again has several high profile recruits.

Below is an early look at the top 10 prospects in Detroit and a breakdown of several other Division I prospects in the area. The players are listed in alphabetical order.

Detroit top 10

Charles Burrell

6-1, 205, ATH, Detroit Southeastern

A do-it-all athlete, Burrell threw for 1,600 yards and 22 touchdowns. He accounted for more than 2,000 yards of total offense and 30 touchdowns. While he likely won't be a quarterback on the next level, there's no questioning that he's a playmaker. He's also an excellent safety prospect, and that might be where he ends up in college. Regardless, he's a heck of a player and a probably one of the top 10 players overall in the state.

Recruiting update: Michigan State was the first to offer him, and the Spartans were rewarded with an early commitment. Burrell said he has wanted to play for the Spartans since he saw them play in person as a freshman in high school. "Michigan State got my highlight film and they started recruiting me right away," Burrell said. "Coach Dantonio really liked my free safety highlight tape and he told me that I was the best that they had seen reacting to the ball."

Boubacar Cissoko

5-9, 170, CB, Detroit Cass Tech

Cissoko in action

When Rivals.com went to Cass Tech in November 2005 to scout standout defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale, the coaches made sure they pointed out Cissoko. "This kid is only a sophomore, but he's already a star," Charleston Fobbs, the defensive coordinator at Cass Tech said. "He's going to be the top player in Detroit when he's a senior." Fobbs' prediction may come true. Cissoko earned an offer from Michigan in September of his junior season. As a junior he had 52 tackles, intercepted a pass and forced three fumbles. Cissoko then dominated at the U.S. Army All-American Junior Combine. He was especially impressive in one-on-one drills.

Recruiting update: Cissoko committed two days before Signing Day for the class of 2007 when he committed to Michigan. He was also offered scholarships by Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee and Iowa. "It's close to my home, and my family can come and watch me play," Cissoko said. "I wanted to take some of the pressure of me a little bit and focus on school."

Kenny Demens

6-0, 211, LB, Detroit Country Day

Demens in action

A lot of the attention at Country Day is focused on teammate Jonas Gray, and for good reason. However, Demens is a very good player as well. Some schools might be scared away by Demens' height. However, when you watch Demens on tape, you see that he's always around the football making big plays. He had 90 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2006. He also had 112 yards receiving on just eight catches. Demens received a host of accolades for his play last year. He was named Detroit Country Day's defensive most valuable player. He was named first-team all-area and also was selected to the all-county and all-state teams.

Recruiting update: Michigan State and Purdue have offered Demens scholarships. He's also getting interest from Boston College, Iowa, Miami, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Wisconsin. He does not have any current leaders.

Jonas Gray

5-9, 206, RB, Detroit Country Day

Gray in action

Gray likely will be a Rivals100 prospect when the first official rankings are released. Coaches from all over the country are interested in him. Gray rushed for 1,252 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2006. He has also run the 100-meters in 10.55 seconds and the 200 in 21.96 seconds. He performed very well at the recent Columbus NIKE Combine, where he ran a 4.44-second time in the 40-yard dash, a 4.28 shuttle, a 36-inch vertical and did 18 reps on the bench press. A combination between a speed and a power back, Gray is definitely one of the best running backs available in the class of 2008.

Recruiting update: Gray almost committed to Florida early in the recruiting process, but he's backed off of that and now seems to be taking his time a little more than some thought. He also lists Minnesota, Penn State, Auburn, Illinois, Iowa, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan as early front-runners. Only Auburn, Michigan and Penn State have not offered in that group.

Anthony Hollis

5-10, 179, CB, Detroit Northwestern

Cissoko gets a lot of the attention, and he's definitely worthy of the recognition. Hollis might be one of the best kept secrets in the state. The explosive 5-foot-10, 179-pounder has been timed at 4.4-seconds in the 40-yard dash. He caught 22 passes for 663 yards (30-yards per catch average) and six touchdowns, and averaged nearly 30 yards on 10 kick returns. Although he is a big part of coach Michael Crayton's offense, defense is where Hollis really shines. A lock-down cover corner, he intercepted six passes and recorded 31 tackles as a junior. He earned all-city, all-metro and honorable mention all-state accolades for his play. "My defensive backs coach, the first year he told me not to look at the quarterback and stay focused on the man," Hollis said. "But this year, since I got better, he told me I could bait people, and it worked."

Recruiting update: Ball State has offered him a scholarship, but many Big Ten schools are showing serious interest. He was at Michigan's spring game, and he'll be back in Ann Arbor for the Wolverines' summer camp. He's also going to the West Lafayette, Ind., NIKE Camp. Indiana, Miami, Ohio State and Wisconsin are also showing him some early interest.

Tyler Hoover

6-7, 244, DE, Novi, Mich.

Hoover in action

Hoover has one of the best frames to work with in the state. At 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, Hoover has an amazing building block with which to work. He's already strong, but he's still slender enough to add good weight. He could get bigger and still keep his speed and athletic ability. He projects at weakside defensive end, but there are some that believe he could be a future franchise offensive tackle. Hoover doesn't want that; he wants his shot at the defensive side of the ball. In his junior season he made 87 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks.

Recruiting update: Hoover recently picked up a much coveted Michigan offer, but the Wolverines aren't alone in their pursuit. Duke, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue and Vanderbilt have also offered. He's also very interested in Stanford. Growing up, Hoover did not have strong allegiances to any particular college football team, but did follow both Michigan and Michigan State.

