2019 Final Top 50 Montana Recruits (10-1)

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2019 Final Top 50 Montana Recruits (10-1)

Post by VimSince03 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:51 pm

10.) Blake Counts - Kalispell Flathead (5’11”, 205 lbs.)


• MT Tech signee - RB
• 2018 AA Co-Offensive Player of the Year - RB
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – RB
• 2017 2nd Team All-State AA – RB
• 2018 All-USA Today Montana Offensive Player of the Year - RB
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – RB
• 2018 GFT Super-State – RB
• 2018 Badlands selection - RB
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – RB
• Broke the 18-year old MHSA all-class single-season rushing record with 2588 performance
• Rushing (Senior Year) – 354 carries for 2588 yards; 23 touchdowns; 1 fumble
• Receiving (Senior Year) – 8 receptions for 229 yards; 5 touchdowns
• Averaged 7 yards a carry his senior year
• Best game was a 29 carry, 303 yard, 4 touchdown performance vs. Billings Senior last fall
• 2nd ranked RB

On Counts: Blake broke the MHSA All-Class Single Season rushing record this past fall with 2,588 rushing yards, besting Jarett Laden’s (Cut Bank) total of 2,387 posted back in 2000. Jarett posted that mark in 12 games but Blake beat the record in the same amount as he reached 2,390 yards after Flathead’s upset victory in the AA semifinal over Bozeman. Anyway, the kid’s senior season was special and one of the best of any player at any position in any class in MHSA history. As if it wasn’t obvious before, Blake does a lot of things well as a player. He has the desired size and frame for an every-down running back. Blake is a patient runner who is extremely effective at running defenders into trouble by setting up his blockers for success before cutting off their blocks. It also helped that Flathead had a very good offensive line but Blake made them look even better by trusting the scheme and believing in his guys up front to do their job. But when the play calls for some urgency, Blake presses the line of scrimmage with conviction before making his cuts. His footwork and tenacity allow him to avoid early penetration in the backfield (see first highlight clip above). Blake’s specialty is the inside run game where he runs with courage and juice. On top of his physicality between the tackles, he displays the ability to be a one-cut runner as their isn’t a bunch of hesitation in his game. Blake runs behind his pads and has good pop when engaging tacklers. Arm tackles won’t cut it as Blake runs with a strong lower half and does a good job of swiveling his hips to shake off tacklers off his lower body. Blake plays with such a steady tempo that it seems like he isn’t running hard until he throws out a subtle juke or stiff-arm that stifles the defender in his tracks. He’s also hard to tackle due to his churning feet and contact balance to carom off tacklers and restart runs. Blake’s yards after contact are phenomenal and mitigates his lack of twitch and long-speed as an athlete. He has slasher qualities in his game but he will likely be more of a grinder at the next level. Blake wears teams down and shows the ability to batter a defense late in games with chunk plays. He never gives up on a play and squeezes everything he can from a run. His ball security is a major plus as he only lost one fumble out of 350+ rush attempts his senior season. Blake wasn’t used much as a pass-catcher but he produced when used. He has a good knack for setting up defenders in the screen game and his patience-to-burst running style allows his blockers to get out in front and open a seam for a big play. For some deficiencies, Blake is a high-cut, upright runner who isn’t overly agile. Due to this running style, durability issues may be a concern at the next level as he will be taking body and leg shots from bigger, faster athletes. When out in space, Blake is a one-speed runner without a second-gear to clear defenders at the second level cleanly. He has the initial burst to press the line of scrimmage and get to the second level with robustness, but he relies on his subtle elusiveness and power to shake tacklers. Blake also lacks position versatility as I don’t see him lining up at LB in college if RB doesn’t work out. Overall, the break-away speed is just not there…and that’s okay! I have been vocal in my believe that Blake is a FCS level RB. Speed is always overvalued the further you go up the division-level ladder in football and Blake simply does too many things well to not get an offer from UM or MSU to play football. He’s a volume-carry RB with three-down value who’s heart and toughness almost willed his Kalispell Flathead team to a State AA title. I wanted to see Blake get a shot to test his ability against FCS talent but glad he gets to go to a place like MT Tech where he gets to have the education he wants and play for the coach that developed him into the back he is today (Kyle Samson). His 2018 rushing record will be hard to eclipse and will become more legendary as time goes on.

9.) Alex Johnson - Helena High (6’2”, 185 lbs.)


• MSU signee - OLB
• 2018 Western AA Defensive MVP - LB/S
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – OLB; HM All-State - TE
• 2017 1st Team All-State AA – S
• 2018 2nd Team All-USA Today Montana – RB
• 2017 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – S
• 2018 GFT Super-State – LB
• 2018 Badlands selection - LB
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – OLB
• 99 total tackles (51 solo); 8 PBUs (senior year)
• 88 total tackles; 10 PBUs; 6 interceptions (junior year)
• 21 career PBUs; 7 career interceptions
• Per Coach Scott Evans, Alex played 6 different positions between offense/defense
• 2nd ranked LB; 2nd ranked S

