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August 31, 2011

Underclassmen boost top 10 program

MORE: Coleman/Collins highlights | Top 10

Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison cracked the top 10 of RivalsHigh's national rankings this week after taking down nationally ranked Detroit Cass Tech by a final of 43-7 on Saturday.

Much of the credit for Saturday's win has been handed down to senior stars Aaron Burbridge, Devin Funchess, Mario Ojemudia and Jake Vento, but the performances of two underclassmen - class of 2013 slot receiver Gairus Coleman and 2014 running back Lorenzo Collins - also sparked Harrison's rout of Cass Tech.

The 5-9, 180-pound Coleman caught four passes for 44 yards on the night and added a run of about 20 yards, with several of his plays extending drives for the Hawks.

Coleman is a thickly built, technically sound receiver who packs more punch than his frame would suggest. He punctuated his 20-yard run by bowling over a Cass Tech defender on the sidelines and was difficult to bring down on short passes he caught over the middle.

Coleman's performance did not surprise MichiganPreps.com publisher George Yarberry, who coached Coleman on his Michigan Elite 7on7 team this past spring.

"Gairus was our top receiver," Yarberry noted. "He is an excellent route runner, has the ability to get separation and will catch anything thrown his way. He is confident in his ability because of the time he puts in. He welcomes the opportunity of going against big-name DBs."

Yarberry noted that Coleman appears ahead of the game from a fundamentals standpoint because he has been coached up by his uncle, former Michigan State Spartan and Chicago Bears wide receiver Mill Coleman. "Mill the Thrill" led Harrison to consecutive state titles in the late 1980s, and his nephew is hoping to help the Hawks repeat in 2011 after winning the Division 2 state title last fall.

"We have great expectations and are just trying to come out and live up to them," Coleman said. "I am just trying to help the team out and do what I can and I felt like this was one of the best games I ever played."

Coleman's performance should certainly aid him in his pursuit of post-high school playing opportunities. Schools such as Michigan State, Bowling Green and Cincinnati were already showing interest in Coleman before the start of his junior year. He plans to take the Spartans up on one of their game invites for the fall.

The other Harrison underclassmen to post a big night on Saturday was Collins. At 6-foot and 205 pounds, Collins is built like a future Division I running back and he showed the speed that will help him draw looks from coaches in the coming years. It was a play on defense, however, that drew Collins the most recognition from Saturday's crowd at Rynearson Stadium.

Doubling as a linebacker, Collins found Cass Tech running back Lawrence Phelps coming around end. Collins proceeded to lay a hit on Phelps that upended the Technician running back and sent collision shockwaves through the bleachers.

Although the impressive sophomore proved he can put a lick on defense with that hit, his future certainly appears to be as a collegiate tailback. He ripped off several impressive runs on Saturday, including a 22-yard touchdown jaunt that saw Collins pull away from a fast Cass Tech defense.

"Running back is really me, but I also enjoy playing linebacker," Collins said. "Growing up I was a running back because my dad was a running back and my uncle was a running back. They just helped set my goals for me and I started achieving my best."

Collins played Saturday night's game in Eastern Michigan University's stadium, where his uncle had toted the ball years before. The stout ballcarrier was handed down his physical tools and the knowledge of how to use them from his father and uncle, but got his inner drive and desire to be the best from his mother.

"My mom is a very strong woman and she raised me," Collins said. "My mom always told me that I always have to be better than the person in front of me."

Collins was the best performer in his class at the University of Michigan football camp over the summer, earning an award from Wolverines running backs coach Fred Jackson. He also camped at Eastern Michigan with his team and has both Washtenaw County Division I programs keeping a close eye on him this fall.

With the bulk of three seasons of high school football in front of him, Collins' focus is on the present and not the future. He has a pretty good idea the recruiting attention will eventually come, and likely come in bunches, but for now his goals are the same as the rest on his team - another state championship. He has the example set by prospects like Burbridge, a four-star prospect committed to Michigan State, as well as Funchess and Ojemudia, who are both committed to Michigan, to emulate.

"They teach me leadership and they tell me to keep my head up," Collins said of his Big Ten-bound teammates. "On my first run I fumbled, but they told me to keep my head up. They motivate me."

Harrison head coach John Herrington has won 13 state titles in his 41 years with the Hawks program, but state pundits have suggested this may be the most talent the legendary coach has fielded on one team.

Coleman and Collins lend credence to that suggestion.



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