You find yourself in the stands on a September Friday night. And as the lights beam down on the green-and-white grid, you see something that catches your eye. It might be a bullet pass over the middle by a quarterback, a wiggle in the hole to make a defender miss by a running back, or a big hit by a snorting linebacker.
Whatever it is, it made you take a second look.
These are the players that will be making us take a second look at them all season. They are the top 10 players to watch in high school football in this area for 2016.
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They come from city and area schools and from all over the field. They are the players that might have the most potential in the area to have college football scouts jotting down notes, or they could simply be one of the best players on their team. In either case, they are part of the reason you are sitting in those stands under the Friday night lights to watch high school football.
Battle Creek Enquirer Top 10 Players To Watch (alphabetical order)
JARRETT DELAND – MARSHALL
Why he is on this list: DeLand is an up-and-coming junior defensive back that helped Marshall to a 7-3 season last year. A big, physical cornerback in only his junior season, DeLand has the potential to become a Division I prospect in the next year.
Position: Defensive back/Receiver
Size/Class: 6-2, 170/Junior
40-yard time: 4.63
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Tyrann Mathieu – Arizona Cardinals
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I bring a lot of energy and I like to get physical and hit people. I think people like my size, especially at the college level. Not many defensive backs are my size.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “Jarrett is a guy you can put out at corner and he pretty much shuts down that side of the field. We leave him out there on that island and we don’t worry about that side of the field.” – Marshall coach Jason Stealy
Goal for the Season: “I want to improve every day and get better. I want to also help the team improve every day and get better. We need to play 11 games this year instead of 10.”
Recruiting Talk: “Been talking to some smaller schools down South and in New York. I went to a Notre Dame camp over the summer and their assistant director talked to me about focusing on football because he said I could be good player some day at the next level.”
SAM DEMEESTER – COLDWATER
Why he is on this list: DeMeester was a key player on Coldwater’s best team in school history last year, leading the team in rushing and being a dominant presence on defense at linebacker. DeMeester and the Cardinals went undefeated last season and advanced to the state semifinals in Division 3.
Position: Running back/Linebacker
Size/Class: 5-11, 185/Senior
40-yard time: 4.6
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I am very physical and aggressive. I never take any plays off. I am always try to hunt down whoever has the ball. I have it in my head that I hate the other team.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “This will be Sam’s fourth year on varsity, one of the very few kids that has ever played four years here at Coldwater. He is poised to set the all-time rushing record at Coldwater and depending on how the year goes he could set the single-season rushing record.” – Coldwater coach Jeff Schorfhaar
Goal for the Season: “Our team is pretty capable of making another long playoff run and I want to help us do that. We want to win another district title.”
Recruiting Talk: “I have talked to a few Division III schools. Hopefully I can have a pretty good senior year and get some attention from some D-2 schools.”
C.J. FOSTER – LAKEVIEW
Why he is on this list: Foster is a three-year starter in a Lakeview program that has won three straight SMAC East Division titles. A two-way player, Foster is one of the quickest players in the area and that shows up at outside linebacker as well as when he carries the ball.
Position: Running back/Outside linebacker
Size/Class: 5-7, 180/Senior
40-yard time: 4.5
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Barry Sanders – Detroit Lions
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I come to work every day at practice and give 100 percent effort all the time. I am reliable and willing to do whatever you tell me to do. I think I’m a tough player.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “C.J. is a tremendous athlete. He has a heart as big as anyone and his motor goes all the time. He’s a great teammate and what makes him really great is how hard he plays.” – Lakeview coach Mike Miller
Goal for the Season: “I want to rush for close to 1,000 yards and I want to help the team win a district championship like we did in 10th grade.”
Recruiting Talk: “I’ve been to some exposure camps and have been contacted by a couple coaches, but I’m not focused on being recruited. I am just focused on trying to win games this year.”
