Power Ranking Top 10 DE Recruits in Class of 2015

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystMarch 3, 2014

Power Ranking Top 10 DE Recruits in Class of 2015

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    Virginia prospect Josh Sweat
    Virginia prospect Josh SweatCredit: 247Sports

    The latest crop of defensive end prospects promises to deliver a dominant group of defenders to teams across the country on signing day. The position has grown more athletic, and this class is another example of how it continues to evolve in that direction.

    We examined game film of the nation's most impactful pass-rushers and run defenders in an effort to identify elite recruits. Here's a rundown of the top talents in order of collegiate potential, with an eye on polished technique and consistent effectiveness.

     

    All prospect information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

10. Canton Kaumatule

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Size: 6'6.5", 275 pounds

    School: Punahou High School (Honolulu, Hawaii)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Canton Kaumatule played an integral role during his squad's undefeated 2013 campaign. He provided versatility and reliable high-level effort while lining up at several positions along the defensive front.

     

    Scouting Report

    He is a mammoth strong-side defensive end who brings a balanced skill set to the field. He sheds blockers and navigates his way into the backfield to bottle up the run, presenting major matchup issues against any offensive scheme.

    His pass-rushing skills off the edge aren't dominant, but his power gives him an opportunity to make unprepared offensive linemen look silly. He does excellent work with his hands, gaining inside position with proper technique.

    Athletically, he is slightly stiff at the knees. His best home in college may be on the offensive tackle's inside shoulder.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He drew interest from Stanford early in the process, and the Cardinal remain a strong contender. Kaumatule is also weighing offers from Oklahoma, Hawaii and USC.

9. Byron Cowart

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    Size: 6'4", 250 pounds

    School: Armwood High School (Seffner, Fla.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Byron Cowart helped lead the Hawks to 14 wins, serving as a formidable defensive presence. He tallied 72 tackles and 13 sacks and returned two fumbles for touchdowns.

     

    Scouting Report

    Cowart is built with the physicality of a middle linebacker. He is a battering ram who brings down ball-carriers in the backfield at a prolific pace.

    Quick feet give him a jump on blockers, and he pursues with proper angles. Given his agility, he can assist in intermediate contain coverage along the perimeter.

    He needs to add more moves to his pass-rushing arsenal in order to excel at the next level. A reliance on strength and bull rushing will result in him being swallowed up by larger offensive linemen in college.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He recently attended a junior day at Florida State. The Seminoles should be considered among the favorites in this race, along with Alabama, Oregon, Florida and Auburn.

8. Jalen Dalton

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Size: 6'5", 220 pounds

    School: West Forsyth High School (Clemmons, N.C.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Jalen Dalton and the Titans finished 12-3 with a conference championship. He solidified his status as one of the top defenders in North Carolina while displaying improved maturity as an upperclassman.

     

    Scouting Report

    Dalton is a rangy edge-rusher who also excels on the basketball court. He has an expansive reach, which helps him disrupt rushing lanes and get his hands on the quarterback.

    His game is largely based on finesse at this point, as he often outmaneuvers offensive linemen en route to the backfield. Dalton has true sideline-to-sideline defensive capabilities but needs to bulk up to become a balanced contributor at weak-side end.

    He would have some trouble setting the edge against the run in college at this stage of his development.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Dalton visited Duke and Virginia Tech in recent months. His offer sheet features Florida State, Michigan, North Carolina and Clemson.

7. Mekhi Brown

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    Size: 6'6", 230 pounds

    School: Carver High School (Columbus, Ga.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Mekhi Brown made strides while starring for the 11-win Tigers. He racked up 56 tackles, five sacks and three fumble recoveries.

     

    Scouting Report

    Brown primarily focused on basketball as a young athlete, so his football skill set remains relatively raw. His strength and wingspan allow him to overpower opponents without implementing substantial technique.

    He delivers punishing hits and wraps up at the point of attack. Brown shows full effort in pursuit and doesn't take plays off.

    He is still growing into his large frame. Balance and coordination are his biggest issues.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Brown committed to Alabama as a sophomore. He still lists Florida State, Stanford, USC and Georgia in his top five.

6. Terry Beckner Jr.

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Size: 6'4", 268 pounds

    School: East St. Louis High School (East St. Louis, Ill.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Terry Beckner Jr. led the defensive effort for an East St. Louis squad that journeyed deep into the postseason. He finished the fall with 99 tackles and eight sacks.

     

    Scouting Report

    Beckner uses brute force to beat blockers across the face off the snap. He has a mean streak and directs his focus on the offensive backfield.

    His hips aren't loose enough for him to emerge as a major pass-rushing threat off the edge, but he is a productive strong-side run-stuffer. He tackles through the ball-carrier and executes quality tackling technique.

