Weber heads list of talented seniors
Detroit – Mike Weber Jr., will be a marked man this fall. Perhaps the best running back to play at Detroit Cass Tech (including one of my favorites, Clarence Williams), Weber will carry the offense at least until Jayru Campbell returns at quarterback (possibly late September), and maybe the entire season.
Cass Tech Coach Thomas Wilcher and most recruiting analysts describe Weber as a tough running back, one who doesn’t shy away from contact. At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds Weber is a physical back. In Wilcher’s one-back offense the featured back has the opportunity to run over center, between the guards and tackles, around the end and on draws. Wilcher will also use Weber as a receiver out of the backfield.
“He’s definitely our most complete back,” Wilcher said. “He can run, catch, and he’s strong and fast.
“He’s aggressive. He’s a hard worker and he can be a slasher.”
Weber, who committed to Michigan, has been selected as the state’s top player in the preseason by State Champs but there’s more to Weber’s game than what we’ve seen. There’s room to grow from this student-athlete who says his outside interests include drawing.
“It’s a hidden talent,” Weber said of his art work. “I like to draw landscapes, portraits…faces. I could draw yours. It’s just something I like to do.”
Weber said he has taken a graphic design class and could take an art class or two this school year to hone his “hidden” skills.
At this time Weber’s concentration is centered on improving his play on the field.
“This year, the No. 1 thing I have to work on is blocking,” he said. “I could have been a better blocker last year.”
Specifically, Weber needs to improve his pass blocking. Cass often uses four receivers leaving the five linemen and the running back to protect the quarterback. In many cases Weber’s responsibility will be taking on the inside blitz.
Weber could also see time at quarterback. He played quarterback in the Police Athletic League (PAL) and started at quarterback in the 2012 regular season finale against U-D Jesuit. In that game Weber accounted for four TDs in a 26-2 victory.
Call it the wildcat formation if you will but it’s likely Weber will take more than a few snaps from center. How much Wilcher uses Weber at quarterback is likely dependent upon the effectiveness of sophomore Rodney Hall, who is slated to be the starting quarterback until Campbell returns.
The pressure will be on Weber to lead his team to the Detroit Public School League title and another successful playoff run. Two years ago he rushed for 184 yards in Cass Tech’s 36-21 over Detroit Catholic Central in the Division 1 final.
Weber said he’s ready and determined that his final season wearing the Technicians’ green and white uniform will be one people will remember for a long time.
(Note: only seniors are listed on State Champs preseason top 25 list)
2. Alex Malzone, 6-2, 200, QB, Birmingham Brother Rice: Malzone is the only quarterback in school history to lead his team to a 14-0 record. A prototypical pocket passer, Malzone was at his best in the Division 2 final last season as he completed 20 of 24 attempts for 263 yards and four TDs. “He has great arm strength and he understands the game,” Coach Dave Sofran said. “He’s very poised. He doesn’t get too high or too low.” Malzone committed to Michigan.
3. Brian Cole, 6-3, 195, WR/S, Saginaw Heritage: Cole became a starter midway through his freshman season. Last season he had 45 tackles and five interceptions. At running back Cole rushed for 1,213 yards and 16 touchdowns on 138 carries. This season he’ll switch to receiver, a position he played as a sophomore. “He’ll play wherever we need him,” Coach Don Maloney said. “Right now he’s a receiver. Michigan is recruiting him as a receiver.” Cole committed to U-M.
4. John Kelly, RB/DB/KR, Oak Park: One of the most versatile players in the state, Kelly makes plays on offense, defense and on special teams. “John does so many things well,” Coach Greg Carter said. “He’s just a kid who loves to play football.” Kelly has received a handful of scholarship offers from Division I schools. Michigan State and Minnesota lead the pack.
5. Josh Alabi, 6-4, 290, OL/DL, Detroit Cass Tech: Alabi started on both sides of the ball last season and was effective both ways. Alabi lost 10 pounds over the last month or so and he said he likes where his weight is at now. Alabi worked hard in the weight room to improve his upper body strength and he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds at the University of Miami (Fla.) camp this summer. Alabi committed to Ohio State. It’s uncertain whether he’ll play offense or defense in college.
6. Kyonta Stallworth, 6-4, 270, OL/DL, Detroit King: This season will be a step up in competition for Stallworth. Matching his ability against players from Port Huron, Detroit Mumford and, likely, Detroit Cass Tech later in the season, will be more of a challenge than what Stallworth faced his junior season at St. Clair Shores South Lake. “He’s willing to work,” Coach Dale Harvel said. “Academically he’s done a great job, too.” Stallworth committed to Michigan State.
7. Tyriq Thompson, 6-2, 220, LB/TE, Detroit King: His father, Clarence Thompson, was also a star for King before going on to start at Michigan. The elder Thompson was known for his hitting as is his son. Thompson has the quickness and size to take on and shed potential blocks from offensive linemen and he has the speed to provide coverage in pass defense. “He’s done a great job in the offseason lifting and getting stronger,” Coach Dale Harvel said. Thompson committed to Michigan State.
8. David Moorman, 6-5, 290, OT/DL, Northville: As well as Moorman played last season most fans haven’t seen him at his best. The last four games he played with a torn labrum. Moorman had surgery and is good to go according to Coach Matt Ladach. “He’s a nasty player on the field,” Ladach said. “He’s just so aggressive. But he’s the nicest kid off the field.” Moorman committed to Wisconsin.