JACKIE HAMPTON – BATTLE CREEK CENTRAL
Why he is on this list: Hampton is an athletically-gifted two-way player and the leader on defense for a Battle Creek Central team that broke through for a SMAC East title last year. He will add to his duties this season by becoming a two-way player and a dual-threat quarterback.
Size/Class: 5-11, 190/Senior
40-yard time: 4.6
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Von Miller – Denver Broncos/Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I have a great drive and I work hard. Like to go fast and hit on defense and I take care of the ball on offense.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “When you are talking about a kid like Jackie Hampton, you are talking about a kid who is not afraid to step up and be a leader. He’s a solid football player, but he’s a great character kid and he’s disciplined enough to do the things needed to be successful, even when a coach isn’t watching.” – BCC coach Lorin Granger
Goal for the Season: “My overall goal is to help this team get to the playoffs and get the juniors the opportunity we never had and then, maybe collect a scholarship.”
Recruiting Talk: “I’ve been talked to by Saginaw Valley, Hope, a lot of D-3 schools. They say they like how I play and they want me to take a visit.”
DREW LANTINGA – ST. PHILIP
Why he is on this list: Lantinga was on a St. Philip team that made the state finals for the first time at the school in 30 years. The senior led the city in tackles last year as a linebacker and could put up big numbers at quarterback as a first-year starter this season..
Size/Class: 6-2, 170/Senior
40-yard time: 4.9
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Kirk Cousins – Washington Redskins
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “A lot of schools, they don’t have players play both ways. Last year, I led the city in tackles so I will be in position to do that again, while also playing quarterback on offense.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “No. 1, he is a leader on the this team, leading tackler on the team, he’s our quarterback. He’s going to be the guy we turn to to lead the offense, and he can run the ball and throw the ball, he’s a dual threat.” – St. Philip coach David Downey
Goal for the Season: “My goals for the team would be to go undefeated in the regular season and get back to the state championship. For myself, I want to be a better leader and make the offense run.”
Recruiting Talk: “I went to some camps, visited Northwood and there has been some thought and talk about playing football at the next level. But college to me is more about getting the grades instead of worrying about playing sports.”
AUSTIN MCKINNEY- BATTLE CREEK CENTRAL
Why he is on this list: McKinney shows up on film as an athletically-gifted player and helped Battle Creek Central earn a share of the SMAC East title last year. McKinney could be the next high-level recruit at Battle Creek Central with his mix of size and talent on the defensive side of the ball.
Position: Wing back/Defensive back
Size/Class: 6-1, 180/Senior
40-yard time: 4.54
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Jalen Ramsey – Jacksonville Jaguars
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I have good length for my position and good range and closing speed on the ball. I am very competitive.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “Austin is very athletically talented and has some attention from Division 1 schools. He really needs to have a solid senior season if he wants to play Division I football and he knows it. He knows what his downfalls are and he is working hard to overcome those. If he does, he will be a great football player and he’ll get his opportunity at the next level.” – BCC coach Lorin Granger
Goal for the Season: “I hope to take my team to the playoffs and hope to get All-State recognition.”
Recruiting Talk: “Ferris State, Grand Valley, Northern Michigan, they all have been talking to me and they all say they like my height and size for my position.”
JACORY MCNUTT – HARPER CREEK
Why he is on this list: McNutt has the physicalness and the speed that college scouts are looking for in a high school recruit. A standout on the track team, McNutt has improved every year on the football field and could have a monster breakout season on both sides of the ball.
Position: Running back/Linebacker
Size/Class: 6-0, 205/Senior
40-yard time: 4.66
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Jabrill Peppers – Michigan
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I am aggressive, always looking to keep the team hyped in the game and I am always looking to make the big hit.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “He loves the game and every year he just amazed us about how he has developed, turning himself into a 11.1 100-meter guy and a 21-foot long jumper. Plus, he has improved every year as a football player. His motor always runs and he is tenacious on defense.” – Harper Creek coach Mike Seedorff
Goal for the Season: “I want to average 10 1/2 tackles a game and help the team finish 8-2 or higher and see how far we can go in the season.”
