Last week I started a look at the players I thought were best from this year's Ohio class of talent by position. I called it "My 22," in which I selected one player for each position that I thought was the best prospect. Click here to take a look at my selections for the offense.
Today, let's take a look at the defense. This is going to be much harder than the offense as the depth on the defensive line and at safety is something I am still amazed at. It is also going to be the most fun.
Strong Side Defensive End - Chris Wormley, 6-4, 250, Toledo Whitmer.
Wormley is the one kid in this defensive line class who brings me quickly to that most important word in recruiting -- upside. Seeing him in shorts and t-shirt is when this kid really impresses the most. He is 250 pounds and looks 225. Where his body can go and still be as athletic and fast as he is right now at 250 is what has everyone so excited about him.
We see what he is capable of at times on the field. Once he fills out and finds the consistency that comes from every down fire, he will be a very special player.
Back-up - Se'Von Pittman, 6-4, 235, Canton McKinley. This was the hardest decision I had to make. I think that highly of Pittman that I nearly started him over Wormley. Pittman is longer and a little quicker. He plays with an intensity that few can match. I suspect that if you had every game that both played last year Pittman would have made more plays. He has only been playing football for a few years so his upside is tremendous too.
Three-technique Tackle - I am first going to define what the term "three-technique" tackle means. It is a more athletic defensive tackle who is more an attack player. He is going to attack a gap and try to make a play. This is the position the guys who make the big bucks play. He usually lines up on the outside shoulder of the guard, most often on the strong side.
Greg McMullen, 6-5, 255, Akron Hoban. He is a strong side end in high school but will grow into a three-technique tackle by the time he steps on a college football field. I think Adolphus Washington and Chris Wormley are both capable of more spectacular play but McMullen's consistent high level of play, high motor and the heart of a warrior put him at the top of my list for 2012. McMullen makes plays, and even when he is not he is still a disruptive force with his non-stop motor, forcing the offense to account for him on every play. Run at him and he will stand up the blocker and make the tackle. Run away from him, he will defeat the blocker and run down the ball carrier.
He is just as adept as a pass rusher. He played with both hands in casts for several games. That kind of heart is the mark of a champion.
Back-up - Tom Strobel, 6-5, 240, Mentor. This is one I struggled with. I think there are a handful of players who could be three-technique tackles but I have already put them at positions they are better suited for. Strobel is one I am having trouble with. I have no doubt about his talent. He was at one time a top ten kid on my list. What I am having trouble with is Strobel being a three-technique tackle. I have not seen him up close so I will defer to those who have, including the Buckeye staff which has offered him as a tackle.
Nose Tackle - Trae Clark, 6-4, 330, Colerain. Build a nose tackle and this is what he will look like. I am not going to say he is a better prospect than John Hankins because there was not as much film out there on Hankins as there is on Clark. I am going to say he reminds me of Hankins. Both are natural wide bodies. I think Clark carries his weight even better than Hankins. In short areas they both show excellent burst and quickness. They both do a great job of finding the ball. Someone is going to secure an excellent nose tackle in Clark.
Back-up - Greg Kuhar, 6-3, 265, Lakewood St. Edward. Make no mistake. If not for the depth at Ohio State and the depth of this class, Greg Kuhar would be a strong candidate for an offer. The staff did bring him down for a visit. He reminds me so much of Dex Larimore except he is bigger framed than Larimore. He shows great instincts and he plays low. He has great balance. This is the kind of player that will help Michigan get back into competition with the Buckeyes. Brady Hoke has recognized that and come in with an offer.
Weakside Defensive End - Adolphus Washington, 6-4, 245, Taft. I am sure there are those who would say Chris Wormley is the most spectacular of the defensive linemen in this class. For me it is Adolphus Washington. I have seen plays he made in his full length film that remind me of Jadeveon Clowney.
I remember one play where the quarterback knows he is going to get hit but thinks he has time to get the ball off. With any other lineman, he does have time. But Washington nearly breaks him in half with a Clowney-like burst and the pass flutters to the ground a couple of yards away. In another he picks up a fumble and looks like Eddie George taking it back for a touchdown. No player in the state can put together the package Washington does.
He plays as a freshman wherever he goes, and when he finds the every down intensity that is the hallmark of the great defensive linemen, he will be on to the NFL. He could grow into a strong side end, maybe even a three-technique tackle, but right now I see an elite weakside end with the explosion and speed I see with Washington.
Back-up - Arlington McClinton, 6-6, 220, Midview. I am caught between strongside end and weakside end with McClinton. He has more of a strongside end's game at the point of attack but has such a long body and the reach you are looking for in a weakside end, and his speed once he disposes of the blocker is that of a weakside end. I take him as a weak side end and move him if necessary. This is a kid who is likely to blow up this summer when he gets out to camps and combines.
Strongside Linebacker - Josh Perry, 6-3, 220, Olentangy. If Perry is not the best all-around athlete in the class, he is certainly on the short list. He excels at everything he does. He is outstanding rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, catching the ball as a tight end and he could be a running back if it is called for. Weakside linebackers get the headlines, but strongside linebackers are the better all-around players. They must be strong against the run but still be able to play zone or even cover a back or tight end one on one.
