There wasn’t a position group that was deeper with more high level talent than defensive tackle at The Opening 2015. It’s going to be tough for any future years to match it. There was probably six prospects that I would consider to be at a 5 star level and a few others who are pretty darn close to it.
I got to watch the majority of the defensive line work at the camp and now that it’s over I have plenty of thoughts about several of the recruits I watched last week:
– I’m not breaking any news saying that Rashan Gary was the best player at the camp or that he’s the best player in the nation. He didn’t just beat offensive linemen. He dominated some very good football players in a way that made them seem like they were just normal high school kids and not prospects with dozens of scholarship offers. It was news if a player won a rep against him because that might have happened only a few times the entire camp. Of course, those lost reps were usually proceeded or followed by him dominating that the same player who beat him.
A combination of superior speed, strength, explosiveness, and technique make him a generational talent in my opinion. He is the best high school defensive lineman that I have ever seen.
– Dexter Lawrence did not practice the final day of The Opening so he wasn’t selected to the Final 5 defensive line group, but he was definitely in the top five that I saw on Wednesday and Thursday. He overwhelmed player with his size and strength and the way he moves for a 330 pound young man is exceptional. He ran a 5.08 40 yard dash that size, which would make NFL scouts perk up if this was the NFL combine.
What impressed me most about Lawrence, though, was his overall pad level and the use of his hands. If he keeps his weight in check, he should be a dominating player at the next level.
– When I initially saw defensive tackle Derrick Brown, I was a little underwhelmed as he appeared to have a lot of bad weight. He definitely is going to have some re-shaping of his body to do when he gets to the next level.
It didn’t take me long to forget about the bad body and get back to thinking about what a force he is going to be. Him and Lawrence were much the same. Overwhelming their opponents with size, but he used his length to keep hands off of him and repeatedly controlled the wrist of the lineman attempting to block him. Players often looked helpless to stop him when he did that and I get a sense that many who try to block him one on one at the next level are going to have that same helpless feeling.
– I saw that earlier in the week that one analyst claimed that Ed Oliver was the best player in this recruiting class. I would not go that far with my assessment with Oliver as the other bigger defensive tackles in the class have more physical tools to work in terms of size and length. However, next to Rashan Gary, Oliver has the most potential as an interior rusher form as a three technique and was ridiculously explosive all week.
He wins with twitch and his first step shocked a lot of guards who he was matched up against. The Houston commit could be another Aaron Donald as a one-gap penetrator and is going to disrupt a lot of offenses with tackles for loss.
– There wasn’t a lot of film available of Alabama commit Raekwon Davis and I was not sure what to expect from him. He would be my leader for the “Get off the bus first” team at 6’7″ and a slim looking 318. His future screams NFL just by looking at him.
He was just as impressive with the pads on and was another dominating player this week. His pad level was exceptional considering how tall he is and he ran through centers by attacking an edge and dipping low to rip through them. He wasn’t as advanced with his pass rush moves as some of the other defensive tackles and we’ll have to learn to incorporate a push-pull and establish wrist control against some better players that can handle his bull rush, but the Tide are getting another big time player for their defensive line and has the tools be one of the most dominating players in the SEC.
– Rashard Lawrence didn’t wear pads because of an off-season rule for Lousiana football players so he didn’t get the chance to stand out. He still took some reps and showed well in flashes, but wasn’t quite as dominant as some of the other 5 star players at the position. It would be unfair to judge him based on this camp considering he didn’t get the chance to put the pads on this week. He’s definitely still an elite player at the position.
– Kendell “The Hulk” Jones arrived late and didn’t get to practice until day two of The Opening. The Alabama commit lives up his nickname in terms of pure physical wonderment. His arms look like quads. There aren’t many humans in the world who look like Jones. He truly is another level of big.
When he gets going and keeps his feet moving, he is a difficult player to block as a zero technique nose tackle. However, he does have an issue with his pad level getting too high and at that point, it doesn’t matter how big and strong he is. The low man is going to win and Florida State commit Baveon Johnson did a great job of getting underneath him and stuffing him.
I worry about Jones keeping his weight under control at the next level and his overall flexibility, but when he played with better pad level, I could see how he could dominate at the point of attack versus the run. He’ll never be a dominant pass rusher because he just doesn’t have the lateral movement to be that. He can be someone who eats up a ton of double team and makes a significant impact as a run stuffer, though.
– Geogia commit Julian Rochester is another player that would benefit from losing weight and getting in better shape. He also wasn’t as strong and violent with his hands as I expected him to be. He needs to improve greatly in that area.
But for someone who is 335, he was fantastic with his lateral movement and use of his hands as a pass rusher. He won in a variety of ways. If he gets his weight down and under control, he could be a player that is athletic enough to play end in the Bulldogs’ 3-4.
– De La Salle defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa was a notch below the other defensive tackles as a pass rusher. His bull rush can get some players on skates if they are off-balance, but the doesn’t have much more than that in his repertoire if someone anchors against him. He needs to develop some counters to go with that and didn’t really progress like some of the other players in that department this week.
He’s still a good prospect overall. He just needs some time to develop to be more than a one-trick pony as a pass rusher.
– I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw from Michigan State commit Mike Panasiak. He is a big, strong boy that got better as the week progressed. In another year he probably would have gotten noticed quite a bit more. It’s just that this year is so loaded at the position. He looks like he’ll be a good one for the Spartans.
– Antwuan Jackson definitely had some nice flashes a pass rusher. He just didn’t jump out overall because he was dominant and in this group a prospect need to be dominant in order to make a splash.