Recruiting Talk: “Been talking to a few schools. I am hoping to maybe get more notice my senior year because I want to play on the D-2 level.”
MICHAEL MILLER – LAKEVIEW
Why he is on this list: Miller is a three-year starter in a Lakeview program that has won three straight SMAC East Division titles. A two-way player, Miller has the size, speed and strength that could be used at the next level at the tight end position.
Position: Tight end/Middle linebacker
Size/Class: 6-3, 235/Senior
40-yard time: 4.9
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Donnie Ernsberger – Western Michigan University
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I’m a good leader, I don’t give up and I try to encourage my teammates to go as fast as I’m going. I feel like I’m a smart player and I’ve gotten stronger over the past few years.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “He doesn’t worry about the individual stuff. He is only worried about being a good teammate. He has played at defensive end and could get recruited there, but he knows we need him at linebacker so he’s playing there to make the team better.” – Lakeview coach Mike Miller
Goal for the Season: “My goal for the team is to help the team make the playoffs for a fifth year in a row. As for myself, I just want to get better as a player.”
Recruiting Talk: “Been talked to by Wayne State and I have visited Davenport. I’m interested in playing at the next level, but not worried about it right now. We’ll see how it goes throughout my senior year.”
GRANT PETERSEN – PENNFIELD
Why he is on this list: Petersen is one of the most athletic players in the city and as a junior is ready to take the next step for a young Pennfield team. With a big season, he has the potential to get on the radar of Division 2 and Division 1 colleges this year.
Position: Running back/Safety
Size/Class: 6-0, 160/Junior
40-yard time: N/A
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Odell Beckham Jr. – NY Giants
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I am going to give 100 percent every play, I don’t take plays off. I just want to win. I don’t care if I get the ball or score touchdowns. I just want to win. My biggest asset is my ability to catch the ball and run after catch.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “Grant was a sophomore we brought up last year and he gave us an explosiveness that we needed to have on offense and defense. He was a playmaker and coming back as a junior we are going to really be creative in getting him the ball.” – Pennfield coach Mike McGuire
Goal for the Season: “I am looking to get more interceptions than last year. I am looking to help the team get better. We don’t feel like we should lose. I just know 3-6 isn’t going to cut it and we want to be better this year.”
Recruiting Talk: “Been to a few camps. Been up to Central and over to Western and they are telling me I have a lot of potential.”
ADAM SCHANTZ – CLIMAX-SCOTTS
Why he is on this list: Schantz continues the tradition of hard-nosed running backs in the wing-T system at small-school state power Climax-Scotts. Schantz is a two-way player getting ready for his senior year after helping the Panthers to an undefeated regular season last year.
Position: Running back/Linebacker
Size/Class: 6-1, 205/Senior
40-yard time: 4.6
Player you are most like at college/NFL level: Trent Richardson – Baltimore Ravens
Why are you a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to player): “I like to play with a lot of energy, lot of drive. I like to be a good teammate, also. Even when I’m not getting the ball, I want to play hard and do what is needed for the team and be a good leader for the team. When I do get a chance to score, I am not taking all the glory for myself because I wouldn’t be able to do anything without the team.”
Why is he a ‘Player to Watch’ (according to coach): “A three-year lettermen who has put in a tremendous amount of time to lead the program and get better as a football player to help Climax-Scotts and give himself an opportunity to play at the next level.” – Climax-Scotts coach Kevin Langs
Goal for the Season: “I would like to be an all-conference running back and linebacker. Going into the season, my goal internally is to play as hard as I can to maybe be in a position to play college football.”
Recruiting Talk: “There has been some interest from Hope College, Taylor, Wheaton and Indiana Wesleyan University, where I could maybe play for the son of our coach.”
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