Rod Beard and Dave Goricki preview the 2018 high school football season The Detroit News
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Belleville – Devontae Dobbs has been the face of Belleville’s program the past few years and plans to help the Tigers take the next step by winning a pair – or more – postseason games for the first time in school history before taking his talent to Michigan State.
Dobbs, 6-foot-4 and about 300 pounds, is a five-star offensive tackle who is Michigan State’s highest-ranked recruit since Charles Rogers (No. 3, 2000). Dobbs is ranked No. 5 at his position nationally and No. 18 overall by the 247Sports Composite. He is The Detroit News preseason No. 1 player in the state.
Dobbs had 42 offers and was recruited by national champion Alabama, and narrowed his choices to Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State and Auburn before deciding to stay close to home to play for Mark Dantonio and the Spartans.
Dobbs played with a torn labrum last season, had surgery this past February and feels 100 percent heading into his senior season. He knows this is his final chance to make a long postseason run and hopes it ends at Ford Field with a state championship on the line over Thanksgiving weekend.
Belleville finished 10-1, including its first playoff win in 15 years last season, but suffered a 28-25 upset loss to Canton in a Division 1 district final.
“I think last year was kind of an eye-opener,” said Dobbs of last season. “I wish, possibly, we had lost a game in the regular season just so we could be humble and get back to the fundamentals and basics so we could get better.
“Expectations are real high since we’ve been here for four years, me and my class, and we want to lead some of the younger guys so we can get better so we can go out and win a state championship.
“We want to just try to send a message to everybody that we can make history (at Belleville). We have the players. We have the coaches. We have the Xs and Os so we just have to come out and perform.”
Dobbs is an elite talent but he also plays to the whistle, every play.
“Everyone talks about how athletic I am, blessed that I have that ability, and I’m always looking downfield to make extra blocks while run blocking,” Dobbs said. “I just take a lot of pride in getting downfield and blocking.
“My pass blocking has gotten better too. I’ve learned different techniques as I’ve traveled around the country (college camps).”
Belleville fourth-year head coach Jermain Crowell has been impressed with Dobbs’ improvement.
“Devontae and Damon Payne are going at it pretty good and both have great leverage and they’re both explosive,” Crowell said. “They are both going to be very good.”
Payne could follow Dobbs as the top player in the state in two years. He received an offer from Georgia in eighth grade and started on Belleville’s offensive line last year, his freshman season. Payne also plays defensive end and his offer list is now up to 19 schools, including Michigan and Michigan State.
Dobbs also plays both ways, and while he will be an offensive lineman in college, he looks forward to being a part of a dominant Belleville defense that includes Iowa-bound defensive end Jalen Hunt; Tyrece Woods, also an end who committed to Michigan; Akron commit tackle Jalen Bell; and linebacker Marvin Ham (Boston College).
“Coach Crowell has a whole bunch of DBs that’s going to be going D1 also so I feel there’s going to be a lot of games where there’s going to be shutouts,” Dobbs said.
Crowell thought Dobbs would be a star defensive lineman when Dobbs stepped on the field for the first time his freshman year at 6-2 and 230 pounds. But Dobbs’ youth coach, Ray Lyons, always believed he would be a dominant offensive lineman.
“His youth coach kept begging him to play offense and I kept saying he’d be a defensive lineman,” Crowell said. “In the ninth grade we moved him over there just to help out and the OL coach came back and said he’s the best we’ve got. After that, it just made sense for him to play offense.
“He’s so explosive. He’s a little overweight right now, coming off shoulder injury. He’s at 308 and he’s still the fastest linemen we have. He’s extremely athletic and explosive for a guy 300-plus pounds.”
Dobbs has definitely put a lot of time in the weight room during the past few years.
“Coming out of Little League I was skinny, knew I had to get bigger to play with those (high school) guys,” Dobbs said. “I came in lifting like 135 (bench press) my freshman year, got to 340 before having my surgery (on shoulder). I ate a lot and lifted a lot to get bigger and stronger.”
Dobbs’ shoulder kept popping out of place last season, leading to surgery in February. He went to rehab multiple times a week in Ann Arbor and says he is ready to go.
“Right now I feel like I’m at 100 percent,” Dobbs said, “so people better watch out.”