On Johnson: Alex Johnson was used as a versatile weapon on both sides of the ball during his career at Helena High. His future will be on the defensive side of the ball where he has experience at three different positions over the last two seasons (S/LB/DE). As an athlete, Alex has a well-proportioned frame with a strong physique. He was a 1st Team All-State safety his junior season but easily transitioned to OLB because of his ability to handle coverage duties while exceling around the line of scrimmage playing the run. Alex shined at OLB during his senior year, again earning 1st-Team All-State honors. As a defender, he possesses good lateral twitch. What he lacks in natural speed, he makes up for with relentless effort and toughness. Alex is a highly instinctive, smart player who plays with excellent functional strength. Around the line of scrimmage, he does a bunch of things well. Alex efficiently sifts and works through traffic, bouncing in and out of gaps while still keepings his eyes on the ball. His reactive athleticism allows him to spring into the backfield field for a tackles for a loss, pass breakup, or hold contain on the edge. Alex flows hard to the football without compromising his run fit. He’s a savvy blitzer off the edge who usually gets home or affects the play in favor of the defense. Alex is above average in playing off blockers with violent hands and reactive athleticism. He’s also physical in pass coverage (go to 4:35 in highlight above). Alex excels in most aspects of zone coverage and in man when matching up against tight ends or covering running backs in the flat. He’s quick to recognize play-action and sink into coverage. Alex made a ton of plays in zone as his ability to react and read quarterbacks made it tough to complete footballs in his coverage. If he didn’t get the pick, he would tip the ball often leading to a turnover or incompletion. As an overall player, Alex’s effort is elite (see 2:35 in highlight above). His intangibles make him an asset to a team. He is a leader on and off the field, takes efficient paths to the ball, looks for work as a tackler, doesn’t take plays off, fully understands his responsibilities from play to play, is a tone setter who creates turnovers to spark his team, loves the game of football, and is a selfless player who does whatever is necessary for his team to succeed. However, there may be some areas that hinder Alex at the next level. His movement is aggressive but not necessarily smooth. Alex’s recovery speed and range are average (which is why he’s a better fit at LB). He relies more on effort and instincts instead of natural speed. Alex may be a liability in man coverage when lined up against a shifty slot receiver. His style of play may also lead to durability issues down the road (play resembles Balue Chapman’s at times). Overall, MSU will have to decide if he’s a sub-package linebacker or a three-down talent. Alex’s body of work and reliability as a defender make him a valuable football player who really shouldn’t leave the field in many scenarios. When he adds the necessary bulk to his frame, he should be a plus run defender, blitzer, and special teamer while having the ability to man up against bigger targets in coverage. There are a few athletic traits Alex will simply never have but every other football trait (tangible and intangible) makes him a potential future starter and captain at MSU.

8.) Joe Olson - Bozeman (6’0”, 195 lbs.)


• MSU signee - RB
• 2018 2nd Team All-State AA – RB
• 2017 HM All-State AA – RB/OLB
• 2018 2nd Team All-USA Today Montana – RB
• 2018 Badlands selection - RB
• 2018 Shrine Game alternate – RB
• Rushing (Senior Year) – 136 carries for 974 yards; 9 touchdowns (broke arm at beginning of sixth game)
• Rushing (Junior Year) – 107 carries for 780 yards; 9 touchdowns (started final five games)
• 54 total tackles (36 solo); 6 TFLs; 4 PBUs (Junior Year)
• 2018 State Track Qualifier – 110H
• 1st ranked RB

On Olson: Joe had an interesting final two years of football for Bozeman High. He didn’t take over starting tailback duties until halfway through his junior year. Going into senior year, I had Joe as my #1 LB prospect mostly because of his closing speed and physicality at the point of attack. I liked the way the kid moved on defense. I also liked him a bunch at RB but I honestly believed his future would be on defense as a linebacker or safety. Joe then proceeded to enter into a Sosa/McGuire-type battle with Blake Counts this past fall to see who could break the single season rushing record by years end. The record was established over a 12-game stretch by Cut Bank RB Jarett Laden back in 2000. Going into his sixth game, Joe was about 50 yards off Blake’s mark while both were on pace to either eclipse the record or be right around it over a 12-game season. Unfortunately, Joe broke his arm at the beginning of his sixth game which ended his senior campaign early. He didn’t really play any defense his senior year and fully invested into improving as a RB. Here is what I saw in those five games. Joe has a winning combination of balance, power, speed, and vision. He can operate out of multiple formations without losing any play speed. Joe’s footwork at the beginning of his runs sets him up for success. He can recognize early trouble from penetration and make instant alterations (see 6:10 in highlight). Joe gathers his weight quickly after cuts to re-establish his base and maintain his play speed. Like most of the top backs in the state, he does a good job of setting up his blocks and follows the plan until forced to create his own fortune in the open field. When he sees a crease, Joe has sudden, one-cut ability (see 1:26 in highlight) with the juice to launch himself through the second level into the open field. When in space, Joe’s physicality and toughness really start to shine. He drops his pad level and powers his way through second and third-level tacklers. Like Blake Counts, angle and arm tackles won’t get it done versus Joe. It consistently took multiple tacklers to bring Joe down as a ball carrier. His running power allows him to impose his will in the 4th quarter. Joe has an effective stiff-arm which is he uses to stifle tacklers coming in from an angle. On top of his power, he has exceptional contact balance with the ability to steady himself post-contact using his arms to pop up off the ground. Joe can absorb and drive through contact which allows him to push the pile in short yardage situations. An underrated part of his game is his natural athleticism. Joe displays the footwork to spin out of poor tackle attempts and the ability to change up speeds depending on the play-call or in-game situation. He also isn’t afraid to mix it up in pass pro which is a quality most high school backs don’t have prior to college ball. Joe’s acceleration allows him to speed past tacklers who aren’t taking the right angle or not giving the proper amount of effort. But I’m unsure if he has the long speed to become a truly elite three-down back in college. He’s really close as he’s in that 11.4 range in the 100M dash. Joe’s lateral speed to the sideline is average as, again, he wins more with his power and vision. He will opt to finish runs by launching into traffic when easier running routes may be available for additional yardage. When rolling down-hill, he has some hip tightness and needs additional room to elude tacklers. Joe likes contact so he takes his fair share of heavy hits. He’s a fearless runner so it will be up to him to continue with max contact or adapt to less to maintain his durability. Overall, Joe runs angry with a high-level of confidence. While his elusiveness and long-speed may not be a threat to consistently out-maneuver FCS defenses, his burst and furious running style along with his ability to create yardage after contact in a variety of ways will lead to a good amount of chunk-yardage plays throughout his career. If Joe can stay healthy during college, he has a really good shot of being a key member in MSU’s future backfield.

