The uncommitted defensive board is flat out loaded with top-shelf defensive prospects right now. In fact, the defensive talent we've seen come through the last two to three recruiting cycles has been pretty fantastic, especially in last year's class.
This 2014 class has several top-ranked defensive players who remain uncommitted right now. With this platform, I'm going to power rank the top 10 uncommitted defensive prospects right now. We've seen defensive standout recruits like Quin Blanding, Edward Paris and Hoza Scott all make early decisions, so let's look at the 10 best defenders who are still available.
These defensive prospects are playing their recruiting cool right now and using this offseason to sharpen their skills while still evaluating how they want to handle their recruitment going forward.
Here are the top 10 uncommitted defensive recruits.
McDowell is a big DL prospect from Michigan who stands between 6'6" and 6'7" and weighs 290 pounds. He's got solid snap quickness, point-of-attack strength and seems to be more athletic with the pads on.
In my opinion, while he plays DE now, McDowell is destined to grow into a DT in a 4-3 scheme or a 3-4 DE. He's a big-body guy who has some shock value to his game and shows potential as a block-stacker.
Keep your eye on Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
From Texas, Thomas is a 6'3" DE prospect who's north of 250 pounds and is a true edge-setter.
On a given snap, Thomas can fire out of his stance, play big and strong at the point of attack, set and stack a block, read the play and make a tackle. He's a solid pass-rusher who has some power in his arsenal to get to the passer.
This could come down to Texas. vs. Oklahoma.
McMillan is a LB prospect who can play as a true "Mike" in a 3-4 or still operate effectively as an ILB in a 3-4 scheme.
I wouldn't rule him out as an OLB in a 4-3 scheme in a couple of years, either. This is a 6'3", 236-pound guy with solid instincts and ball-location skills along with good speed, range and strength. He can take on blockers and sheds in an above-average fashion and has good wrap-tackling ability.
Schools like Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are on McMillan's trail.
Jackson isn't the biggest or thickest football player you'll see, but he's a football player through and through.
Jackson is one of the best pure athletes in the country, and at 5'10" and just over 170 pounds, he's got deceptive strength.
Jackson, from California, can roll up on receivers as a press corner and can gamble anytime he wants because he's got rare recovery quickness and speed. He'll have his pick of schools, and that includes LSU, USC, Michigan and more.
Humphrey is a big cover corner from Alabama who stands 6'1", 175 pounds. He has excellent length, athleticism, quick feet and shows great anticipation.
Humphrey can play as a press corner, use his instincts to jump routes in off-man coverages and shows the range and awareness to be an effective zone defender on the perimeter. He's a CB prospect who has a chance to be a No. 1 cover man in college.
I expect him to end up at Alabama, but watch out for Florida and a few others.
The best player in New Jersey is a DB prospect for the second straight year. Last year New Jersey had Eli Apple as the state's best, this year it is Peppers.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, Peppers can play CB and safety. I also wouldn't rule out him growing into an OLB due to his increased bulk. Peppers is very instinctive and smart on the field along with having good play speed, agility and playmaking ability.
Stanford and Ohio State are the schools to beat for him right now.
If you're looking for a physical, strong, smart and tough DB, then you need to check out Tony Brown, period. He's a 6'0', 185-pound CB who is the top press/jam-style corner in the country this year.
Brown has a strong upper body and can quickly re-route a receiver at the line. He'll bump all route long and he will fight for the football like the pass is intended for him. Brown also can squeeze off the perimeter to help versus the run, and don't count out a move to safety in college.
Texas A&M and LSU strike me as two schools who could have the inside track on him.
A 6'4" DT who weighs close to 300 pounds, Brown is a future stud who comes out of Virginia. He's explosive at the snap, strong at the point of attack and can sit to anchor if he chooses.
Brown also has impressive hand-usage skills and can free himself up by using his mitts as weapons to his advantage. I can see Brown being successful in just about any scheme on any front.
Michigan and Virginia are just a couple of the schools that have the top odds to land him.
Carter is perhaps the top prospect from Georgia this year and could be a future star in college. He's got great size already at 6'6" and 232 pounds while still being plenty athletic, mobile, agile and hostile.
He can put his hand down and play as a traditional DE or stand up and rush as a 3-4 OLB. Carter has long arms to stay clean from blockers, but also gets out of his stance quickly and flashes good bending ability.
He's pretty open, but I figure Georgia, Alabama and Florida are schools to watch.
From Virginia, Hand is not only the top uncommitted defender in the nation, but he's also the top overall recruit regardless of position.
He's a 6'5", 247-pound DE who is sudden and explosive at the snap, jumps on top of blockers, uses his hands well and also is very strong. He's close to being a complete prospect and can also play a little sub-package DT too.
Right now, it appears Michigan may be the team to beat.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He 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 and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.