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September 14, 2011

Lincoln linebacker tearing it up

MORE MIDWEST: Mailbag | Weekend wrap | Around MW

Rivals.com Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt looks around his region at some of the emerging underclassmen, a promising sleeper prospect and also previews the upcoming weekend of game coverage.

Remember these names

A breakdown of game tape on three impressive underclassmen prospects in the Midwest:

LB Josh Banderas, Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest (2013)

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Banderas looks like a million bucks roaming around in the front seven for his Lincoln Southwest High team. His frame screams Division I linebacker and he has the room to add bulk without sacrificing speed or athleticism. The athleticism part of the equation sets Banderas apart. He is a highly accomplished hurdler on the track, and plays loose and free on the football field.

We'd like to see Banderas play a little more connected to the turf and draw his power from the ground. That will allow him to become a more feared tackler and help him take on blocks from offensive linemen. The Nebraska native is not shy about sticking his nose into the play and it is obvious he does not fear anyone. This is a prospect with huge upside who appears to have the tools to take him to the highest levels of the game.

ATH Caleb Day, Hilliard (Ohio) Darby (2013)

Day is listed as an athlete because he is a tremendous asset for his high school team on both sides of the football. The 6-foot, 175-pound prospect can excel on offense at the high school level because he is a great athlete and provides his team with a home-run threat. Our early take, however, is that his future will most likely be on the defensive side of the football, likely as a cornerback. He is fluid through the hips and looks great in coverage.

The one question we could not answer on film with Day is whether he has the speed to play cornerback at the Division I level, but his technique, ball skills and size suggest he will fare well at that role in the future. His overall athleticism will have some schools giving him a look on the offensive side of the football, but early on it appears his highest upside is on defense.

RB Ty Isaac, Joliet (Ill.) Catholic Academy (2013)

At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Isaac will draw comparisons to Adrian Peterson because of his size and upright running style, but his style more closely resembles that of Eric Dickerson. Isaac does not physically beat up tacklers in the way that Peterson does. He's more of a surgical runner, cutting up defenses on his way to big rushing totals this fall. Isaac has uncanny agility for a big running back, and displays great speed in the open field - the same traits Dickerson displayed in his Hall of Fame career.

Although he is an upright runner, Isaac still does a great job of running behind his pads. He is patient and will wait for holes to open, then use a great burst to get upfield. This fall we have only seen him on offense, but his size fits the mold of a collegiate outside linebacker. Unless we see some amazing defensive performances, though, expectations are Isaac will play running back in college. He is a tremendous offensive weapon.

Sleeper of the week

This week's under-the-radar prospect that won't be unknown for long:

TE Joey Warner, Bloomfield Hills (Mich.) Brother Rice

This evaluation goes back a couple weeks to when we saw Warner and his Brother Rice team overcome an MVP performance from Detroit King running back Dennis Norfleet at the Big Day Prep Showdown. Warner was a key factor in the victory, hauling in a 30-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring for Brother Rice.

Warner first opened our eyes on the touchdown reception, showing soft hands and then pulling away from a fast King defensive backfield on his way to the end zone. He did not get many targets after that, but proved he is a complete tight end prospect by being dominant as a blocker. He brings the full weight of his 6-4, 230-pound frame down on defenders and is able to reach the second level and seal linebackers. Only Buffalo had offered Warner entering his senior season, but that look told us he is a prospect who deserves looks from programs at all levels of Division I.

Weekend Watch

Helmholdt will be in Northeast Ohio on Thursday night to catch the Alliance Marlington-Louisville game. He will then travel west to the Dayton, Ohio, area to check out Huber Heights Wayne at Trotwood-Madison on Friday night.

1. Top Ohio juniors face off

Trotwood-Madison cornerback Cameron Burrows should receive strong consideration for the No. 1 spot in the state of Ohio when rankings come out next year. The 6-1, 195-pound Burrows is big for the cornerback position, but showed fluid hips and plenty of speed when we saw him at the Ohio State NIKE Camp last May. His teammate, linebacker Mike McCray, is another promising junior prospect who already holds four offers. On the other side of the field, Wayne junior offensive lineman Lovell Peterson already holds an offer from Illinois and is receiving interest from BCS programs around the country.

2. Alliance Marlington's running game

Last fall, Alliance (Ohio) Marlington running back Alden Hill rushed for an outstanding 2,247 yards and 35 touchdowns while his teammate, Dymonte Thomas, added 1,500 rushing yards and 17 more scores. Both prospects return this season for Marlington, and will run behind a line anchored by 6-5, 305-pound Michigan State commitment Zach Higgins. With that much firepower on the ground, Marlington's quarterback probably does not get too many opportunities to exercise his arm.

Josh Helmholdt can be reached at hemy12@hotmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @JoshHelmholdt.



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