February 1, 2023

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The Education Specialists

Top Recruits: One of nation’s top D-linemen, Alex VanSumeren is big, fast and coming after you

MLive is checking in on the top 2022 college football recruits in Michigan this summer. Each weekday, MLive is featuring a new high school athlete who is poised to take it to the next level. Today: Alex VanSumeren

ESSEXVILLE, MI – Family is a focus for Alex VanSumeren.

But his college football quest isn’t to make his mother proud, it isn’t to impress his father and it even isn’t to keep up with his big brother in the Big Ten.

“No one has told me I’ve got to accomplish this. This is what I want to do,” said VanSumeren, the highly touted defensive lineman from Essexville Garber. “If I chose not to do this, my family would still support me. But this is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

A four-star recruit with big-time offers from the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Auburn, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior heads into his final prep career with all eyes upon him.


Height: 6-3

Weight: 300

Position: Defensive lineman

Year: 2022

Rated: No. 178 in the nation among all positions and No. 4 in Michigan by 247Sports

Recruitment status: Lists Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Texas A&M as finalists


Since his emergence on the varsity scene as a freshman, VanSumeren has stood as a lesson in domination. With his size, athleticism and ever-expanding knowledge of the game, he is virtually impossible to stop when he lines up at defensive tackle or defensive end.

“He’s so gifted, it’s fun to watch,” Garber coach Jake Coquillard said. “Just the explosion and the dominant force that he can be, it’s truly amazing.”

VanSumeren blew up opposing offenses as a junior, registering 63 tackles with an eye-popping 19 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 32 quarterback hurries. But he’s the kind of player who has far more interest in chasing quarterbacks than chasing statistics.

“You can blow up a play and not get a sack or a tackle for loss, so you can’t be concerned with stats,” VanSumeren said. “You could beat a double- or triple-team and force the quarterback to scramble, but somebody else comes up and makes the tackle. That’s football, that’s why there are 11 men on the field.

“Production is getting the quarterback off his mark. If I can make him do things he wasn’t planning to do, and we make the play as a team, I did my job as a defensive lineman.”

The two-time first-team All-Stater and reigning MLive Bay City Defensive Player of the Year, he’s that rare player who can dictate a game with his play in the trenches.

“First guy getting off the ball, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s all about firing off the ball, striking somebody, then finding the ballcarrier and running ‘em down.”

Garber football hosts Swan Valley in Division 5 playoff game

Essexville Garber’s Alex VanSumeren (21) blocks Swan Valley’s Drew Kaeckmeister (11) during a game on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Kaytie Boomer | MLive.comKaytie Boomer | MLive.com


The son of Cindy and Jeff VanSumeren, he received his first Division I offer before his freshman year was in the books. Shortly after his sophomore campaign, he was offered by Jim Harbaugh and made a verbal commitment to the University of Michigan.

With big brother Ben VanSumeren – a record-setting wide receiver at Garber – playing linebacker at Michigan, it seemed like an ideal setting. But both VanSumeren boys soured on the Wolverines, with Alex decommitting Feb. 12 and Ben transferring to Michigan State.

That unleashed the floodgates as new offers poured in and recruitment calls piled up.

“It gets a little chaotic and stressful, waking up and having 60 text messages,” Alex said. “I wasn’t planning on dropping a top-10, but I thought that might help.”

His top-10 included Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Texas A&M, the four schools he made official visits to this summer. All of them, he said, exceeded his expectations.

Now VanSumeren has a difficult choice to make. He said he would like to have a decision made prior to the start of the high school season Aug. 27 but isn’t setting a firm deadline for himself. Wherever he chooses, the 3.89-GPA student plans to early-enroll after graduating in January.

Garber football hosts Swan Valley in Division 5 playoff

Garber’s Alex VanSumeren (21) chats with a coach during a football game against Swan Valley in Essexville on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. (Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com)Kaytie Boomer | MLive.com


VanSumeren has bulked up to a massive 6-foot-3, 300 pounds. But he hasn’t done it at the expense of speed and mobility.

His most recent 40-yard dash time was 4.9 seconds and he still moves as fluid as a running back. That may be because he still plays a bit of running back.

Officially considered an H-back in the Garber offense, he can line up at tight end or in the backfield. He provides the Dukes with a devastating blocker, but he is also the ballcarrier in tough yardage situations. He scored three touchdowns and three two-point conversions as a junior.

“He can still split out wide – he’s got great hands, agility and athleticism at 6-3, 300,” Coquillard said. “He always wants to shake-and-bake and show his jitterbug moves when he gets the ball. I tell him ‘Just run over people.’”

Those moves come courtesy of his years at Zion Elementary and in youth sports, as he played point guard in basketball, shortstop in baseball and running back in football.

“That has translated to where I am now as far as my movement,” he said. “You don’t see too many people my size moving like that.”

alex vansumeren

Alex VanSumeren is one of the nation’s top-rated defensive linemen in the Class of 2022.


VanSumeren doesn’t consider himself a finished product, and he goes about the business of becoming a college-ready star each and every day.

Ben VanSumeren’s weight-room commitment is becoming legendary and Alex is certainly following in those footsteps. He said he currently benches 405 pounds and squats 500.

“You usually talk about brothers being different,” Coquillard said. “But for both of those two, that work ethic is part of who they are. They enjoy that grind, and their love for the game and competition and working to get better is the same.”

VanSumeren said he’s honing his craft in some form or fashion six days a week, including weightlifting, speed and agility training, position-specific drills and Yoga.

“I love everything about that grind,” he said. “Whether it’s lacing the cleats up and doing position drills, smashing weights or running sprints, I love all of it. If you don’t love it, it’s hard to get anywhere in football. The odds aren’t going to be great for you.

“It’s a struggle, but I love the struggle. You’ve got to work for what you want.”


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