Michigan has become a growing presence in Colorado over the last few years thanks to presence of offensive line coach, Darrell Funk. The former Colorado State assistant has gotten the Wolverines in the mix for a number of the Rocky Mountain area’s top prospects, and this year plucked the state’s top prospect in Army All-American, Chris Fox. Now he is pounding the pavement in search of 2014 prospects and recently made a stop by Falcon, Colorado to check in on one of the region’s hidden gems, Kalen Ballage.
Though still somewhat raw according to talent scouts, Ballage possesses the kind of size, speed, and versatility that make coaches salivate over the possibilities.
“Everything went great,” Ballage said regarding last season. “I played running back on offense and also slot. I also played outside linebacker on defense. I’m 6-2, 215, and. I run a 4.36 forty.”
That’s impressive speed for any high school athlete, but for one as big as Ballage it is freakishly so. The forty-time is so gaudy that some might question its legitimacy, but Ballage insists he has the electronic track times to back him up.
“I run the 100, 200, the 4x1 and 4x2,” he stated. “I ran 10.71 last year as a sophomore in the 100 and I ran 21.55 in the 200.”
Word that outstanding athleticism is beginning to make the rounds. Until recently his strongest recruiting attention came from regional schools, as evidenced by an early offer list consisting of Boise State, Colorado, Colorado State, Utah, and Wyoming. Now more distant suitors like Michigan are starting to step up their interest.
“I actually got a bunch of letters (from Michigan) over the summer for me to go to some of their camps, but I just wasn’t able to make it,” recalled Ballage. “I definitely hope (to make it this summer). I never know when my parents have plans, so I’ve got to kind of work around that.”
“I actually contacted Darrell Funk recently and got a chance to speak with him. He was actually a really, really, really, really cool guy. I talked to him about what the school was like, what position would they like me to play, and things like that. I like Coach Funk a lot. He came to my school, but they’re not allowed to talk to you or anything, so it was just a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ type thing, and that was about it.”
The Wolverines are still in the process of evaluating which position they like him best at. For his part, Ballage is most concerned about playing at the spot in which he can best help the team.
“I get that question a lot, and I say I really just love playing football,” he replied. “I love offense and I love defense. It kind of just depends on the day. As of now I’m leaning more toward the offensive side of things. Last season we had another very very good running back and I decided that I would split out at wide receiver and play in the slot. Sometimes they had us as split backs and I got to do a little bit of both, but I think I like running back better.”
In the final analysis, position isn’t likely to be a big hang up. There are other factors that will weigh much more prominently.
“I definitely want to go somewhere where the environment is fun and happy,” Ballage explained. “You’ve got to like the place that you’re in, or else you’re going to have a miserable time in college. You’ve only got one time to go to college, so I want to make sure the environment is fun and that there are cool people and everything. Definitely the academic side of things (is a factor) as well. On top that… a lot of people think you should do this… but I don’t want to redshirt my freshman year. I just want to get into it (right away). I don’t plan on redshirting.”
At the moment Ballage is a long way away from determining which program bets fits that criteria. He currently claims no favorites and is determined to take a more deliberate approach to his recruitment. He plans learn about all of his suitors, especially those relatively new to the scene like Michigan.
“I haven’t really had the chance to look into them very much, that’s why I want to start talking to Coach Funk and the staff a lot more and getting to know them. I really want to find out more.”
“I have another year (of high school left), so I just plan on focusing on school right now and the present. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and then end up not being focused like I should as of now. So right now I’m just focusing on today. I think I would like until after football season or maybe even a month or two later than that (to make a commitment). I just don’t want to make any hasty decisions.”