June 13, 2012

Finley turns heads at SMSB Camp

SOUTHFIELD - Detroit Cass Tech offensive lineman Dennis Finley was one of the biggest movers - literally, and figuratively - during Day 1 of the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp, Wednesday at Southfield High School.

Finley already has scholarship offers from Syracuse, Purdue, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan. On Wednesday, he enjoyed a strong performance, comparing favorably with, and sometimes out-shining, more highly-ranked offensive linemen. The offensive tackle now heads into mid-June as a stock-on-the-rise prospect.

Finley will not participate in Michigan State's elite one-day camp on Saturday. He will be with his Cass Tech teammates at the University of Alabama camp. But MSU and Finley are working for a date to get together in East Lansing in the near future.

"They (Michigan State) want me to come up and visit," Finley said. "Unfortunately I'm going to Alabama this week but I believe next month we are going to try to head up there. They were saying I was close to getting it and hopefully they will offer me."

Finley's junior film looks good. He showed excellent lateral movement in pass protection as a junior, and devastating run-blocking ability as a pulling tackle on Cass Tech's counter trey.

On Wednesday, he gave coaches a closer look at his habits, personality and coachability. He checked out extremely well in those categories. Onlookers were impressed with his focus and workmanlike approach to drills and repetitions.

Quite frankly, Finley had a better day than current Rivals250 o-lineman Logan Tuley-Tillman (Michigan commitment) and Florida commitment Cameron Dillard. The SMSB camp is conducted in compression t-shirts and shorts, preventing big men from doing battle with pads, meaning that an event like this should never be regarded as a complete picture for any offensive line prospect. But Finley is proving that he can impress on any stage.

"I think I did well," he said. "I could have done better. There is always room for improvement.

"I know I did well on my footwork; but one thing that I need to work on that I always need to work on is my hand placement or my extension."

Finley's good footwork and lateral movement were on display (film link) in April at the Midwest Elite Big Man Camp in Wixom.

"I've always kind of had footwork, but as I've started to progress more as a football player I have started to work more on it and I became better at it and it's one of the things that has allowed me to be a better football player," Finley said.

As for the Cass Tech counter trey, memories of success on that play in 2011 brought a smile to Finley's face on Wednesday.

"That was one of our top plays," he said. "I remember we ran that play when we sprang the running back for a touchdown against Catholic Central (in the state championship). When we run that play, the defense usually didn't see us coming, so when we made contact they aren't expecting it."

It's a lot to ask a 6-foot-6, 280-pound high school junior to pull from the left tackle position and cover ground across formation to get to the point of attack on time in the counter trey.

"Yes sir," Finley confirmed.

He has to be come.

"Yes sir," Finley said again.

He's both. And physical when finding his target, as a pulling tackle, or when blocking down on Cass Tech's zone plays or counters to his side. He blasts through defenders and seems to enjoy doing it, to a point that belies his genteel off-field persona.

In addition to quality footwork, long arms and physical nastiness, Finley sports a good build with a nice a frame, yet it's clear that he can still add lots of quality mass. He is far from reaching his physical peak, which is a good thing for recruiters shopping for blooming talent.

"I just want to stay focused on football, stay focused - focused on my team and keep my grades up and keep the scholarships," he said.

The number of full-rides will likely expand during the summer months. He would like to add one from MSU.

"I think it's a good school, a good program," he said. "My sister went there and my cousin graduated from there so I know a lot about it."

MSU hasn't signed a Cass Tech player since running back Dawan Moss and cornerback Roderick Maples in the late 1990s. The Spartans are showing increased interest in Finley and some Cass Tech underclassmen, seemingly intent on breaking through with the Technicians.

As for Finley, he is in no hurry.

"I don't think I'm ready to commit just yet but I know that probably during the season I'll probably have a decision made," he said.

Is there a leader?

"I would probably say right now maybe Illinois because we went up there and visited and I got to see the campus, I got to see the players play and sit through one of their chalk talks," Finley said.

Staff Meeting

  • Every member of Michigan State's football staff other than head coach Mark Dantonio were at the SMSB Camp on Wednesday. Dantonio will attend the camp on Thursday as a guest speaker. Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Michigan's Brady Hoke were guest speakers on Wednesday.

