Warren G. Harding High School, located in Warren, Ohio, has had some great players walk through its door. From one of the greatest freshman running backs in college football history in Maurice Clarett to Michigan star and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, the school in Northeast Ohio has produced some outstanding athletes over time.
Steven Arnold has coached football at Warren G. Harding for 28 years, including the past five as head coach. With that experience in mind, it’s hard not believe him when he says 2017 athlete/wide receiver prospect Lynn Bowden is the best he has ever seen play.
“I think people, when they think off Harding football, will put [Clarett] at No. 1 and [Manningham] at No. 2 but I think after this season, [Bowden] has surpassed them,” Arnold said. “My reason for saying that is that [Bowden] has the ball in his hands every down and he can hurt whether he is running or throwing.”
Bowden has certainly earned the high praise this season, too. He accounted for over 3,400 all-purpose yards and scored 58 total touchdowns in the Raiders’ 11-2 season, which led to the regional semifinals of the Ohio Division II Football Tournament. His exploits on the field have also earned him consideration for the highest honor in Ohio high school football – the Mr. Football Award.
Bowden’s performance at the helm of the Raiders’ football team has also led to attention from quite a few collegiate programs, like Michigan State and Kentucky. He currently holds 13 FBS offers, with Nebraska being the latest to make an offer. Wide receivers coach Keith Williams visited Bowden personally at his home in Ohio Sunday evening to make the offer, but has not reached out to Arnold yet.
“They offered [Bowden] Sunday night but I still have not spoken with any member of Nebraska’s coaching staff,” Arnold said. “I’m a bit disappointed that they haven’t reached out to talk to me about [Bowden] yet.”
Other programs have contacted Arnold – like Kentucky – which he has appreciated.
“All of the schools after him are staying in touch and doing their due diligence,” Arnold said. “Kentucky is doing a great job of communicating with me, as well as Michigan State and Indiana.”
Despite Bowden’s current offer list, it has surprised Arnold that neither Ohio State nor Michigan has offered the Warren G. Harding star, considering both programs typically dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting. One reason the Buckeyes may be holding off? Class size, Arnold said.
“Ohio State has been in contact and Lynn is definitely on their radar,” Arnold said. “I spoke with Coach [Tim] Beck a while ago and he told me that they liked Bowden but didn’t currently have any scholarships available for him right now.”
The downside to the lack of offers and communication from Ohio State and Michigan are the rumors that have surfaced as a result. Many questioned whether or not Bowden had poor character or was surrounding himself with the wrong people, both of which Arnold quickly denied.
“I don’t know how that rumor got started about him,” Arnold said. “I don’t know if it’s just because he has a lot of tattoos or what the deal is but he has never had any problems with the law, he gets along with his teammates, he gets along with his teachers. That’s why whenever teams ask me about Lynn’s character, I tell them to go talk to his teachers. He is not a character risk whatsoever.”
Whichever school does snag Bowden though will have to consider what position will best quit him. According to Arnold, quite a few are looking for ways to utilize his explosive skill set.
“[Bowden] is being looked at mostly as a wide receiver and kick returner,” Arnold said. “We timed him last spring as a 4.38 40-yard dash. He’s got long arms and is explosive, so he has all the tools to be a great wide receiver.”
Arnold also stated that besides great talent, Bowden also possesses the intangibles that separate great players from the rest of the pack.
“Besides his god given abilities, Bowden has all sorts of qualities that make him unique,” Arnold said. “[Bowden] is a fierce competitor who hates to lose at anything and his football IQ is off the charts.”
As for his favorite memory of coaching Bowden, Arnold had just the moment in mind.
“We had a 4th and 10 or something and we needed to get a first down, so we called timeout and were trying to figure out what play we should call,” Arnold said. “[Bowden] just looks me in the eye and says, ‘Coach, give me the ball.’ So we called a play for him and he took it 25 yards. He just has this incredible confidence, not cockiness but confidence, in his ability to get things done.”
While some high school prospects need a year to get acclimated to the increased speed of the college game, Arnold believes Bowden will be ready to go from day one.
“[Bowden] is ready right now,” Arnold said. “I’ve coached guys that have contributed in the Big Ten as freshmen and sophomores and Lynn is as good or better than they were.”
Bowden played all over for Harding his senior season. He lined up at quarterback, returned kicks and also handled punting duties. His versatility is what impressed Arnold most.
“After watching him for the past two years, [Bowden] really reminds me of Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers,” Arnold said. “[Bowden] is that kind of athlete that can play anywhere.”