Donovan Peoples-Jones named State Champs’ top player in the preseason
Detroit – Don’t bother talking to Donovan Peoples-Jones about recruiting. Now that the start of the season is a little over a week away Peoples-Jones is focused on one thing – helping Detroit Cass Tech win a state title.
Peoples-Jones is a 6-3, 195-pound receiver-defensive back-kick returner and this season’s top player in the preseason according to State Champs. He is ranked the No. 33 player in the country by Scout.com. Rivals.com lists Peoples-Jones as the No. 11 player in the country with no other player from Michigan listed in its top 100.
Cass Tech reached the Division 1 final last season before losing to Romeo, 41-27. Peoples-Jones had eight receptions in that game for 85 yards and one touchdown. He also returned one punt for 35 yards.
For the season Peoples-Jones had 39 receptions for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns. His two long touchdown receptions in the state semifinals helped the Technicians defeat Canton, 48-41.
Peoples-Jones isn’t about statistics. He’s all about winning. Coming close last season only adds motivation to his goals this season.
“It’s like your digging for a diamond,” he said. “And you think you have it but you don’t. We’ll remember (last year). We have a chip on our shoulder.”
Physically, Peoples-Jones is impressive. He’s tall and has the size and strength to break tackles, and the speed to outrun defensive backs. He’s been timed in the 40-yard dash between 4.42 and 4.45 seconds.
Peoples-Jones has been offered a scholarship by just about all of the top programs including Michigan and Michigan State, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Louisiana State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Southern California, Stanford and Tennessee.
It’s like he will graduate in December and enroll early into the school of his choice.
Academics is surely to play a role in his selection process. Peoples-Jones has a grade-point average and he scored a 1,200 on his SAT exam. He said he plans on pursuing a career in medicine, possibly in sports medicine. His father, Eddie Jones, is an orthopedic surgeon.
“Following him in his field has always been a goal of mine,” he said.
The players listed are seniors unless otherwise noted.
- Antjuan Simmons, Ann Arbor Pioneer, 6-1, 215, LB/RB: Simmons is a four-year starter who made an impact as a freshman rushing for 600 yards. Simmons weighed 220 pounds then and has significantly decreased his body fat since. “He’s trimmed up,” coach Jari Brown said. “He’s more explosive now.” Simmons is expected to be on the field more on defense. Much of this is dependent upon the depth Pioneer has at tailback. Simmons committed to Ohio State.
- Josh Ross, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 6-1, 225, LB/RB/TE: A four-year starter, Ross committed to Michigan. “As a person, he’s a very humble kid,” coach George Porritt said. “As a player, his instincts are so fast. He brings power.” It’s quite possible Ross will play tight end more than running back this season but his best position is linebacker.
- Ambry Thomas, Detroit King, 5-11, 175, SB/DB/KR: Thomas has tremendous breakaway speed to go with his ability to quickly change direction. A three-year starter, Thomas is a playmaker. coach Tyrone Spencer will do his best to get the ball in Thomas’ hands. Thomas missed six games last season, played the last two, and had ACL surgery when the season ended. He’s been offered a scholarship by Florida, U-M, MSU, Penn State and Pittsburgh.
- Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Detroit Cass Tech, 6-0, 190, DB/RB/SB: Kelly-Powell is coming off of a fine junior season and his stock took off this summer at camps. His versatility is unmatched. Kelly-Powell has been offered a scholarship by Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
- JaRaymond Hall, Oak Park, 6-5, 280, OL/DL: A three-year starter, Hall is predominantly an offensive tackle but will see time on defense this season. “He’s real versatile,” coach Greg Carter said. “He’s technical as a run blocker.” Hall committed to Michigan.
- Cody White, Walled Lake Western, 6-3, 195, WR/DB/P: A remarkable all-around athlete, White competed in four sports last season. He had 57 receptions for 1,148 yards and nine TDs as a junior. He committed to Michigan State.
- Markus Sanders, Canton, 5-7, 182, RB: A between-the-tackles runner, Sanders runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds but don’t be fooled. He has football speed. Last season he rushed for 2,485 yards and 30 TDs as Canton reached the Division 1 semifinals. In that loss Sanders had 303 yards rushing, four TDs on 40 carries. Sanders has not been offered a scholarship.
- Corey Malone-Hatcher, St. Joseph, 6-3, 245, DE/LB/TE: Malone-Hatcher has been a highly-touted player since his sophomore season but injuries (shoulder as a sophomore, an ankle as a junior) has limited him to just four games in his career. He’ll play outside linebacker most of the time and will rotate at tight end. He committed to Michigan.
- Kalil Pimpleton, Muskegon, 5-8, 165, QB/SB/KR: Pimpleton started all last season at quarterback but coach Shane Fairfield will also use his gifted athlete as a slot receiver this season to get him the ball in space. Pimpleton is a crafty runner, often looking to run behind his taller linemen three, four yards downfield to confuse defenders. He committed to Virginia Tech.