    Poet Society

    Staten and Roushar took a long look at Finley on Wednesday, as well as Detroit Country Day's Poet Thomas.

    Thomas is working to get comfortable on the offensive side of the ball.

    "I haven't played offense in my whole high school career, and now that colleges want me to play some offense I have to adjust to it," Thomas said. "I was mostly all o-line today. Last year I was all d-line. I'm going to be playing both this year. I'm looking forward to it."

    Thomas counts offers from Florida, Colorado, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Toledo.

    "I think I did some good things," he said of his camp performance. "I didn't do a whole lot bad."

    Thomas knows he needs to fine-tune his frame into better physical shape.

    "I've been running a lot, trying to get my weight down, trying to get into better shape, running stairs, getting my legs in shape, lifting Monday through Friday," he said. "I'm just trying to be there for my team. I don't want to be that guy that has to come out with a cramp or something like that."

    As for feedback on Wednesday, Thomas said: "A couple of coaches I know from Eastern, like their their offensive line coach, was giving me pointers and teaching me how to replace my hand after it's already moved back, and things like that. I got some positive feedback from Western, and Michigan State gave me some. They wanted to see me on offense so that they can continue to evaluate. I'm sure they will do that on Friday and hopefully I will walk out of there with an offer."

    Thomas will attend MSU's big man camp on Friday.

    "I want to show that I'm worth a scholarship and I can be the person that Michigan State is looking for," he said.

    Thomas isn't alone in trying to attract a Spartan offer. MSU continues to be prudent and frugal with offers. The Spartans have six commitments for the 2013 recruiting class, building methodically and surely as they have in previous recruiting cycles.

    Camp Personnel

    More than 600 players participated in Wednesday's SMSB Camp, most of which are from southeast Michigan, hoping for scholarship attention from various levels of college football. There were more than 30 players from host Southfield High's football team, and more than 30 from Detroit Cass Tech, at least 15 from Detroit Consortium and more than 17 from Detroit Crockett. The vast majority of the campers will not be scholarship players at the college level, but the camp's mission is not only to provide exposure for players but also to assist in counseling them for life after high school off the field.

    There were no uncommitted rising seniors on the field with a current scholarship offer from Michigan State.

    Howell tight end Pete Cender (6-5, 220) had a solid day at SMSB. MSU coaches watched him. He is expected to be at MSU's camp this weekend.

    Walled Lake Western defensive back Joshua Jones, Grand Blanc defensive end Luke McLean, Farmington safety Isaiah Gourdine and Cadillac offensive linemen Riley Norman and Jack Ford were not at SMSB on Wednesday.

    Verbal Support

    Jon Reschke was MSU's lone verbal commitment at the camp. Reschke was his usual quick, physical self on Wednesday.

    Reschke told SpartanMag.com's Rico Beard that he is networking with committed and uncommitted players for the good for Spartan recruiting. Reschke said he and Dooly County, Ga.'s Montravius Adams, the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle, freequently exchange texts. Reschke said Adams enjoyed his April visit to MSU and believes that Adams will make a return visit at some point.

    Underclass Talent

    Two rising juniors of note enjoyed strong performances on Wednesday. Devine Redding, a solidly-built, 5-foot-9, 190-pound RB from Mineral Ridge, Ohio, looked good in a non-pad environment, especially for a guy who prefers a defender to blast into. He already has offers from Indiana and West Virginia.

    Also, Detroit Cass Tech junior cornerback Damon Webb (5-11, 170) played well in individual drills.

    At the end of the day, Cass Tech lined up against Detroit Crockett for a 7-on-7 scrimmage. Webb played WR and CB in the scrimmage, and performed well as the cornerback opposite Cass Tech teammate Jourdan Lewis, who is headed to Michigan.

    Webb had a high-leaping interception at the goal line on a deep ball during the scrimmage.

    Lewis played well enough to back up his Rivals250, four-star status. He has exceptional closing quickness, although he rarely allows enough separation to put that closing skill on display. He's sticky-good.

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