College Football Recruiting 2013: Power Ranking the Top 11 Defensive Recruits

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst ISeptember 30, 2012

College Football Recruiting 2013: Power Ranking the Top 11 Defensive Recruits

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    Last week, we took a look at the top 10 offensive recruits in the country. Offense is what brings people to the games and ratings to television, but defense wins championships—most times. In today's football world, defense is almost becoming a lost art.

    Stopping opponents from scoring is tough, so colleges realize that they still must recruit studs on defense too. In this read, we're going to quickly run down the nation's top 11 defensive players in 2013 recruiting. These 11 prospects have the talent to become cornerstone college defenders and players that help combat the ridiculous amounts of points being scored.

    Here are the top 11 defensive prospects in the country.

11. Montravius Adams, DT

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    Adams is a 6'3" defensive tackle from Georgia who weighs close to 300 pounds. He shows an excellent surge off the ball and great hand quickness to fight blockers.

    Flashing good pad level and leverage at times, Adams can get into a blocker's body and use good strength to walk them back into the pocket. Adams has the ability to shoot gaps and is athletic enough to redirect and pursue ball carriers versus the run.

    With the potential to be an excellent 3-technique defensive tackle, Adams is a wanted man on the trail. I like Auburn and Clemson right now.

10. Eli Woodard, CB

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    Woodard, from New Jersey, is one of the smartest defenders in America. The 6'0", 185-pound cornerback has excellent instincts and awareness to make great plays.

    Woodard is a great athlete and has the length to be effective with his jamming at the line. He shows a solid backpedal and the route awareness to throttle down at junction points. Woodard has the speed to stay hip-to-hip with a receiver deep and can peel off a route to jump a passing lane for an interception.

    He's headed to Ohio State.

9. Vonn Bell, S

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    Bell is from Tennessee and goes to high school in Georgia. He is a 6'0", 190-pound defensive back that can play both safety and corner.

    His most natural position is likely free safety, where Bell can take advantage of his terrific ball skills. Bell has outstanding speed and the natural instincts to read routes on the back end and jump passing lanes for interceptions.

    Bell, who favors Tennessee, Ohio State and Alabama, is more than willing to squeeze down in the box to attack the run. He will put a big hit on anyone with the football. 

8. Antonio Conner, S

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    Conner is another talented safety in what is shaping up to be perhaps one of the best safety classes in recruiting history. From Mississippi, Conner is a 6'1", 200-pounder with great competitiveness.

    He'll do anything and everything he can to win a game, using his exceptional athleticism, speed and quickness. Conner can factor as an eighth defender in the box to combat the run and has the range to make plays against the deep pass.

    Look for him to wind up in the SEC at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama or LSU.

7. Matthew Thomas, OLB

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    From the Miami area, Thomas is the top second-level flank defender in the country. The 6'3", 205-pounder can fit well in both a 4-3 defense or a 3-4 scheme.

    Thomas is a great athlete and has very good play speed. He can play the sideline-to-sideline outside linebacker role with great range. Thomas can blaze past traffic, beat blockers to spots on the field and meet ball carriers with good thump.

    Thomas also has solid pass-rushing ability and can be a terror as a blitzer. I like Florida State and Alabama's chances to sign him the most.

6. Su'a Cravens, S

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    Cravens is from Southern California and is already 6'1" and close to 210 pounds. He is a safety prospect on most boards but don't be shocked to see USC move him to outside linebacker at some point.

    Possessing great football speed and tremendous instincts, Cravens is very versatile on the field. He's an outstanding athlete who can quickly read the run, sift through traffic with speed and put a big lick on the ball carrier.

    Cravens can roam around the back end and show off great range and the ball skills needed to pick off passes. He should develop into a Pac-12 standout.

5. Carl Lawson, DE

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    At 6'2" and nearly 255 pounds, Lawson is one of the best defensive ends in the country. Lawson plays with good speed, quickness and strength on the edges.

    At the snap, Lawson flashes the ability to anchor down versus tight ends to read and react to the play. He shows good range and athleticism to make tackles on the outside while also showing good pursuit speed to crash down from the backside.

    Lawson is a great pass rusher with solid length to stay clean, a great fight to pressure and shows a good burst to finish. He's committed to Auburn. 

4. Kenny Bigelow, DT

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    A USC pledge, Bigelow is from Delaware and plays his high school ball in Maryland. He's such a great athlete that Bigelow has been seen playing DT, DE, LB, TE and even some FB.

    At 6'3" and 297 pounds, he is a physical player who loves to mix it up. Bigelow fits best as a 3-technique defensive tackle due to his great snap quickness, strength and playmaking ability.

    He can play stout at the point of attack if asked, but Bigelow prefers getting rid of blockers to stay clean so his athletic ability can take over. He has a solid pass rush plan, quick hands to fight blockers and has good speed to close out on the passer.

3. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB

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    Hargreaves is a 5'11", 180-pound cornerback from Florida with great technique, instincts and athleticism. He can play all three coverage techniques well, and I like him best in off/loose-man coverage.

    Hargreaves can slow play his routes, process information and use quick feet to get out of transition in a flash. He has a sharp plant and drive on the ball and the awareness to not be fooled often by route combinations.

    With his loose hips and ability to turn and run, Hargreaves should be a hit at Florida.

2. Reuben Foster, LB

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    Foster is from Georgia and plays in Auburn, AL. He's also committed to Auburn and is the nation's top linebacker at 6'2" and close to 250 pounds.

    Foster is physically ready to play college ball right now and has everything you want in a superstar Mike linebacker. Foster has excellent ball vision and instincts, inserts himself quickly in run alleys and doesn't get dug out much.

    He has the strength to shed and escape blocks with toughness and will explode upon contact to make a tackle. He plays with great speed to get to the edges and has the athleticism to develop into a solid zone coverage defender.

1. Robert Nkemdiche, DE

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    Nkemdiche is from Georgia and is a Clemson commit—for now. The 6'4", 270-pound defensive end is a monster in the trenches and can also play defensive tackle.

    Nkemdiche shows solid snap quickness but becomes a giant at the point of attack. His strength, power and tenacity are what separate him from the pack, as Nkemdiche can just toss blockers aside to free himself up.

    He has great athletic ability and speed to pursue the football all over the field. Nkemdiche can anchor against the run to make stops at the line or has the range to make plays in space.

    If he stays healthy and continues to develop, he could be a superstar in college.

    Edwin Weathersby has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects & writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (now ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to, and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.