7.) Trevin Gradney - Billings West (6’0”, 170 lbs.)


• UM signee - CB
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – CB
• 2017 2nd Team All-State AA – CB
• 2018 2nd Team All-USA Today Montana – DB
• 2018 GFT Super-State – DB
• 2018 Badlands selection - CB
• 2018 Shrine Game alternate – CB
• 46 total tackles (26 solo); 4 interceptions; 9 PBUs; 4 TFLs (senior year)
• 41 total tackles; 5 interceptions; 15 PBUs; 4 FFs; 4 TFLs (junior year)
• 24 career PBUs; 9 career interceptions
• 2018 State Track Placer – 2nd in 400M (49.55)
• 2018 State Track Qualifier – 200M
• 2nd ranked CB

On Gradney: Trevin burst onto the scene in the fall of 2017 with an excellent junior campaign that saw him breakup 15 passes and collect five interceptions. The spring 2018 track season led to Trevin experiencing more success, finishing second to future Griz RB Drew Turner in the 400M dash at State AA with an impressive 49.55 race time (yes Drew is fast). Based off his junior football film and production in track, Trevin became a top in-state recruit heading into the summer prior to his senior year. By the end of summer 2018, he had two in-state offers from the Griz and Cats, eventually choosing the Griz to be his future home this past fall. As a football player, he primarily plays CB but he dabbled on the offensive side of the ball as a part-time WR his senior year. Anyway, corner is his future position at the next level. Trevin has a long, athletic frame with long legs, long arms, and a high waist similar to that of a long distance runner. Despite that size, he's an easy mover with loose hips and a fluid backpedal. Trevin's 400M skills are prevalent in coverage as he effortlessly runs with receivers downfield. He's an intelligent player with a knack for finding the ball in coverage where he will usually play the ball, not the man. Trevin has excellent ball skills as it was fairly difficult to feather touch throws over him downfield (see 1:53 and 3:51 in highlight). He's an instinctual player who rarely squanders opportunities to take the ball away in his coverage. His length naturally helps him overwhelm receivers in contested catch situations. Trevin's awareness also stands out on film. He has quick plant-and-drive ability to peel off his man and play the ball. Trevin's pattern recognition is outstanding as he rarely gets fooled or lost in coverage. He shows the ability to "set up" quarterbacks into throwing his way by giving some space before breaking on the throw. AA teams schemed away from him his senior year because of his sticky coverage. As a run defender, he will get the job done...even if it isn't pretty. Basically, he gives what he's got as a hitter and tackler and shows the necessary willingness to hold contain on edge runs. However, there are things to fix/improve. Trevin is going to be matched up against bigger receivers in college due to his length and sticky coverage on deep routes. This will also lead to physical battles in press coverage where Trevin will have to improve. For a kid with his length, he rarely executed jamming receivers at the line when lined up in press and did not consistently bully receivers on the boundary when opportunities were present. Instead, he showed a tendency to open his hips up much too early in press. On several occasions, he could've had his receiver dead to rights at the line but instead allowed a free release. When Trevin got matched up against bigger kids like Anthony Jones or Ryan Simpson, he made it much harder on himself to win those battles. Trevin will learn to do a better job of squeezing the receiver to the sideline while running with them downfield. He'll need to improve his tackling as his technique is rather sloppy. Again, Trevin does get the job done in the run game but he will be required to improve under Coach Hauck. He's more of a finesse corner than "grabby" or physical. Like I said above, he likes to play the ball, not the man. Trevin's performance in the State AA title game highlighted his strengths and weaknesses all in one game as he had an up and down night against Anthony Jones. In the play referenced above (3:51), Trevin gives little resistance in press coverage and gives Anthony a clean release. After getting beat, he gets late safety help from Lucas Gibb and recovers adequately to knock the ball away on an underthrown ball downfield. Overall, Trevin's long-speed is college ready. The tools are clearly there to be an early starter. He has the athleticism and awareness to fit into any type of coverage or scheme. He is a long-armed ball-hawk who understands how to maximize his length to disrupt the catch and take it away. He is armed with route anticipation, ball skills, and college length that teams covet in a press-man corner. Right now, Trevin is more comfortable in zone but developing press skills takes time. If his development goes as planned, Trevin will be a corner you can "leave on an island" in no time at the next level.

6.) Ryan Tirrell - Missoula Loyola (6'2", 205 lbs.)


