Danny O'Brien impressed onlookers at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy at Wayne State in June, before going on to star in a number of team camps in subsequent weeks. (Allen Trieu/Scout.com)
Last summer's camp and combine circuit proved to be a coming-out party for a number of in-state football prospects, but few made a bigger splash than Flint Powers Catholic defensive lineman Danny O'Brien.
The class of 2012 standout impressed onlookers at the Sound Mind Sound Body Academy at Wayne State in June, before going on to star in a number of team camps in subsequent weeks.
One such performance was turned in at the University of Michigan.
"I performed to my potential," O'Brien said. "Rich Rodriguez pulled me aside and he just talked to me and said he wanted to see me down at campus this fall for all the games." The outpouring of attention was predictable after O'Brien's dominant showing.
He bested nearly every offensive lineman he faced, the lone exception being Traverse City West standout (and Michigan commitment), Jake Fisher.
Against Fisher, O'Brien managed to distinguish himself by challenging the future Wolverine more than any of his other opponents.
"Dan is very quick off the ball, he plays with a lot of intensity, and he has the agility to get around blockers," said Scout.com Midwest Regional Manager Allen Trieu. "He's about 6-2 and 280 right now, so he's not a big run stopping gap-plugger. I think you'd like to see him get to 300-lbs and get a little stronger in the process. "
O'Brien compares himself as a player to Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen.
"That's because of his intensity and his just going crazy," O'Brien said. "I love to hit. There ain't nothing like it. Any sport I play, I always play with intensity. I always go nuts. I think that is the way to do it. You just throw your body out there. That's the way to play football."
That approach has served him well.
During his sophomore campaign he racked up 83 tackles, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles.
In just three games this season he has already accumulated 27 tackles and four sacks.
That combination of an impressive skill set and strong body of work recently earned him a top 100 ranking in the class of 2012 by Scout.com.
The only other in-state prospect to currently hold that distinction is Orchard Lake St. Mary's linebacker James Ross. Much like Ross, O'Brien is now fielding interest from many of the nation's power programs.
"I'm hearing a lot of Big Ten schools," O'Brien stated. "Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, Indiana -- schools like that. I just got a couple of letters from more southern schools like LSU and Florida. I'm also hearing from Alabama, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee."
The Volunteers made significant strides in O'Brien's recruitment during his aforementioned camp visit to Knoxville last summer.
Shortly after his time on their campus the SEC power extended him his only scholarship offer to date.
"I already knew that Tennessee has a great coaching staff," the four-star prospect stated. "(Tennessee assistant) Chuck Smith has been my favorite coach so far. He offered me a scholarship. I think he has the ability to get me (to the professional level). He has had so much experience through the NFL. I would get homesick if I went to Tennessee but my mom says that she would come to every game. I'd see my family a lot still. You don't get much time off from college football, but I'd try to make it home as much as I can. (Distance) is not too big of a factor for me."
Before the current season began O'Brien had Tennessee and Michigan firmly atop his list. Now that he's hearing more consistently from other schools, however, his list of favorites has expanded.
"Right now the schools that are high on my list are Tennessee, Michigan, Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and Oklahoma," O'Brien reported. "I want to get down to see LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma.
"I really want to see their campuses. I want to keep them up there until I am able to make my decision. This week I think I am going back to Michigan (for the game against Massachusetts). I'll also be going to the Tennessee/Alabama game and I'm going to Notre Dame next weekend when they play Stanford."
How those suitors fare on the football field could ultimately factor into O'Brien's decision-making process. Michigan's fast start has certainly gotten his attention. He was on hand for the season-opening victory over Connecticut and watched last week's win over Notre Dame on television.
"I had a feeling Rich Rod would pull through once he got all those recruits in," O'Brien said. "He's opened up my eyes a lot more to Michigan because of pulling everything together. They come out with so much intensity, that's what I love. Denard Robinson is really fun to watch.
"They are a real fun team to watch on offense. On defense, they showed so much intensity. I love watching Mike Martin play. He's one of my role models. I think we're similar players. If I was to go to Michigan, I would like to follow -- up on his role at nose tackle."
Aiding the Wolverines' cause even further are a few pro-Michigan voices within O'Brien's family
"My brother Pat is a big Michigan fan, so we always had the little rivalry," the talented youngster said. "I grew up a fan of Ohio State and Michigan. I was a Michigan fan when I was real young and then I turned to Ohio State. My brother is always saying stuff like, 'Michigan is looking good this week.' I'm always saying stuff back to my brother and my dad. They are both big Michigan guys. They are always definitely bugging me."
All kidding aside, one thing O'Brien's family will not do is pressure him.
"(My brother) and my dad would love to see me in a Michigan uniform, but they'll support me in whatever way I go," he said. "They will help me out with my decision and they'll understand it is for me."
"I'm going to take my time, look at all my options, and then make my decision. I want to commit after my senior season -- maybe a week or a month after that."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.