Blogs > Burney's Bytes

Burney's Bytes will focus primarily on the local preps sports scene, but will also touch on some college and pro athletics, mostly in regards to athletes who hail and have played high school sports in Oakland County. My goal for the blog is to be conversational and anecdotal, a more relaxed and free formal take on high school athletics than you see in regular game day coverage.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Training Camp Report - The Champ Is Here!

The most accurate word to describe the 2011 Farmington Hills Harrison football squad is LOADED.
The defending Division 2 state champion Hawks have highly recruited college prospects all up and down their roster and are runaway favorites to repeat and give legendary head coach John Herrington another in a long line of banners.
"We're pretty talented this season and hopefully it will translate to another run to a state title," said Herrington, in his 42nd year heading the Hawks program, following a recent practice. "A lot of people are gunning for us this year, but if we take care of our own business it shouldn't matter. Our destiny is in our own hands. We need to keep our focus and stay hungry and if we do that, we'll give ourselves a real good shot at taking home a second straight state championship when November comes around."
Herrington's squad is packed with impact players on both sides of the ball – 14 returning starters in all. In his over four decades on the sidelines at Harrison, Herrington can't remember ever having this much depth.
"In all my time here I've never had this many college recruits on one team," he said.
The Hawks have three players already verbally committed to Big Ten schools. Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, the state's most heavily recruited offensive threat, committed to Michigan State two weeks ago, while tight end Devin Funchess and defensive end Mario Ojemudia both gave commitments to Michigan back in the spring.
Besides those three, Herrington sports at least a half-dozen other gridiron grinders that either are currently getting recruited by Division I programs or most likely will be soon.
Senior captain Jake Vento, an all-state receiver and safety last season, will step under center this year and quarterback the Hawks offense, replacing his big brother Tommy, an all-state field general in 2010 who is currently on the team at Michigan State. Vento, getting recruited as a wide out and defensive back, quarterbacked Harrison's JV team to an undefeated record during his sophomore year in 2009.
Not wanting to lose the younger Vento's big-play ability as a receiver, Herrington and his staff intend on giving Lamar Marshall, a college recruit at safety, snaps in a variety of formations, including pro sets and the newly en vogue wildcat.
Handling ball-carrying duties for the Hawks this year will be a trio of standout rushers. The veteran of the group is senior Austin Hunter, last season's starter in the state finals. Flanking Hunter will be a pair of stud sophomores in Lorenzo Collins, who played on the varsity last year as a freshman and Gary Hosey, a transfer from Cass Tech. Speedster Chris Massey could be a sleeper in the Hawks backfield since in pre-season workouts he timed out as the second fastest player on the team, behind only Burbridge, who runs a 4.3.
In addition to Burbridge and Funchess at the receiver spot, Herrington will use fast-rising junior Garius Coleman and senior Keith Marshall, a possession specialist, as major cogs in his passing attack. Coleman, the nephew of Hawks offensive coordinator and all-time prep football great  Mill "The Thrill" Coleman, had a fantastic summer on the showcase circuit and is considered a top-echelon recruit for the state's Class of 2013.
Also a top recruit for the Class of 2013 is Jake Slobin, Harrison's anchor on the offensive line. Slobin, whose dad Billy is the team's strength and conditioning coach, started last season as a sophomore. Joining Slobin on the O-Line this year will be Ojemudia, Aaron Johnson, Sultan Hubbard and Bruce Brunson.
Ojedmudia, a ferocious sack-master of a defensive end, will headline the Hawks D-Line. Juniors Eddie Huckleby and Jordan Head are the leaders of the squad's linebacking unit. Huckelby started last season a sophomore and like Coleman and Slobin is one of the state's top juniors. He is the son of former University of Michigan star running back Harlan Huckleby. Gary Hosey will see time at linebacker, too.
Returning starter Ken Russ will captain Harrison's defensive backfield. Alongside Russ, Burbridge, Vento and Marshall fill out the secondary rotation. Playing cornerback for the first time in his prep career in 2010, Burbridge was quick to develop into a lockdown corner and one of the toughest coverage matchups in the area.
Personally starting the Hawks program in 1970, Herrington has navigated the program to a state-record 13 state championships throughout his tenure. He hopes No. 14 is right around the corner.
"We could be on the cusp of a very special year if things go right for us," Herrington said. "This group of players is really something else. They have so much skill and so much speed, it honestly even blows me away sometimes. I think this is going to be a fun year for everyone."
The road to the repeat begins in Ypsilanti on the campus of Eastern Michigan when Harrison, ranked N0. 19 in the United States by a recent national poll, takes on PSL powerhouse Detroit Cass Tech in it's opener. Things don't get any easier in Week 2 when the Hawks play Southfield, the team that appears to be their biggest competition for the OAA White crown.
During his time at Harrison, Herrington has collected a staggering 30 league titles.


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