    He may be ideally suited to shift inside and line up at 3-technique in college.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He recently added an offer from LSU to a list that already included USC, Florida State, Michigan and Missouri. Beckner has also spent time on campus at Illinois.

5. Keisean Lucier-South

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    Size: 6'5", 215 pounds

    School: Orange Lutheran High School (Orange, Calif.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Keisean Lucier-South commanded double coverage throughout his 2013 campaign. He accounted for 38 tackles and a team-high 10 sacks.

     

    Scouting Report

    Great potential for growth drives Lucier-South this high on the list. He is an immensely gifted athlete who is still searching for his rhythm on the football field.

    He can outrun most quarterbacks and is substantially more agile than the offensive linemen he encounters. He lacks outstanding tackling technique, but it's difficult to escape his clutches once those big mitts are on you.

    His highest ceiling is as a pass-rusher, where he can wreak havoc with better upper-body fundamentals and hand placement. He streaks to the quarterback with a thrilling surge after gaining separation from his opposing blocker.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Lucier-South recently received offers from Louisville, Missouri and LSU. UCLA and USC are strong local options.

4. Shameik Blackshear

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    Size: 6'5", 240 pounds 

    School: Bluffton High School (Bluffton, S.C.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Shameik Blackshear enjoyed another highly productive campaign as a junior. He tallied a career-best 97 tackles and added five sacks, according to MaxPreps.

     

    Scouting Report

    Blackshear bludgeons blockers with sheer physicality. His lower body is highly engaged from the snap, and he drives his legs actively at the point of contact.

    More consistency against the pass would be appreciated, although he can be counted on to provide coverage against tight ends. He remains outstanding in run support.

    He can erase mistakes with quick reaction time and pursues well downfield. Blackshear uses a strong blend of power moves but could stand to incorporate some finesse fundamentals into his repertoire. 

     

    Recruitment Status

    He committed to South Carolina during his sophomore year. Florida, Clemson and Florida State are among his options if he chooses to explore opportunities elsewhere.

3. CeCe Jefferson

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    Size: 6'2", 250 pounds 

    School: Baker County High School (Glen Saint Mary, Fla.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    The Wildcats reached the playoffs with CeCe Jefferson paving the way on defense. He collected 68 tackles and 17.5 sacks, per MaxPreps. 

     

    Scouting Report

    Jefferson is ferociously scrappy. He is a hard worker with a high motor who is relentless against the run.

    His abilities allow him to cut the field in half and dominate his side of the line. He swiftly disengages from blocks and makes tackles from all kinds of angles.

    He is a disruptive pass-rusher who features enough athleticism to line up off the edge in a stand-up position. He is capable of driving an offensive tackle deep into the backfield in an attempt to cause mayhem.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Jefferson recently visited Florida State and Georgia. Possible destinations also include Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Notre Dame.

2. Jashon Cornell

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    Size: 6'4", 270 pounds

    School: Cretin Derham Hall (Saint Paul, Minn.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Jashon Cornell racked up 70 tackles and 15 sacks as a junior. He tallied 20 tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons.

     

    Scouting Report

    Cornell does things no man over 260 pounds should be able to achieve on the football field. He attacks the backfield with incredible burst and often wins the play within seconds of the snap.

    He uses a highly effective lateral shuffle while engaged along the line of scrimmage. He holds his ground while peeking over the shoulder of a blocker for an indication of where the play is headed. 

    His explosive style demands that offensive coordinators and quarterbacks account for his presence at all times. The thumping manner in which he delivers hits creates a formidable intimidation factor for opponents.

     

    Recruitment Status

    He has already visited Mississippi State, Minnesota and Iowa this year. Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State and Arkansas are also in hot pursuit.

1. Josh Sweat

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    Size: 6'5", 230 pounds

    School: Oscar Smith High School (Chesapeake, Va.)

     

    Junior Season Highlights

    Josh Sweat teamed up with top-ranked 2014 defensive tackle Andrew Brown during a deep playoff run. He starred as a member of the feared tandem, totaling 94 tackles and 22 sacks.

     

    Scouting Report

    Sweat is a heat-seeking missile off the edge. He's an exciting pass-rusher who outworks opponents to the football and cleans up with ferocity when he reaches the ball-carrier.

    He doesn't lose his grip on tackles and creates opportunities for fumbles with jarring blows.

    His blend of superior size and speed sets him apart from the pack at this position. Understandably, Sweat plays with tremendous confidence and isn't afraid to mix things up with the other team.

    He dominated as a junior, but it will be interesting to see how he adapts next season with Brown lining up alongside him.

     

    Recruitment Status

    Sweat picked an offer from Texas A&M in February. The Aggies join a chase that features Florida State, Georgia and Ohio State.