Back-up - LaKeith Walls, 6-4, 200, Cleveland Rhodes. The best player nobody is talking about. Like Perry, he is a good running back but a better linebacker. He is strong at the line of scrimmage but is very good in coverage. He has the height and the frame to grow into a full blown 4-3 defensive end but right now he is a fine-looking and underrated linebacker prospect.
I want to add another name here. The more I look at Glen Oak safety DeShawn Hall the more I see a linebacker. I love taking these big high school safeties and turning them into strongside linebackers because they are already well-versed in coverage. He is in the 6-3 or 6-4 range and over 200 pounds. I give Walls the edge because he is already playing linebacker.
Middle Linebacker - Joe Bolden, 6-3, 220, Colerain. When you think about linebackers you think about middle linebackers. It is the glamour position -- Butkus, Lewis, Singletary. Meet the future. The Buckeyes played with a 212-pound middle linebacker in Brian Rolle. The game has become so much about coverage that the Buckeyes, amongst others, have made the transition to a smaller player who is excellent against the pass and adequate versus the run. With Bolden you get a good coverage linebacker but one who is big enough to be a good run stuffer.
Back-up - Kaleb Ringer, 6-2, 230, Northmont. There is still a place for the big run stuffer at middle linebacker. For many schools Ringer will top their list. He is a big physical kid who moves well and reads the game well.
Weakside linebacker - Ifeadi Odenigbo, 6-4, 210, Centerville. I think he could grow into a full blown defensive end but right now he is an edge guy. He is at his best rushing off the edge, but if he does not get that big, I think this kid with high character and excellent academics will have no problem transitioning to a weakside linebacker. I think he will be plenty good enough in coverage for him to be a three-down player.
Back-up - Mike Svetina, 6-2, 220, St. Ignatius. I liked Svetina the first time I saw him. Looking at him again I like him even more. He is a great fit as a classic 4-3 weakside linebacker. He is a sturdy kid so he can stand up against the run. He shows speed running down plays from behind. He is an excellent blitzer. In addition, Svetina puts up a strong argument for the best pass defense linebacker in the class.
Bench Corner - Cameron Burrows, 6-2, 190, Trotwood (2013). The best defensive back in Ohio. Yes, I said that. I have been singing the praises of the class of 2012 safeties but this 2013 corner is the best defensive back in the state. I will go so far as to say I think if he continues to grow as a player we could be looking at the best defensive back to come out of this state since Eugene Clifford. Burrows is a big corner right now. Even if he outgrows the position he is going to make a great free safety.
Back-up - Jermaine Edmondson, 6-0, 170, Canton McKinley. A player who I just saw recently. Edmondson is a solid corner with good size and plenty of football smarts. He is a willing tackler. A good summer where he shows speed should produce a nice offer list.
Field Corner - You don't have bench and field corners in the pro game because of the hash marks putting the ball almost in the middle of the field on every play. In college you have a bench corner who is a bigger, more physical player and a field corner who is faster and more athletic to cover the wide side of the field that is created by the wider hash marks.
Cody Quinn, 5-10, 170, Middletown. I don't know about that 5-10 but the 170 looks right. Quinn is probably too small too play football, but apparently he did not get the memo. If you could measure toughness, Quinn is Andre the Giant. You just don't see kids this size being called physical. Quinn brings it. He is so football smart that his speed is extra. He always seems to be in the right place because he reads the game so well. If Quinn were a bigger kid he would have Big Five offers.
Back-up - Nana Kyeremeh, 5-10, 170, Thomas Worthington. This is a new name to you. He was to me too. We talk about makeup speed with corners. Kyeremeh has makeup speed like no player in the class. Like Quinn, he is not ideal sized but is a fearless tackler.
Strong Safety - Bam Bradley, 6-2, 200, Trotwood. The only knock on Bradley is that he might grow into a linebacker. This is a big physical safety who has a read-react-run that any linebacker would be happy to have. Great tackler and a big hitter. His junior film does not include but a few plays of Bradley in coverage and on the ball. Look back on his sophomore film to see a player who has the ball skills of a free safety.
Back-up - Devan Bogard, 5-10, 205, Glenville. Whether it be at strong safety or at the Star position, Bogard is a tackling machine. If he were just a little bigger I would put him at linebacker. He has speed and is very aggressive. A good tackler and a great hitter.
Free Safety - Jarrod Wilson, 6-3, 190, Akron Buchtel. This kid gets his hands on the ball so much on his film that it looks like he is playing wide receiver instead of safety. He reads the game so well. That is where I give him the edge over Frank Epitropolous. He has size and range. He is going to have to become a better tackler if he wants to be the player he can be.
Back-up - Frank Epitropolous, 6-2, 180, Upper Arlington. Really these two are 1a and 1b. Epitropolous s the better athlete. He is faster.
Buckeye fans wondered why I did not talk about him as a receiver. He has an offer from the Buckeyes as a receiver or as a safety. It is really simple. I have not been happy with the recruitment of safeties recently. I see a kid who can sit back there as a deep safety in the later third of the field by himself and make plays from one sideline to the other. He is going to win battles in the air against the biggest receivers with his height, athleticism and 40.5-inch vertical, and I want that player at safety.
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