Even in a world of proliferating outlets for the coverage of college football recruiting and increasing numbers of postseason showcase all-star games for top prospects, the intriguing under-the-radar prospect is not yet an extinct species. In Hudsonville (Mich.) this year, one such prospect made a big impression on the Stanford coaches and the Michigan prep scene but has nonetheless seen his recruitment proceed outside of the spotlight. Alex Debniak, a 6'2" 217-pound running back/defensive end for the Hudsonville Eagles, led his team to a 10-2 finish as one of the top teams in Division 2 in Michigan on the strength of strong performances on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, Debniak rushed for over 1300 yards and 18 touchdowns on 167 carries. He also caught 7 passes for over 300 yards. On defense, Debniak added 68 tackles and 17 sacks. At the conclusion of the season, his performance earned him numerous postseason honors, including a spot on the Detroit Free-Press all-state first team and recognition on the Grand Rapids Press all-area Dream Team, both for his standout role as a pass rushing defensive end.
In racking up the sacks that made him such a force for Hudsonville's defense, Debniak relied largely on the outstanding speed that serves as his most significant asset. Despite his gridiron exploits as a senior, he entered the season perhaps more noted for his track numbers. As a junior, he competed in the gamut of sprint events. His personal bests paint an eye-opening picture of an athlete suited to operate in space on the football field at the college level: 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash, 22.0 seconds in the 200-meter dash, and 49.3 seconds in the 400-meter dash. For good measure, Debniak also competed in the long jump, once jumping to a 22-5 mark.
Over the summer, Debniak got an opportunity to validate his speed and athleticism in football-oriented tests at Central Michigan's football camp. He passed the tests with flying colors and claims a 4.43-second 40-yard dash, 42-inch vertical leap, and 325-pound bench press.
Given his undisputed ability to run and his strong two-way performance for Hudsonville this season, Debniak has received solid interest from possible college destinations, even if his recruitment has not attracted much media attention.
"I am hearing from Michigan, Central [Michigan], Western [Michigan], as well as Northwestern," Debniak says of his suitors in addition to Stanford. Among that group, he reports that Stanford and Western Michigan have come through with scholarship offers.
As he sorts through his options, he has embarked on a tour of his primary options in order to learn more about the schools. With three weeks to go until prospects sign Letters of Intent with colleges, Debniak has officially visited two favorites and is set for a third visit before the end of the month.
"I took an official visit at Western," he shares. "I took an official visit at Stanford this past weekend. And I will make another official visit to Central in two weeks."
"Western was a really neat campus," Debniak says in expounding on his two visit experiences so far. "I really liked it a lot. It was cool. I liked a lot of the players. It was pretty neat. But Stanford I was most impressed by, especially academically. I got to meet a lot of the faculty. I was very impressed by them. You know, they're world-renowned. And, just beautiful weather. Not what I'm used to here in Michigan with pretty crappy weather."
Debniak, who was hosted on the visit by starting safety Bo McNally, reports that a full schedule of visit weekend festivities kept him busy and entertained while he learned about one of his possible choices for college.
"We got to actually watch the Packers game at [Head Coach Jim] Harbaugh's house," he continues. "That was a lot of fun. We had a player panel. We had a faculty breakfast. We toured around the campus. And, you know, we got to visit the stadium. It was neat."
Less than a week after the Stanford visit made such a strong impression on the Michigan linebacker prospect, he reports an unambiguous message regarding his recruitment.
"Stanford is definitely my number one and as soon as I get accepted, hopefully in the next two or three days, I would like to commit," he reveals. According to Debniak, he submitted the Stanford application a week-and-a-half ago and a verdict from Stanford Admissions is now imminent.
"We're pretty optimistic about the process," he says. "I have a 3.5 GPA, so I mean my grades are pretty solid. We'll see where it goes."
Debniak, whose transcript is dotted with strong courses such as AP Psychology, AP History, AP Statistics, Geology, and Sociology, reports a 25 score on the ACT. He "would like to pursue a career in psychology," which is currently his "main interest."
Stanford certainly retains a strong interest in snagging Debniak as one of the final pieces of the puzzle for the 2008 recruiting class. With serious speed and a build that could slot him as a strongside linebacker opposite incoming weakside linebacker Fred Craig, Debniak offers a unique option for Stanford in filling out depth to go along with Craig in the future linebacker corps. For his part, the potential "Sam" linebacker says that Stanford Linebackers Coach Andy Buh has been his primary recruiter and has conveyed a vision for Debniak's role in the Cardinal defense.
"Right now, he feels that I'm undersized but I have certainly the speed to play linebacker, so he wants me as an outside linebacker," Debniak offers. And he said in the future he'd like to move me in to the middle linebacker position."
Stay tuned for more in the coming days as this intriguing prospect prepares to announce a decision.
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