9. Tyson Smith, 5-11, 180, WR/DB, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s: Smith has good size for a cornerback allowing him to take on running backs. He has the speed (4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to cover receivers running the fly pattern or the deep cross. Smith committed to MSU but he might not play defense in college. Smith might play the slot in college. “He’s very explosive,” Coach George Porritt said. “In the slot he can make people miss.”
10. Khari Willis, 6-1, 200, TB/LB/DB, Jackson Lumen Christi: Willis is a three-year starter and is also a fine basketball player. In eight games last season he rushed for 1,560 yards and 27 TDs. Willis committed to Michigan State and despite his accomplishments on the offensive side Coach Herb Brogan said the coaching staff at MSU has indicated Willis might play defense in college. “He’s got a little bit everything,” Brogan said.
11. Jacob Johnson, 6-2, 203, QB, DeWitt: Johnson threw for over 2,000 yards last season despite missing three games due to an injury. He led the Panthers to their first state final appearance since 2004. Johnson added 20 pounds since last season and he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. “His body is maturing and he continues to improve,” Coach Rob Zimmerman said. Johnson committed to Central Michigan.
12. Ray Buford, Jr., 6-1, 187, DB/WR, Southfield: A knee injury kept Buford on the sidelines much of last season but he’s healthy now and should have a big year. “Great ball skills combined with his size and speed make him a standout on both sides of the ball," Coach Tim Conley said. Buford committed to Minnesota.
13. Josh Holloman, 5-10, 190, RB/KR, Auburn Hills Avondale: Holloman won the 100-meter dash in Division 1 his sophomore year then captured the 100- and 200-meter dash titles in Division 2 this past spring. On the football field he rushed for 1,164 yards and 18 TDs last season. Holloman committed to Cincinnati.
14. Dior Johnson, 6-2, 195, DB/WR, Southfield: Johnson has been an impact player, mostly on defense, since his sophomore season. “He has the size to fill the lane and the speed to go from sideline to sideline," Coach Tim Conley said. Look for Johnson to be more a part of the offense this season, too. He committed to Wake Forest.
15. Romello Ross, 5-11, 191, RB/DB, Detroit Western: Ross is a four-year starter on both sides of the ball and has been an impact player since his freshman season. Last season he had four interceptions and rushed for 1,028 yards and 12 TDs despite playing just six games (suffered a hyper-extended knee). “He’s the epitome of a team player,” Coach Andre Harlan said. Ross committed to Central Michigan.
16. Ryan Roberts, 6-7, 240, DE/TE, Northville: Roberts is a three-year varsity player and he was being recruited by Minnesota but committed to Northern Illinois. His father was a captain at NIU in the early 1990s. “People don’t know how good a player Ryan is,” Coach Matt Ladach said.
17. Alex Grace, 6-0, 205, RB/LB, Saginaw Swan Valley: Grace combines speed with power to become one of the state’s top running backs. Grace is the workhorse in Coach Ken Bourbina’s power-I offense. Last season Grace rushed for 2,952 yards and 36 TDs on 295 carries. “He has a strong work ethic and good durability,” Bourbina said.” Grace committed to Western Michigan.
18. Junior McMullen, 6-1, 220, LB/TE, Oak Park: One of the leaders on what will be an experience defense, McMullen has the mobility to make tackles from sideline to sideline. Because of the increase in depth on this year’s team McMullen’s playing time on offense will be limited. He committed to Western Michigan.
19. Jamil Sabbagh, 5-11, 190, WR/RB/DB, Dearborn Fordson: A three-year starter, Sabbagh had 35 tackles last season including four tackles for loss and four interceptions, two he returned for touchdowns. Coach Walker Zaban said Sabbagh has great instincts. Sabbagh committed to Central Michigan.
20. Carter Masek, 6-2, 225, LB/DE, East Grand Rapids: Masek will begin his third season as a starter on defense. He’s a player who enjoys contact and rarely is taken out of a play by one blocker. “He plays hard and fast,” Coach Peter Stuursma said. Masek committed to Miami (Ohio).
21. Tyree Jackson, 6-4, 200, QB, Muskegon Mona Shores: A four-year starter, Jackson is a young senior who won’t turn 17-years-old until November. “He’s another coach on the field,” Coach Matt Koziak said. “The communication is there.” Jackson has been offered a scholarship by Buffalo and Western Michigan.
22. Grant Perry, 6-0, 185, WR/DB, Birmingham Brother Rice: One of Brother Rice’s best receivers last season Perry has received scholarship offers from five Mid-American Conference schools. “He’s a tough kid,” Coach Dave Sofran said. “He’s got the body and he has the football savvy.”
23. Jon Wassink, 6-3, 185, QB, Grand Rapids South Christian: Wassink threw for 2,178 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago and his best quality is he’s a winner. Wassink led the Sailors to the state finals each of the past two seasons. South Christian won the Division 4 title in 2012. Wassink has good mobility and that comes into play in South Christian’s spread offense. He committed to Western Michigan.
24. John Keenoy, 6-3, 285, OT, East Kentwood: Keenoy attacks potential tacklers much as a linebacker does when pursuing a ball carrier. Keenoy likes to knock defenders to the turf. He has tremendous mobility for a player his size. Keenoy committed to Western Michigan.
25. Ryan Brand, 5-10, 192, QB, U-D Jesuit: Brand led the Cubs to the Division 2 region finals last season and he also started a couple of games as a sophomore at Farmington Hills Harrison. The experience of competing in the Elite 11 camp over the summer did much for his confidence level. A dual threat quarterback, Brand committed to the Air Force Academy.