• UM signee - LB/RB
• 2x Class B All-State
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – LB
• 2018 GFT Super-State – LB
• 2018 Badlands selection - LB
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – LB
• Rushing (Senior Year) – 176 carries for 1251 yards; 25 touchdowns (missed parts of games due to lingering injuries)
• 61 total tackles (26 solo); 2 sacks; 3 FFs; 5 TFLs (senior year)
• Started at safety then moved to OLB during senior year
• 2018 State Track Placer – 3rd in Long Jump (21'2"); 5th in Triple Jump (42'0")
• 1st ranked LB; 1st ranked S; 4th ranked RB

On Tirrell: To be an effective linebacker in college, a prospect needs to have read & react technique against the run and in coverage, the play strength/body flexibility to stack-and-shed blocks to make tackles, and the natural quick-twitch athleticism and speed to run sideline-to-sideline. Ryan checks the box on all of these traits. I didn’t list size/length because players can still be successful without ideal size in college. Players should be judged off their film first before being judged by their lack of size. Regardless, Ryan has ideal build for a LB prospect at 6’2”, 205 lbs. with long arms. He has plenty of room to add to his frame but that will be based off where the Griz want to develop him (assuming OLB). Ryan plays up to this size and his physicality jumps out immediately on film. By far his best trait as a LB is his compact burst to the football and it’s prevalent throughout his highlight film on nearly every tackle. On top of that burst, Ryan has easy sideline-to-sideline range as a tackler. As a tackler, he is patient and technically proficient while still being arguably the biggest hitter in the state. When meeting a runner in the hole, Ryan comes to balance (breaks down) before deploying excellent strike-and-wrap technique. When having to make a tackle from range, he takes the proper angle and uses his burst/long arms to finish the play at a highly efficient rate. Ryan has the athleticism to recover and tackle despite over pursuit of a play. He lined up at safety to start the season last fall before moving back down to OLB which shows off versatility on defense. Whether playing in the box or in space, Ryan is hard to square up for blockers. He works through traffic in front him quickly and has the sudden lateral burst/length to close out slash runners looking for a cut-back lane. Ryan really excels on outside runs as his closing speed and instincts eliminate plays before they start. In coverage, he senses when backs are prepping for screens and triggers quickly downhill to get in front of the blockers to make the play. Ryan has the ability to be effective in man or zone coverage at the next level. He has natural instincts in coverage to set up quarterbacks to make mistakes in the short passing game (see :50 in highlight). Ryan uses active hands to breakup or intercept passes in his coverage. To round out his LB evaluation, Ryan adds some intrigue as a future pass-rusher because of his burst and tackling ability. There are areas for improvement in his game. I viewed him as the best safety prospect in the state because his ceiling at the position. But he was a step slow to react from the position in high school even though he diagnosed the play correctly. There were moments where you could tell Ryan knew the play based off his initial movements off the snap but he just didn’t fire downhill like he did at OLB. Basically, this would be improved through experience and trust in his reads from the safety position. Ryan will need to continue to improve his hand work as he used his agility/flexibility more often to beat blocks in high school. When tackling on the perimeter, he sometimes dives at ballcarriers using his long arms to make the play when he still has space to work. Ryan will get better in coverage with experience. It will be interesting to see where he fits when he fills out his frame in college. For some reason, he didn’t play with the same tenacity on offense as he did on defense prior to his senior year but he flipped that script last fall. Ryan was a freight-train carrying the ball in 2018 using his size, vision, and athleticism to overwhelm Class B defenses. Overall, Ryan is one of the best football players in this class. I really don’t think he knows how good he is yet which works in his favor as a competitor. He has the desire and drive to be great and you can guarantee he won’t take any plays off knowing his family bloodlines (Coach Hauck’s nephew.) Ryan has a high ceiling as an every-down linebacker with the talent to fill-up a stat sheet at the next level.

5.) Holden Sampson - Helena High (6’3”, 250 lbs.)


• MSU signee - OL
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – OL
• 2017 2nd Team All-State AA – OL
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – OL
• 2018 GFT Super-State – OL
• 2018 Badlands selection - OL
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – OL
• 32 pancake blocks senior year (believed to be a school record)
• Starter on the basketball team
• 1st ranked exterior OL; 1st ranked interior OL

