Lawrence Marshall, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior at Southfield, racked up at least 10 sacks to go along with numerous quarterback pressures. (Sam Webb/Special to Detroit News)
When the high school football season began, Southfield defensive end Lawrence Marshall was a relative unknown on the recruiting scene. But that was then and this is now. From the opening game of the year against Detroit King, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior made visiting the opposing backfield a habit. By the end of what was a breakout campaign he had racked up at least 10 sacks to go along with numerous quarterback pressures.
"I think I did really well this year," Marshall said. "All the hard work I put in during the offseason paid off during the season. I (gained) more strength and learned to use my hands more. I (also) watched more film on the other team see what their weaknesses are on the offensive line."
Scout.com Midwest regional manager Allen Trieu was on hand to witness Marshall's exploits on a few different occasions, and each time he came away more convinced the talented youngster is among the best prospects Michigan has to offer in the 2014 class.
"He's a big athlete, he's long, he runs well, and has good closing speed," Trieu said. "He has all the things you look for in a defensive end. I think he just has to add some weight. He's a little on the lean side right now, but he's only a junior. There was a kid out of Michigan a few years ago named C.J. Olaniyan who ended up at Penn State. I see Lawrence as similar to him in terms of build and style of play.
"We haven't ranked all the guys in the state yet, but I think Lawrence is a top 10 guy in Michigan for sure. There is a possibility of him cracking the top five. I think he has as much ability and upside as a lot of the top defensive ends I've seen in the entire region. He's a potential Scout 300, four-star kind of guy. We've only seen him in person twice, and his highlight tape was only four games, so we just need to see a little more film and see him at a couple of camps and combines. That said, there's a lot to like about him."
Michigan State offer
The increasing interest from college programs certainly reflects that. To date Marshall has picked up offers from Bowling Green, Toledo, San Diego State, Indiana, and Michigan State. The Spartans joined the fray a few weeks ago when he traveled to East Lansing for their matchup with Nebraska. Though the outcome might have dampened the mood a bit, it couldn't drag the Southfield star down from the high he was on after receiving the exciting news.
"(The visit) was nice," he told Scout.com. "I wish they could have come out with the win, but I liked it a lot. It was nice, loud, and I liked the fans and everything."
"Coach Dantonio talked to me said, 'We'd like to offer you a scholarship to Michigan State.' I like the coaches a lot."
All of the recruiting attention and especially the scholarship offers have been the source of significant excitement. However, the definitive move by the Spartans admittedly elicited a little more emotion.
"It caught me by surprise," Marshall said. "I was very happy. It made my day."
"When I was younger I used to like Michigan State a lot. It really didn't change (growing up). I like everything about Michigan State. I like their fan base, I like their coaches, I like the school in general — I like everything about Michigan State. I don't have any dislikes about Michigan State."
Marshall stopped short publicly declaring Michigan State his leader.
"I've got to take my time and see what my other offers (will be)," Marshall said. "I don't have no top five schools right now. I like all the schools."
Visit to Ann Arbor
Michigan is among those that haven't yet offered the rising prospect, but are showing him a great deal more attention. Marshall is much less familiar with the Wolverines than he is their in-state rivals, but he went Ann Arbor for the homecoming game against Illinois.
"Michigan was nice," he reported. "I liked it. They said they like me a lot and keep working hard. The fans were nice. Everything was nice."
With his season now over, Marshall hopes to find out how nice some of his other suitors are. If interest from outside the Midwest grows he'd eventually like to take trips to farther-away locales. There is one in particular that he is hoping to hear from.
"My dream school (growing up) was USC," Marshall stated. "That's (still) one of my dream schools. I'll go anywhere. I'll take my talent anywhere. It really doesn't matter how far it is."
Even if the Trojans do come calling, Marshall insists a hasty decision is not in the cards.
"I like all the schools," he reiterated. "I don't have a top five or anything. I'm just taking it slow."
"I don't know yet when I'm going to (make a decision). I'm just going to take my time and see how it goes. It will come down to how the coaches are and talking with my family about it to see how they feel about it."
Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA.