Power Ranking Top 10 Defensive Linemen in the 2014 Recruiting Class
Andrew Brown Via 247Sports
The defensive linemen of the 2014 recruiting class are poised to do great things at the college level. Many of them have superstar potential.
In fact, eight of the top-10 defensive linemen on this list are 5-star recruits. Of the two remaining players, one is 6'2'', 325 pounds and could make an argument for a fifth star.
The potential is staggering.
These power rankings also feature what many recruiting enthusiasts would consider a huge surprise, which is fitting considering the huge amount of talent found in the next 10 slides.
Note: Rankings courtesy of the 247Sports Composite Rankings. All scouting and analysis done from film study via the tapes provided by each recruit's respective 247Sports profile page. 247Sports predictions courtesy of the 247Sports Crystal Ball.
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10. Gerald Willis, SDE
Weight: 246 pounds
Hometown: New Orleans, La.
School: Edna Karr High School
247Sports Prediction: LSU 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: LSU
Gerald Willis projects to be a good run defender at the college level. He has the strength to hold his own against driving linemen and is adept at pursuing the run from the weak side. He can come down the line of scrimmage, close the edge and make a play before the runner gets to the second level.
He'll be able to fight through double-teams, and his strength and frame will help him set the edge on the outside. He'll be able to push back the line of scrimmage and "spill" the ball-carrier to the linebacker coming over top. All that means is that he'll be able to force the run outside and play "inside-out football".
Willis is a talented recruit, but he'll need to improve his speed to move up these rankings. He runs a 5.16 40, according to 247Sports.
According to Willis' 247Sports timeline, he's unofficially visited LSU seven times. That would certainly indicate a major interest. The Tigers have also been known for coaching up quality defensive ends.
9. Elisha Shaw, DT
Weight: 295 pounds
Hometown: Tucker, Ga.
School: Tucker High School
247Sports Prediction: Ole Miss 50 percent, Georgia 31 percent, Alabama 19 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Ole Miss
Elisha Shaw is a big defensive tackle with great potential. He's quick on his feet, displays good hustle and pursuit and uses his hands well to disengage and get off blocks. Shaw has the quickness and speed to be effective as a pass-rusher, but he can also chase down running backs between the tackles.
He's also big enough to maintain his gap integrity and hold strong. If he wants to move up this list, he's going to have to get a bit more consistent at driving his feet and moving back the line of scrimmage.
It would be great to see him utilize his size to his advantage and "blow back" the interior of the line during his senior season.
Shaw recently tweeted that Ole Miss is his new leader, and the Rebels have become quite a formidable program on the recruiting trail.
8. Myles Garrett, WDE
Weight: 240 pounds
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
School: James Martin High School
247Sports Prediction: Texas A&M 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is a prototypical weak-side defensive end, and he projects to be a good player at the college level. He runs a 4.70 40-yard dash, according to 247Sports, which isn't elite speed, but it will get the job done. He's athletic, plays with leverage out of his stance and has what it takes to be a good pass-rusher.
The issue with Garrett is that he's somewhat of a "tweener." He'll need to bulk up to take on bigger offensive linemen and stronger, more powerful running backs or work on his speed and pass-rushing abilities. He projects as a weak-side defensive end in a 4-3 or a linebacker in a 3-4.
According to ESPN Recruiting Nation (subscription required), Texas A&M has made the "biggest impression" with Garrett. He's from Texas, and the Aggies are the hot program right now. It makes sense to predict Texas A&M here.
7. Khairi Clark, DT
Weight: 325 pounds
Hometown: Hollywood, Fla.
School: Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory School
247Sports Prediction: Miami 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Miami
Khairi Clark has star potential because of his size alone. He has NFL size and will be a big-time double-team draw as either a 1-technique in a 4-3 or a nose tackle in the 3-4. Either way, even in college, it's going to take two offensive linemen to block him.
He has a quick first step and is athletic, so he'll be much more than a roadblock. He'll be able to get into the backfield and cause havoc.
Clark may be a bit too aggressive, to the point of almost being undisciplined. In high school that won't impact him, but in college he'll be susceptible to traps.
6. Lorenzo Carter, WDE
Weight: 232 pounds
Hometown: Norcross, Ga.
School: Norcross High School
247Sports Prediction: Alabama 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: LSU
Lorenzo Carter is an extremely athletic defensive end. He doesn't have exceptional size, but he makes up for it with his speed. He runs a 4.60 40, according to 247Sports. Carter also has good quickness and explosiveness off the snap.
He can beat a blocker to the gap or edge. From there, his pure speed and pass-rushing abilities take over. He's great at dipping his shoulder and attacking the back arm of the quarterback, but he can also change direction quickly and go underneath the blocker as well.
Carter should also be comfortable in open space because of his athleticism, so it's not a reach to see him as a 3-4 outside linebacker, if not a 4-3 defensive end.
LSU has a chance to pitch playing as a 4-3 defensive end instead of a 3-4 outside linebacker in Alabama's scheme. Carter talked about wanting to give LSU attention during a recent recruit diary on 247Sports.
5. Kentavius Street, SDE
Weight: 262 pounds
Hometown: Greenville, N.C.
School: J. H. Rose High School
247Sports Prediction: Georgia 88 percent, Virginia Tech 12 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Georgia
Kentavius Street is big and strong, which is a great combination for a strong-side defensive end. He runs a 4.75 40, according to 247Sports, which isn't incredibly fast, but it's more than enough when combined with his strength and fundamental pass-rushing ability.
He has explosive hands and uses them to push back the defender and eventually disengage. Street is also more than strong enough to set the edge, rip off, keep his outside arm free and make a play against the run.
He almost comes down the line of scrimmage a bit too quickly and recklessly, so he'll need to clean that up during his senior season. If that were to continue, he would be susceptible to reverses or the option read at the college level.
If he can fix that, though, Street will be a great college defensive end.
The Bulldogs have been high on Street's 247sports interest list, and that lead should be firm once UGA gets him on campus for a visit or two.
Note: Analysis and scouting report done via tape study from this video via ESPN.com.
4. Malik McDowell, SDE
Weight: 290 pounds
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
School: Loyola High School
247Sports Prediction: Michigan 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Michigan
Malik McDowell has elite potential. He has good height, size and length, and he also runs a 4.70 40, according to 247Sports. He's agile, explosive to the body out of his stance and can get off blocks, and he has a nice swim move that allows him to get behind a blocker and into the backfield.
McDowell projects to be a great pass-rusher, but he needs to show a bit more of his ability against the run to move up these rankings. He's a bit one-dimensional on tape right now.
Michigan is the leader on McDowell's 247Sports interest list, as Brady Hoke and company are dominating on the recruiting trail. If the Wolverines can't land Da'Shawn Hand, McDowell should become priority No. 1.
3. Da'Shawn Hand, SDE
Weight: 247 pounds
Hometown: Woodbridge, Va.
School: Woodbridge High School
247Sports Prediction: Virginia Tech 75 percent, Michigan 25 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Virginia Tech
Da'Shawn Hand used to be the No. 1 recruit in the 2014 class. While he's fallen from grace a bit, he still has superstar potential. It seems as if his slip is more due to other recruits getting attention and standing out on tape than any failing on his part. Hand will still be one of the better recruits in this class.
He projects to be a great pass-rusher, but he can also come down the line and play strong against the run. He has good speed, elite agility and tremendous fundamentals. He has quick movements as a pass defender and is explosive out of his stance. According to 247Sports, Hand runs a 4.60 40.
He plays with good leverage and has adequate length, which will help him keep his outside arm free and allow him to set the edge. He uses his hands better than any defensive lineman in this class.
The big knock on Hand is that he doesn't have the size of an elite strong-side defensive end just yet. His fundamentals and speed are great, but he'll need to bulk up to compete with bigger, stronger and, yes, quicker offensive linemen at the college level.
If he bulks up during senior year and doesn't lose his speed, he could work his way back up to No. 1.
Virginia Tech and Michigan are on top of Hand's 247Sports interest list. He's the top recruit from Virginia, and it seems as if the in-state schools have a lead on the best players from the state this cycle. The Hokies will prevail due to some "home-state advantage."
2. Solomon Thomas, SDE
Weight: 256 pounds
Hometown: Coppell, Texas
School: Coppell High School
247Sports Prediction: Texas 100 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Texas
Ranking Solomon Thomas above Hand may surprise some folks, but he has the potential to be the best defensive end from this class. He has better size, good quickness and speed, and he's an aggressive and tough defender. Thomas will be good against the run and the pass.
He explodes out of his stance and has a violent punch into the chest of the blocker. He has good leverage and bend in his knees, and he displays great strength.
Where he stands out is in his ability to maintain gap integrity at the line of scrimmage, fight through blocks and come down against the run. He'll also be good at setting the edge.
If he were just a bit bigger and stronger, he would be No. 1 on this list.
1. Andrew Brown, DT
Weight: 282 pounds
Hometown: Chesapeake, Va.
School: Oscar Frommel Smith High School
247Sports Prediction: Virginia 92 percent, North Carolina 8 percent
Bleacher Report Prediction: Virginia
Andrew Brown is the No. 1 defensive tackle, according to the 247Sports Composite. He doesn't have elite size, but he doesn't need it. He's incredibly quick for a defensive tackle and has outstanding fundamentals.
He uses his hands expertly to explode into the body of the blocker. Then he has a variety of moves to win the gap and get through the backfield.
Brown has terrific speed for a defensive tackle. He can shoot the gap before the offensive linemen are even out of their stances, and he has the agility to pursue the passer in the backfield or the ball-carrier down the line.
He's the most complete and fundamental defensive lineman in this class. He also has tremendous upside and will get even better in time.
Brown has had some great things to say about Virginia, according to Brad Franklin of CavsCorner.com (subscription required), and it looks like it's going to be tough to get him out of state. He's also already unofficially visited Virginia eight times, according to 247Sports.