On Sampson: Holden’s family bloodlines are rich with football pedigree. His father Bob has been the offensive line coach at Helena High for years. His cousin Shaun was an All-Big Sky center for the Bobcats. His father and two uncles also played football for Montana Tech. Holden’s abilities as a football player don’t fall too far from the family tree. He’s widely regarded as the top offensive line prospect and in the conversation for best overall prospect in the state. Its easy to see why when you watch him play. He’s 6’3”, 250 lbs. with a good combination of mass and length to play four of the five spots on the offensive line (will likely not play left tackle at the next level). Holden moves laterally and in space with adequate fluidity for a kid his size. He plays with good functional strength and upper body control. Throughout high school, Holden lettered in basketball and track which improved his balance and footwork. He is an advanced technician as a high school offensive lineman, especially from Montana. You can tell this kid has worked hard to learn and play with the proper technique on the line. It all starts with his stance which is exactly how its supposed to look. When firing off the line in the run game, he strikes and rolls his hips under him with good snap-to-step quickness. His arms don’t widen on impact and instead stay tucked in parallel with his hips. Holden gets consistent inside positioning on opponents because of his hand placement technique and timing. He absorbs contact and starts grinding immediately. Holden works to sustain while being aggressive at the point of attack. He isn’t happy until he is imposing his will and displays the ability to finish with some nastiness. Holden is a quality drive blocker who is able to fist fight in the trenches to gain leverage and hold his own against power players. He has strong hands and can lock out players who don’t show proper technique. Holden easily gets angles on defenders and washes them out of the play on down blocks while continually churning his feet for strong finishes. He pulls with urgency when seeing his target and has the mindset that he's going to clear a path whether you like it or not. Holden executes double teams at a high level working hip-to-hip with his teammate while correctly timing his climbs to the second level (see 1:50 in highlight). On top of being an absolute mauler at the point of attack, he flashes exceptional pass pro technique for a high schooler. His pass sets show good footwork, posture, and upper body control. He correctly uses an inside/out approach to prevent rushes from taking the inside route. If the rushers do go inside, Holden puts them in the ground often (see 1:02 in highlight). He doesn’t give away his hands early against pass rushers and will instead punch with good placement/timing and counter based off what the rusher does. Holden has the footwork to mirror rushers throughout the rep. If he does get beat around the corner, he has the athleticism to recover and run the rushers up and around the pocket (go to 1:05 in his junior highlight and watch what he does to a Jory Choate speed rush). Holden gives great effort/focus each rep and you can tell the kid cares about being the best lineman possible. I have noticed areas for improvement. Holden still tends to lunge at linebackers instead of maintaining his base and balance at the second level. His pass sets are college ready in terms of his footwork but he will need to continue to work on lowering his pad level. Sometimes there is a lack of knee bend and his anchoring ability suffers against power rushers as a result . But its more up and down instead of consistent. Holden will likely play on the interior of the offensive line in college so his pulling technique will need to be further refined. The depth of his pulls are inconsistent and he sometimes lacks urgency due to indecision on who to block. When his target is clear, his urgency is fine. These improvements will be part of his natural progression as he advances to the next level. Holden already does so many things beyond his years that I had to go into detail to find areas to improve. Overall, he is an experienced technician who understands the mindset required of an offensive lineman. Holden will likely play on the interior of the offensive line at MSU but has emergency tackle value, especially on the right side. Once he adds more strength, he is unlikely to face a long adjustment period at the next level. Simply put, Holden has the traits and talent to become an All-Big Sky offensive lineman at MSU.

4.) Chrishon Dixon – Billings Central (6’0”, 160 lbs.)


• 2x Class A All-State - CB/WR
• 2016 Class A 1st Team All-Conference – CB
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – DB
• 2018 Badlands selection - CB
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – CB
• Career Receiving – 103 receptions for 1685 yards; 22 touchdowns
• Career Rushing – 42 carries for 299 yards
• Career Averages - 16 yards per catch/7 yards per carry
• 67 total tackles (55 solo); 10 interceptions; 28 PBUs; 4 TFLs (career)
• Notched one fumble return, interception return, and punt return touchdown during career
• 2018 1st Team Class A All-State - PG (Basketball)
• 2017 1st Team Class A All-State - PG (Basketball)
• 2016 Class A 2nd Team All-Conference – PG (Basketball)
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – PG (Basketball)
• 1st ranked CB; 2nd ranked WR

On Dixon: Chrishon is one of the top two-sport stars in the state. He has garnered equal accolades in both basketball and football, earning All-Conference or All-State status in both since he was a sophomore. Chrishon is also the son of former Billings Outlaw star QB Chris Dixon. As he got to watch his father throw touchdown passes in the Metra, Chrishon learned how to compete and practice and how to carry it over to game-time. From the time Chrishon picked up a football or basketball for Billings Central, he has been productive. He recently stated he will choose to pursue his basketball career in college, hanging up his football cleats after the summer all-star games (if he chooses to play). If Chrishon chose to play football, he likely would’ve played cornerback and possibly wide receiver. Here is my take on his abilities on the field. Chrishon has easy athleticism as he plays with a ton of confidence and believes he can make any play on the field. At corner, he has quality length and gifted feet. Chrishon can park in a deep squat under a wide reciever’s chin at the line or play off-man in a zone scheme. He shows patience in press coverage showing no panic or hurry in initial WR movement. Chrishon can pedal and mirror receivers for a long time without opening his hips. When the receiver breaks into his route, he shows good balance throughout the route and can easily adjust to route speeds stride for stride. Like Trevin Gradney, Chrishon carries true long speed down the field on deep routes. When in zone, he reads his keys well and shows a quality burst/suddenness to close-out short routes (comebacks, slants, etc.). Chrishon allowed a very low completion percentage in coverage during high school. Quarterbacks rarely threw his way for fear of his ballhawk abilities on intermediate/deep routes and sudden burst/quick hands on short routes. He isn’t afraid to be physical with receivers (go to 3:42 in highlight) and has a knack for swirling his arm between the receiver and ball at the catch point to prevent the reception. Chrishon also was a willing run defender throughout high school showing good awareness in reading run and quality tackling technique (go to 2:40 in highlight). As a receiver, Chrishon doesn’t necessarily have the gaudy stats because he played for Billings Central (run/throw ratio is about 70/30) but he is a very good WR prospect. He can work inside or outside and is effective at all three levels. Chrishon’s quickness and ability to setup route stems sets him apart from most of the receivers in the state. He is quick and quiet into his breaks and natural accelerates out of his cut to create optimal throwing windows. Chrishon shows subtle head or body movements to setup defensive backs and take them out of position. He has the speed and footwork to climb on top of press coverage. Chrishon is a smooth strider and top-notch ball tracker downfield. He rarely loses focus on the ball. He works with scrambling quarterbacks and can contort his body in crazy ways to come down with contested catches (see 2:12 in highlight). His ball skills and leaping ability are phenomenal and does a good job of using his body put himself in position to win jump balls. If Chrishon played in a passing system, he may have broke records Class A or MHSA receiving records. He has a few flaws. His frame is slight and he appears light on the field. Chrishon can jam and disrupt receivers but would’ve had to add more strength in college to compete in man. He will sometimes avoid route contact to not upset his coverage balance. In run support, bigger backs caused him problems if his technique wasn’t sound. While running routes, he sometimes didn’t create more separation when available, instead opting for the tougher route/catch. Chrishon has a calm demeanor on the field so maybe could’ve showed more urgency in different situations. Overall, this kid loves to compete and was a great football player in high school. He was being recruited as a corner and could’ve played the boundary, field, or nickel corner spots in college. Chrishon’s ability to mirror receivers and diagnose routes while still being able to maintain coverage balance around the field make him the best corner in this class. In the pass-happy Big Sky, Chrishon could’ve been an early contributor but will instead get to groom his talents on the basketball court.