- Hunter Rison, Ann Arbor Skyline, 6-1, 215, RB/WR/DB/KR: Rison added 15 pounds to his frame increasing his durability. “He’s done a great job in the weight room,” coach Andrew Sorgartz said. “He’s a coachable kid and respectful of his coaches.” Rison committed to Michigan State.
- Jordan Reid, Detroit Cass Tech, 6-4, 300, OT/DT: Reid started both ways last season and will be counted on to be a leader on the line that will have a number of first-year starters. Strong and mobile, Reid committed to Michigan State.
- Andrew Ward, Muskegon, 6-1, 210, LB/RB: Ward is a powerful runner, one who seeks out contact using his strength to get past defenders. On defense he plays in the middle causing havoc all along the line of scrimmage. “It’s his grit, his intensity, that makes him so valuable,” coach Shane Fairfield said. Arizona, Iowa State, Nebraska and Washington State have offered him a scholarship.
- Bryce Wolma, Saline, 6-4, 245, TE: Wolma is a three-year starter who was offered a scholarship by a number of Division I schools and decided to commit to Arizona because of his relationship with coach Rich Rodriguez. “He’s got good hands and is a good athlete,” coach Joe Palka said. “He’s real effective on end blocking.
- Mustafa Khaleefah, Dearborn, 6-6, 285, OT/DT: This is just Khaleefah’s third season playing and he continues to make big strides. He’s an athletic lineman who makes an impact on both sides of the ball. “He’s flexible,” coach John Powell said. “And he’s really coachable.” Khaleefah committed to Michigan State.
- Scott Nelson, U-D Jesuit, 6-2, 190, DB/WR/KR: Nelson is a playmaker is so many areas. A three-sport athlete and a part-time starter at quarterback last season, Nelson’s been moved to receiver. He’ll likely play defense in college. Nelson has over 10 division I scholarship offers and narrowed it down to Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin.
- Deron Irving-Bey, Flint Southwestern Academy, 6-5, 270, DE/OL: Irving-Bey will likely play defense in college and at this time he is expected to be a dominant force on both sides. Last season he had 24 tackles for loss. This past spring he was offered a scholarship by, first, Michigan State and then Michigan. Iowa State, Maryland and Minnesota have also offered him a scholarship.
- Rob Hudson, Walled Lake Western, 6-8, 310, OL/DL: Hudson didn’t play football as a freshman and showed promise the next season. As a junior he committed himself to the weight room, lost weight and added muscle. Currently he’s a better defensive player. That could change. He committed to Purdue.
- Larry Borom, Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-6, 320, OL/DL: A late bloomer as many tall linemen are, Borom was on the junior varsity as a sophomore and has made big strides since. He recently committed to Missouri. “He’s got good feet and is very athletic,” coach Dave Sofran said.
- Jarius Grissom, River Rouge, 6-3, 217, QB: A transfer from Dearborn Heights Robichaud, Grissom is a tremendous athlete and many schools are recruiting as such. Coach Corey Parker said Grissom wants to play quarterback in college. He’s mobile and throws well on the run. Iowa State, Rutgers and Syracuse have offered him a scholarship
- Donovan Johnson, Detroit Cass Tech, 5-10, 175, CB/RB/SB: Johnson has the knack for making the big play whether it’s carrying the ball, defending the pass or as a receiver. In Cass Tech’s 48-41 victory over Canton in a Division 1 semifinal he had 146 yards rushing and two TDs on just 12 carries. He’s been offered a scholarship by Arizona, Missouri, Oregon, Penn State, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
- Carter Dunaway, Birmingham Brother Rice, 6-6, 232, TE/DE: Dunaway committed to Michigan after his sophomore season. He moves well for his size and “catches the ball real well,” coach Dave Sofran said. “He’s a good leader and has the potential to be really good in our (Catholic League).
- Allen Stritzinger, Warren De La Salle, 6-1, 190, RB/DB, senior: Injuries have slowed Stritzinger’s career. When healthy he’s one of the best in Metro Detroit. “He has good vision and he cuts well,” coach Mike Giannone said. Stritzinger committed to Syracuse.
- Ovie Ogohufo, Farmington Hills Harrison, 6-3, 210, TE/LB/DE, junior: The lone underclassmen to make this list, Ogohufo is a cousin of Mario Ojemudia (Harrison, U-M, Baltimore Ravens). Ogohufo’s parents are from Nigeria. He has the speed and toughness to be effective on both sides. He’s been offered a scholarship by Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame, among others.
- Richard Bowens, 6-0, 190, CB/WR, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s: A three-year varsity player, Bowens was part of the last two Division 2 track and field championships, and last season’s Division 3 football title. A physical player on defense, Bowens committed to Iowa State.