Detroit — Farmington Hills Harrison defensive end Khalid Kareem was without an offer a year ago, then made his decision to play at Alabama on Wednesday, picking the Crimson Tide over 38 other offers, including Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State.
So, who is the player without an offer heading into this season who will gain attention of college coaches throughout the country?
Well, it certainly could be Joe Bob Walker, the big, strong-arm quarterback for Ann Arbor Skyline.
Walker, who will be a senior, stands 6-foot-5, weighs 230 pounds, benches 340 pounds and runs a 4.6 40.
Walker transferred from California to Wayne Memorial last season, then showed his potential late in the season, throwing for 368 yards and four touchdowns and running for 139 and two more scores in a 55-14 win over Dearborn Edsel Ford, a game after helping Wayne end a 46-game losing streak.
Skyline offensive coordinator Andre Rison feels Walker has the potential to play big-time college football.
"First, just look at his size, you have to look at that 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, that's a great start right there, especially playing quarterback," said Rison, the former Michigan State star and former All-Pro receiver who won a Super Bowl ring with the Packers in 1996. "He's a pocket quarterback with the potential to pull it down and run it and have the effect of a Cam Newton because of his size."
"He has a great, big upside, but all the small intangible things, the fundamentals of quarterbacks, the mechanics, the footwork, all of that needs to be worked on at a pace where if he gets it, he has a chance to be the best quarterback in the state.
"In two years he will be starting for someone at the BCS level and that's with everyday coaching, that's being from some of the best coaches in the country. I'm going to develop him as much as I can prior to that."
Still, Walker will have to win the starting job in a competitive battle with 6-3 senior Roman Milot and sophomore Daryn Davis, according to Rison and head coach Chanterius Brock. The coaches feel Skyline is capable of being a playoff team after going 0-9 last year.
When players like Walker and Daelin Hayes — a five-star 6-3, 250-pound linebacker committed to USC — join the program, success should follow, especially when MSU-bound receiver Hunter Rison, Andre's son, and 6-0, 210-pound running back Charlie Jones (offers from Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Bowling Green) are also strong returning players.
Walker was in action Thursday at the 7-on-7 camp at Wayne State University, getting familiar with his teammates before official practice gets underway for the 2015 season in August.
Detroit East English coach Rod Oden feels Walker's development will be aided by the quarterback competition.
"He can make all the throws and seems to be picking up the system pretty well," Oden said. "I know he hasn't been at Skyline too long, but I'm confident Coach Rison and Coach Brock, that they'll get him ready to play if he wins that job. What I love about it is he still has to compete because Skyline's starter is back and then they have a sophomore (Davis) out here who is really cutting it up today, too. It's a three-way race and I like when kids have to perform under pressure."
Skyline's system is a mixture of pro style and spread.
"Joe's done a great job of coming over and picking it up and has a great opportunity to start," Andre Rison said of Walker. "The one thing I love with these type of events, these 7-on-7s, they get the chance to learn each other and know each other. Continuity is key going from an 0-and-9 season with the ambition of getting into the playoffs. We feel we have enough talent and have a great coaching staff to get us in the playoffs this year."
Walker said he learned a lot from Wayne head coach Tim Finnerty last season and has continued to improve.
"I learned a lot because I came in kind of raw since it was one of my first years playing quarterback," Walker said of Finnerty. "He taught me the basics and got me ready to advance. I love to play, work hard and compete. I feel I do a good job with throwing the deep balls, but also some hitches, comebacks, little short bullet passes."
So, where has Walker improved?
"When I first came here I wouldn't throw the ball hard enough, wasn't able to decide between like a loft and a bullet. Now, I've been taught that there's a bunch of throws you can make — the loft, the hard bullets — and you have to know your personnel and who you're throwing it to.
"I feel like I've been better in game-time decision-making, reading the defense, when the linebackers are moving, stuff like that. I have a great group of receivers, one of the best in the state with Hunter Rison, Brandon Boyd, Daelin Hayes and Chuck Jones.