3.) Jesse Owens - Billings West (5’9”, 175 lbs.)


• UM signee – WR
• 2018 AA Co-Offensive Player of the Year - WR
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – WR
• 2017 HM All-State AA – WR
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – WR
• 2018 GFT Super-State – WR
• 2018 Badlands selection - WR
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – WR
• Receiving (Senior Year) - 71 receptions for 1126 yards; 13 touchdowns (2nd in AA in all three categories)
• 31 total tackles (21 solo); 7 interceptions (2 for touchdowns); 9 PBUs (senior year)
• 10 catch, 245 receiving yard, 3 receiving touchdown performance vs. Missoula Sentinel in 2018
• 2x All-State AA Punt Returner
• 2018 All-State AA - PG (Basketball)
• 1st ranked WR; 3rd ranked CB

On Owens: Jesse was simply a threat as a punter returner and slot receiver his sophomore and junior seasons at Billings West. He upped his game and became a weapon at wide receiver/defensive back his senior year, earning 1st Team All-State at both spots while taking home a State AA championship and AA Co-Offensive MVP honors. Billings West made it a point to feature Jesse in 2018 and it obviously paid huge dividends. He lined up inside, outside, and even in the backfield last fall making it hard for defenses to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Jesse has a short, compact build and an explosive playing style. He has quick feet and initial quickness to bound and burst past press coverage. His acceleration is consistent throughout his route and can setup safeties/corners with his start/stop ability. Many teams simply stopped playing man against Billings West for fear of Jesse’s ability to get on top of defenses. This played to Jesse’s advantage as he got a ton of free releases into zone coverage and got to work in space. While in space, he has a calm yet explosive stride that can make it tough to get a clean hit on him. Jesse is a threat over the top but does a good amount of his damage on drag or crossing routes. Linebackers rarely could cover him and his vision to see open cut back lanes make him a dangerous runner in the open field. Jesse will work back to his quarterback to get the ball or will come down with the tough catch in traffic. His hand-eye coordination and focus throughout the catch is exceptional and there aren’t a lot of catches he can’t make (see 1:42 & 3:42 in highlight). Jesse can go up and get it with the best of them, not only because of his athletic ability but also his ability to adjust/contort his body to the throw. He tracks deep balls like a centerfield and can naturally adjust his speed to match the flight of the ball. Jesse’s best trait might be his catch-and-run talent. As stated above, he is dangerous across the middle on slants or crossing routes but is equally as dangerous on bubble screens or hitches. His explosive speed can turn any short route into a long gain or touchdown. On top of flashing runaway speed, he has some wiggle and is slippery to tackle. Jesse will juke defenders to gain extra yardage but will also get physical if a first down needs to be obtained. He is a plus punt/kickoff returner, displaying the same vision that makes him dangerous in the open field. Jesse has a knack for making plays not only on offense but also on defense. At corner, he excels in zone more than man coverage. While in zone, he can see what’s in front of him and use his burst to jump routes or use his range to breakup a deep crosser (see 3:08 in highlight). His ball skills translate well to defense as he picked off seven passes his senior year, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Jesse can run with most receivers just like Trevin Gradney and Chrishon Dixon. He didn’t play a ton of press but when he did, he showed a smooth backpedal and easy transition out of breaks. Jesse consistently competes in coverage and his ability to track the deep ball made it tough for offenses to attack Billings West over the top (not to mention Trevin Gradney and Lucas Gibb lurking around as well). There are a few areas to improve if ever makes the switch to corner in college. He showed the propensity to get lost in man coverage at times. This would likely improve with experience as pattern recognition takes time. His overage balance is hit-or-miss. Improving these problem areas could be expedited by only using Jesse in a zone scheme at the next level. He can learn man but his agility and athleticism to jump routes is among the best in this class. Jesse’s tackling could use some work but the physicality is present. As a receiver, he got a lot of free releases and looks with optimal room to operate. However, that won’t happen often in college so Jesse will have to continue to improve his hand fighting abilities at the line (the foot speed is there). His short/intermediate route running ability is great but he could add some more subtle movement (head fakes/arm motion) to gain more separation in deep routes (being picky on this one). Really, my only concern with Jesse is what he does when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands on offense. I didn’t see a lot of urgency to block when the play was away from him in high school. Some of this was decoy work to get the defensive back to stick with him but other times he could’ve shown more effort to look for work downfield. When he did get a block, his technique was inconsistent and can use more refining. Coach Pease and Coach Hauck will challenge Jesse’s willingness to block early and often in college so this concern of mine will likely be eliminated within a few practices/reps. Overall, Jesse is one of the state’s top playmakers and just because he lacks in the blocking department, his effort to not give up on a play is there (see 4:35 in highlight). I didn’t list his size as a concern because he plays with the right amount of competitiveness and physicality to win as a receiver. Jesse clearly has the short-area quickness and talent after the catch to handle receiver or returner duties. He should compete for a spot in the receiver rotation or as a special teams specialist early in his career. Jesse is easily one of the top players in the state and is yet another example of what a kid can earn with one really good senior year of football.