Mike Martin

6-1, 295, DT, Novi (Mich.) Catholic Central

Martin is probably one of the biggest sleepers in Detroit. With so many other really good skill players in the area, it's easy to overlook the talented interior lineman from the Detroit suburbs. The 6-1, 295-pound Martin is described as an "animal" by those who have seen him play. He took home the state heavyweight wrestling championship in Division I last month, and is also a monster in the weight room. Martin has a 420-pound bench press and a 550-pound squat. "I'm working a lot to get my reps up on 225," he said. "The most I did unofficially is 26, but officially I did it 23 times at Michigan and 19 times at a combine. I'm hoping to really impress some coaches at some combines and camps."

Recruiting update: "I'm hearing from Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue, Iowa and Duke University," Martin said recently. "Northwestern and Iowa have offered me." He's still relatively new to the recruiting process, and said he didn't know much about Iowa at this point. He took a visit to Northwestern, and that's when the Wildcats offered him.

Nick Perry

6-4, 220, DE, Detroit McKenzie

Perry in action

Give credit where credit is due. Michigan State has done its homework early on, and the Spartans have offered Perry. After seeing him in person in March and then evaluating his tape, it's easy to see that Perry is a special player. A great 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame - combined with good quickness off the line - makes him a prospect worthy of attention. After racking up 75 tackles and 11 sacks, watch for more teams to check him out in the spring.

Recruiting update: MSU is his lone early scholarship offer, but will change. Perry is too good to be this under-recruited nationally. Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Central Michigan are other teams showing interest.

Cortez Smith

6-1, 200, RB, Detroit Cass Tech

Cass Tech is on the national recruiting map after placing a prospect in the top 100 in consecutive years. Sometimes solid Division I prospects like Smith are lost in the hype surrounding guys like Barsksdale and Cissoko. The 6-foot-1, 200 pound running back gained more than 1,150 yards and scored 19 touchdowns on just 133 carries as a junior. He was a big reason for Cass Tech's success. He proved that he is also a very good athlete at the recent Cleveland NIKE Combine, where he took home the top SPARQ Rating of all the competitors with an 87.05. Among his testing numbers were a 4.54 40-yard dash, a 38-inch vertical jump and 17 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench press.

Recruiting update: : Smith has an offer from Ball State, but he said he's interested in some Big Ten schools like Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. He's also talked to the Notre Dame coaches.

Fred Smith

6-2, 215, WR, Detroit Southeastern

Want a sleeper pick for the top overall player in Michigan? Check out Smith. Early scholarships have already come in from Michigan, Michigan State, Toledo and Bowling Green. He had 595 yards receiving on 37 receptions for a 16-yard average. But he's also a terror on the basketball court and in track. He averaged 23 points a game in hoops and he has a 10.7 second time in the 100 meters. "I saw him playing basketball as a freshman and he was just out there mauling people," Southeastern coach Donshell English said. "I said, 'That's not a basketball player. That's a football player.' I got him to come out as a sophomore and he's really worked hard and developed into one of the best players I've ever been around. The biggest thing with him is that he's only going to get better. He's nowhere as good as he will be."

Recruiting update: Michigan and Michigan State are his top two teams. He admits he grew up at a Michigan fan, but the Spartans already have his teammate committed and they'd like to maybe carry on that bond on the next level. Ohio State and Iowa are other teams that have been linked with him.

Best of the rest

Oakland County: Deandre Johnson, 5-7, 170, RB, Madison Heights Madison; Deontae Pannell, 6-5, 300, OL, Birmingham Groves; Caulton Ray, 5-9, 195, RB, Birmingham Brother Rice

Wayne County: Aaron Archie, 6-2, 205, S, Detroit Cass Tech; Charles Fobbs, 6-1, 210, S, Detroit Cass Tech; Sam Gaymon, 6-3, 183, WR Detroit Renaissance; Mohamad Moukdad, 6-3, 305, OL Dearborn Fordson; Philepae Phillips, 6-4, 197, DE, Detroit Central; Lonnie Pugh, 6-5, 230, OL, Grosse Ile; Troy Tidwell, 5-11, 183, CB, Detroit Southwestern; Darrin Williams, 5-6, 170, RB, Detroit Martin Luther King

Five sleepers

Jeray Carraway, 5-10, 180, CB, Detroit Renaissance: Carraway played quarterback as a junior and made plenty of things happen there. He has exhibited good athletic ability on quarterback draws, scrambles and even some plays with his arm. But it's at corner where he might have a real shot at excelling and becoming a very solid college player.

Brendon Kay, 6-4, 237, QB, Marine City: Kay has an early offer from Eastern Michigan. At 6-foot-4, 237-pounds, he has a linebacker's build with a quarterback mentality. This past fall, Kay threw for 1,182 yards and 18 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He also rushed for 340 and seven scores. Nebraska and other schools are also very interested in Kay.

Donald Mathis, 6-2, 317, OL Detroit Crockett: There's a lot to like about Mathis. He can project at either guard or center on the next level, and he has a real mean streak when he's on the field. He's already at 300 pounds, so he's got the frame. Coaches will just need to look more at him, because on film he does look like a legit D-I prospect.

Ethan Ruhland, 6-6, 265, OL, Lake Orion: At 6-6 and 265 pounds, you're already going to get noticed. But when you play for a quality program like Lake Orion, you're definitely going to get some attention. Schools will take a long look at Ruhland this spring. Don't be surprised if he has several quality options to consider by the start of fall practice.

James Wade, 6-3, 180, WR, Ann Arbor Pioneer: Averaged 19 yards a reception as a junior and was just as talented on defense. He made 50 tackles and had seven pass breakups. What's even more impressive is that he did all that in limited duty. Because of a broken arm he played just eight games - and in some of those contests he wore a cast.

Detroit top 10 prospects | Best of the rest| Sleepers | Vote: Your pick for Detroit's top prospect

Jeremy Crabtree can be reached at [email protected][rl]

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