Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic defensive tackle Darian Cooper finally made his way to East Lansing last weekend for the first of his five official visits, and he came away extremely impressed. (Allen Trieu/Scout.com)
The high school camp season will get off to an early start Saturday at Oakland University with the Adidas Maximum Exposure Football Invitational.
The creators of the Sound Mind Sound Body Football Academy have teamed up with sports apparel giant Adidas to provide another platform for local prospects to hone and showcase their skills.
"Adidas wants to get active doing stuff with high school football and youth football, so they stepped up and said that they wanted to do something for the top athletes in the area," said camp director Curtis Blackwell. "I mentioned that right now there is nothing at the end of the season that highlights who we need to be on the lookout for the next year (in the class of 2012).
"A lot of these kids are going to be going to the national combines in the next few weeks. They are going to get some combine prep from being a part of this program because it's going to simulate some of the drills. … A lot of these kids, especially the ones from Detroit, go down (to the national combines) raw."
With collegiate relationships already established in Michigan, Adidas is committed to increasing its presence in the high school ranks.
"I've worked with Curtis the last couple of years with the (Sound Mind Sound Body) camp at Wayne State in the summer," said former Michigan quarterback John Wangler, Adidas' point man in the state. "I've been able to see the positive effect they've been having and the opportunities they create for kids. At Adidas, that really falls in line with some of the ideas and goals we're really trying to (accomplish). We (also) want to make Adidas be one of the first companies they think of when they're choosing their equipment."
Based on the responses from many of the state's top juniors, the appeal of the invitation-only camp couldn't be any greater.
"Some of the guys expected to attend are Flint Powers defensive tackle Danny O'Brien, Detroit Cass Tech linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, Detroit Cass Tech corner Terry Richardson, and Detroit King running back Dennis Norfleet," said Scout.com midwest regional manager Allen Trieu. "All those are guys that are top 5-10 players in the state.
"Detroit Crockett quarterback Brian Blackburn, Southfield corner Leviticus Payne, Detroit Catholic Central defensive lineman Matt Godin, Holland linebacker Nathan Ricketts, and U of D quarterback Brian Cleary are some of the other kids we really like. We expect them to be there and they have the chance to be highly ranked as well.
"If all the kids that are expected to come actually show, I think it will be a really good camp that will have most of the state's top juniors."
While it's true camps like Maximum Exposure factor into prospect rankings, Trieu warned against expecting wild fluctuations in where players are slotted based on this daylong event.
"(The camp) will have some effect (on the rankings), but not a ton," said Trieu. "It's a chance for us to see these kids in person, to eyeball their size a little bit and see how they move around, but it's a very early combine. Summer camps and especially game film will determine more than something like this.
"What I always say is, if a kid really blows it up at something like this, it can jump-start their recruitment and raise a ranking some. If they have a bad performance, they just have to do better next time. I think a great performance helps you more than a bad performance hurts you. The main thing is to concentrate on taking instruction, competing, and getting better."
Big recruiting weekend for U-M
While the Maximum Exposure Football Invitational takes place at Oakland, the Michigan and Michigan State hockey programs will be doing battle in "The Big Chill at the Big House."
The world's largest hockey event will also serve as the entertainment centerpiece for the Michigan football program's second major recruiting weekend in a row. The Wolverines will host eight more prospects Saturday.
Three commitments: Traverse City West tackle Jake Fisher, Toledo (Ohio) St. John's offensive lineman Jack Miller, and Columbus DeSales defensive end Chris Rock.
Five offered targets: West Branch Ogemaw Heights defensive lineman Anthony Zettel, Chicago Simeon offensive guard Chris Bryant, Holland West Ottawa linebacker Desmond Morgan, Poland (Ohio) Seminary athlete Darius Patton, and Baton Rouge (La.) Central corner James Richardson.
Spartans score high marks with Cooper
Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic defensive tackle Darian Cooper finally made his way to East Lansing last weekend for the first of his five official visits, and he came away extremely impressed.
"At Michigan State it was amazing," the four-star prospect said. "I got to meet a lot of great players, got to meet a lot of cool guys, and had a great time. When I was talking to (MSU assistant) Coach (Ted) Gill and seeing how they intended to use me, it was definitely appealing."
The Spartans emphasizes the opportunity for early playing time, but they also made no promises.
"I've always thought that playing time is dependent upon you," Cooper said. "If you come there and you're prepared to play and prepared to beat out the other members of your team, then you'll make your way onto the field. That's the way I feel about the situation and that's what they told me."
Cooper's positive impression was further enhanced by the presence of his high school teammate, Darien Harris. The three-star safety prospect committed to the Spartans in August.
"Going up there with Darien was great," said Cooper. "The fact that I get to come back and talk with him about it and we get to bounce stuff off of each other is something that I really enjoy. We both really enjoyed the visit."
A few days removed, the glow of his visit still hasn't worn off. Michigan State has definitely improved its standing in Cooper's recruitment. Time, though, will tell just how much.
"Some people told me before I went there, 'Don't commit, don't commit,' so I kind of had that buzzing through my head the whole time," he said. "I definitely enjoyed it and it definitely put them even higher on my list, but Number 1 (on the list) right now is kind of a blank slate because I haven't gotten a chance to experience a day in the life for each school. I still have Georgia Tech this weekend, Michigan on (Jan.) 14th, Penn State on (Jan.) 20th, and Iowa on (Jan.) 28th."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the “Michigan Insider” morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.