2.) Garrison Poetzl - Billings Senior (6'4", 250 lbs.)


• UM signee - DL
• 2018 2nd Team All-State AA – DL, HM All-State – OT
• 2017 1st Team All-State AA – OT/DL
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – DL
• 2017 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – OL
• 2018 GFT Super-State – OL
• 2018 Badlands selection - DL
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – DL
• 90+ solo tackles; 10+ sacks; 20+ TFLs; 10+ PBUs (Career)
• 2018 State Track Placer – 4th in Shot Put (50’8”)
• 2017 State Track Placer – 6th in Shot Put (49’3.5”)
• 1st ranked DT; 2nd ranked interior OL; 3rd ranked interior OL

On Poetzl: Garrison jumped on many college’s recruiting radar his sophomore season. He was a rotational player on both lines but primarily as a nose tackle on the defensive line. Garrison was only a sophomore but he held his own against good competition and showed opponents he was going to be a problem for two more years. He did nothing but improve since his sophomore campaign which is exactly the progression you want to see from a kid who displays quality play from such a young age. It is easy to see on film why Garrison is a top in-state prospect and my #1 defensive line prospect in the state. He is a thick boned, broad shouldered kid with tremendous natural strength on top of a burly frame. Garrison also rocked the long hair that made his aggressive play appear more intimidating. He has an equal distribution of power in his upper and lower body. This shows not only on the football field but also in the shot-put ring. Garrison looks the part in pads even for a high schooler. As a player, he plays with aggression and a high motor. Garrison is agile for his size and displays the hip-turn flexibility in his upper and lower body of a defensive end. He has noticeable upfield burst off the ball and can get skinny through gaps to cause disruption in the backfield (watch first highlight). Garrison has good self-awareness and can keep his eyes beyond the initial blocker. He shows the lateral agility to dip into either gap to follow runners. Garrison is excellent with his hands on the line of scrimmage and can drop his anchor to grow roots against double teams (watch his sophomore and junior film). He displays the ability to feel adjacent pressure against double teams and shows the proper technique to beat them (the only player in this class who can do both consistently out of high school). Garrison can recover and anchor against base or down blocks better than anyone in this class and offenses rarely ran at him because of it. He is a disciplined, team player who can eat blocks to keep his linebackers clean. Garrison is a relatively fluid mover in space for his size and has some range in his chase to ballcarriers on outside runs or downfield in pursuit (see 1:54 in highlight). The one aspect of his game that Garrison is beyond his years is his ability to use his hands. They are weapons and uses them in an active, skillful fashion in the run and pass game. Garrison has a pre and post-snap feel for blocker’s intentions and can react correctly to most blocking attempts. This kid can already execute a variety of counter moves such as the slap/arm-over, push-pull, and punch-release techniques (see :22 & 1:12 in highlight). When he beats his block in a pass-rush, he closes with the desired burst to the quarterback. Garrison’s natural strength can walk interior lineman into the backfield. If his pass-rush gets halted, he has a knack for knocking down balls at the line of scrimmage. As stated above, Garrison is aggressive yet disciplined and won’t do anything that isn’t best for the team (penalties, extra-curriculars after the play). After making a play, Garrison usually reacts with passion and excitement, ready to give a teammate a high-five or chest bump. Now he did play offensive line in high school at an all-state level. But he used more of his natural athleticism and strength to win as a blocker instead of consistent technique. His power translates to the offensive line as a run blocker and his athleticism helps him in pass pro against speed rushers. But I really didn’t evaluate him on the offensive line because his future is on defense. Garrison can work on a few things right away in college. His effort/motor can sometimes lead to him getting too far upfield, running himself out of the play. Smart lineman will use this against him at the next level. He will need to get better at coming to balance after defeating a block to get in the backfield. If he didn’t outrun the play, he sometimes couldn’t get his feet under him and it would lead to missed tackle attempts or arm tackles. Not really a weakness but I was surprised he didn’t wrestle in high school. Overall, Garrison possesses an impressive combination of strength and athleticism for a kid his size. He projects to be a premier run-defender in college but has the toolbox to develop into a quality pass-rusher from the interior as well. Garrison is a technician at defensive tackle and I believe he is a lock to be an All-Big Sky player multiple times for the Griz.

1.) Ryan Lonergan - Bozeman (6'4", 220 lbs.)


• MSU signee - TE
• 2018 1st Team All-State AA – TE, 2nd Team All-State – DE
• 2017 1st Team All-State AA – TE
• 2018 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – TE
• 2017 1st Team All-USA Today Montana – TE
• 2018 GFT Super-State – DE
• 2018 Badlands selection - TE
• 2018 Shrine Game selection – TE
• Receiving (Senior Year) - 64 receptions for 1121 yards; 12 touchdowns
• 63 total tackles (37 solo); 12.5 sacks; 22 TFLs; 18 Hurries (Senior Year)
• 2018 All-State AA - PF (Basketball)
• 1st ranked TE; 2nd ranked DE