Hayes … a receiver?
"Daelin plays offense, too, and I think when you see his 250 pounds line up in the slot, I think it will definitely (surprise some people)," Andre Rison said.
East English's unknowns
Oden said he had a couple of talented players flying under the radar without offers in senior receiver Lindrell Mitchell and cornerback James Ceasar.
I have arguably two of the best at their positions, unoffered in the class of 2016," Oden said of Mitchell and Ceasar. "Lindrell's an all-state receiver, he's 5-foot-11 and he's been tearing up the camp circuit. James Ceasar, a 6-foot cornerback, has pretty decent film, but no one's pulled the trigger on him yet. He was MVP at Eastern Michigan last Friday, MVP at Toledo a few weeks ago.
"Everybody's waiting and these kids are great students too, 3.7 kids academically, but everyone wants to wait and ask the question, why hasn't no one else moved on them yet? All we can do is put it on display on the field. The kids know enough now to just play as hard as they can, be patient and let it all play out because they have already qualified and they're great players. When all the dust clears those guys will be near the top."
Oden, a camp director at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp, said several college coaches came up to him and told him "those were the best unoffered guys out there, pound-for-pound, based on what they could do."
Oden has done everything possible to make sure his players are academically ready as well as athletically to play in college. He actually benched 6-4, 270-pound tackle Emani Mason last year because he didn't feel his grades were as high as they needed to be. Mason has been offered by Cincinnati and Central Michigan.
"I held him up (last year) and right now he's taking a class this morning so that he's back even-keeled," Oden said. "He's currently over a 2.5, but I had to shut him down. I think, you know, there has to be a balance. You can't be this great athlete and struggle academically."
Oden talked of the NCAA's new eligibility requirements.
"Well, they have it to where you qualify to practice or you qualify to play," Oden explained of the NCAA's new rules. "Let's say you have a 2.4 and 17 ACT, you can accept a scholarship, but when you get to school they have to redshirt you because you're academically ineligible. You have to be over a 2.5 and over an 18 to be eligible to play and that's for Division 1 football.
"I want to make it as easy for the kids as possible. Not only that, I don't want coaches to be window shopping when they come into our school — you know 'Love the way you look, love your film, but can't do nothing with you because I can't get you into school.'
"I think kids forget you still have to go through admissions and be accepted to the university.
"Emani is a kid who academically could handle the load, but he's L-A-Z-Y in the classroom, that's what it was. You can't work hard for me and then give them nothing because I'm an educator first. I have to explain to my principal why one of our best kids isn't one of our best students."
Herrington out of hospital
Legendary Farmington Hills Harrison coach John Herrington feels fortunate to be out of the hospital and back on the field watching football.
Herrington sat in a chair while watching Harrison play in the 7-on-7 competition at Wayne State.
Herrington, 74, is second in state history with 411 victories, just 19 behind all-time leader Al Fracassa who retired as Birmingham Brother Rice coach following the 2013 season. He said he would love to coach five more years.
Herrington was happy to be talking about his future after having gall bladder surgery earlier this month.
"This damn gall bladder thing was killing me," said Herrington, who has guided Harrison to 13 state championships. "They (doctors) said I'd be home in a day and I was 13 days in the hospital, couldn't eat, couldn't move, couldn't do nothing. I finally got out last Tuesday. They don't even know why, no infection. I just swelled all up. Mentally, it's great for me to be out here."
Herrington said he had a player on Harrison who is under the radar in 6-0, 175-pound wide receiver/defensive back Tyrone Lyte. However, Lyte must improve academically to get an offer.
"I think Tyrone Lyte is one of the best around, but he's having some academic difficulties," said Herrington, who talked about a new rule the NCAA has put in for eligibility.
"I think one of the big things with the new rule, which is tough, is that you can't repeat a class after your junior year," Herrington said. "It used to be if you had a D you could go re-take it and maybe come up with a B or something. A lot of kids were taking it online and I'm not sure that's what they wanted."