On Lonergan: After getting a small dose of varsity time as a sophomore, Ryan pounced onto the AA scene with a 1st Team AA All-State junior season. His stats were modest (29 receptions, 297 yards, and 3 touchdowns) but decent for a solid TE prospect with good ball skills. Following his junior season, Ryan knew he needed to take the next step his senior year to garner legit offers for football. It started with an All-State AA basketball season in the spring of 2018 where he starred at power forward while also earning All-Tournament honors at the AA state tournament. The next step was to impress college coaches at summer football camps and Ryan did just that, reportedly winning individual offensive MVP awards at University of Washington and Boise State camps. After accepting an offer basically on the spot from the Bobcats after their team camp in June, Ryan had his sights squarely focused on his senior campaign. I told myself at the beginning of the 2018 high school football season if Ryan increased his receiving numbers, improved his blocking, and played full-time on defense, I would strongly consider him for the #1 prospect slot in the state. I assumed his production would increase his senior year but Ryan knocked all three out of the park. He nearly led AA in receptions, yards, yards/game, and touchdowns as a TE finishing 5th, 3rd, 3rd, and 3rd in each category, respectively. Ryan's blocking drastically improved with 42 pancake blocks per MaxPreps. His defensive stats may have been he most surprising as he busted out 12.5 sacks and 18 tackes for a loss without really having a plan as a DE. Here is what I saw from Ryan's senior year and overall body of work as a prospect. Ryan is a movable chess piece on offense and is a consistent mismatch in coverage. He can line up in the backfield, on the line, in the slot, or on the outside. Bozeman Head Coach Levi Wesche does an excellent job of finding creative ways to get the football in his playmaker;s hands and Ryan was no exception. He's got a long, well-proportioned frame that includes longs arms, broad sholders, and an enticing wingspan. Ryan's added strength over the years and carries it well within his frame to play through physical challenges in his routes or blocking in-line. His agility, athleticism, and footwork make him tough to defend due to his size. Ryan is smooth in his release and can vary his play speed while running routes. He can generate vertical concern for linebackers with sneaky build-up speed but can also gain separation in the short to intermediate routes. When running against a zone, he has a knack for finding holes in the coverage and instantly turns open to his quarterback. When running against man, he can be dangerous on drag routes across the middle against linebackers. Ryan can work the seam without hesitation and even knows how to throw head fake into the equation to mess with safeties (see 4:40 in highlight). He shows good awareness to keep his feet inbounds on sideline throws and to work back to his quarterback when the play breaks down. You can tell Ryan has put effort and work into proper route running technique and it allows him to run more complex patterns while changing up his route speeds to mask his route intentions. His ball skills standout and are among the best of any player in the state, not just tight ends. Ryan is a confident, focused pass catcher with strong hands. Further proof of this can be found on Ryan's basketball film. His ability to gain advantageous positioning using his frame, make in-air adjustments, secure the ball through contact, and time his leaps all translate from the basketball court to the football field and visa versa (go to 2:50 in highlight). Along with his leaping ability, Ryan has an enormous wingspan to create an intriguing catch radius. He also rarely drops the football. When Ryan secures the ball, he runs with balance, power, and vision after the catch. He's a competitive, athletic runner who will lower his shoulder, throw out a stiff arm, or show some underrated shiftiness to gain yards after receptions. Ryan seeks out collisions rather than running out of bounds as his size makes him hard to tackle easily. He was asked to block even more his senior season and was basically Bozeman's fullback between the tackles. Ryan has the frame, size, and technique to continually improve as an in-line blocker. His ability to adjust to targets makes him a capable move blocker (go to 5:35 in highlight). Ryan usually strikes with good pad level, knee bend, and hand placement (see 1:10 in highlight). He looked much stronger at the point of attack his senior season and added an ability to finish blocks on a more regular basis (go to 2:21 in highlight). Ryan's footwork, balance, and stubborn attitude give him the ability to hang in against stronger rush-ends. As a defensive end, he beat tackles with his length and flexibility at the point of attack and on the edge as a pass rusher. Ryan's long arms were a problem for most blockers and it allowed him to close on quarterbacks or running backs more quickly than expected. He also showed the ability to extend his arms and set the edge in the run game. Ryan has all the tools and traits to grow into a much better pass rusher with more coaching and hand work but he still got the job done his senior year. I see some area for him to improve. He has a stride length that limits his quickness in and out of breaks. This also hurts his ability to sell routes over the middle. Ryan's route running is at a high level for a TE prospect coming out of high school but he will have to continue to do more to manipulate defenders at his breaks and stems. As run blocker, his play strength is still below average so he will have to continue stack on the weight to a frame that can add 30-40 more pounds. As for his blocking technique, he still ducks his head and engages with a skinny base too often into contact which causes him to get shed more easily than not. Ryan's hand usage still needs more refinement as he gets too wide in his placement from time to time. But again, he has already shown the ability to improve in this part of his game which is very encouraging going forward. Overall, the Top 5 players all have a case to be the best prospect in the state. Sampson has advanced technique as an offensive lineman, Dixon can play any type of coverage in any system, Owens can make big plays in a variety of ways, and Poetzl is a technician on the defensive line. But in my opinion, no prospect has a better chance to go the league than Ryan Lonergan. The athleticism, size, and talent are all present and will only improve as he gets stronger in college. If he was a little bigger and stronger in high school, Ryan likely wouldn't have signed with MSU as FBS schools were fully aware of him. I'm not going to compare him to Will Dissly because Will was a freak of nature from a size, speed, strength, talent standpoint. But Ryan isn't too far off and should be an early contributor at a position full of youth at MSU.

"There's two times of year for me: Football season, and waiting for football season."

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