Best Fits for the Top 10 Uncommitted 2015 Defensive Recruits
Several of the nation's premier defensive prospects have been selective when it comes to deciding on their desired collegiate destination. Less than 10 months shy of national signing day 2015, elite playmakers remain up for grabs and continue to garner interest from college programs.
We dissect the mounting list of options for each defender, with an eye on which squads may have the advantage when an announcement arrives.
10. DT Albert Huggins (Orangeburg, S.C.)
Size: 6'3", 279 lbs
School: Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School
Albert Huggins glides into the backfield with the athleticism of a top-end 3-technique. His SEC opportunities reached new heights in March, as offers poured in from Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State.
Huggins, who tallied 65 tackles and 11 sacks as a junior, according to The Times and Democrat, is the center of attention in another South Carolina turf war between the Gamecocks and Clemson, while Georgia looks to lure him south.
Best Fit: Clemson
The Tigers hosted Huggins during the 2013 season and should have no trouble lining up an official visit on campus this fall. Head coach Dabo Swinney has assembled an impressive class with talent across the board but still must address the defensive line.
Huggins has a match in Clemson, where he'd be counted on to contribute early.
9. Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas)
Size: 5'11", 180 lbs
School: Fort Bend Marshall High School
Kendall Sheffield contributes toward victories in a variety of ways, displaying the makings of a dominant cornerback and scintillating kick returner in college. He has received significant West Coast interest, including recent offers from USC, Cal and Oregon.
Sheffield, a nationally accomplished track and field athlete, added Florida State and Michigan to the mix in March. His in-state recruitment continues to heat up, as Texas and Texas A&M view him as a pivotal pickup.
Best Fit: Texas
Louisville may have been known most for its star quarterback during Charlie Strong's tenure, but the first-year head coach built his program—and preceding career as an assistant—on defense. Sheffield is an ideal candidate to anchor the secondary as Strong molds the Longhorns in his vision.
8. CB Tarvarus McFadden (Plantation, Fla.)
Size: 6'3", 198 lbs
School: American Heritage High School
It's hard to imagine Tarvarus McFadden departing the Southeast region given the level of interest he's received from schools in the area. His offer sheet features Florida, Clemson, Georgia and LSU.
McFadden, who played a crucial role in the defensive backfield during a state title run, projects favorably at safety. His recent Sunshine State visits included trips to Tallahassee and Miami, while USC extended an offer from across the country earlier this year.
Best Fit: Florida State
LSU offers an opportunity to join a recent lineage of standout safeties, but it's easy to envision an early role for McFadden in the back end of Florida State's defense. The Seminoles would add a dynamic playmaker who is capable of stepping up in place of a talented cast of contributors who are set to depart after this season.
7. DE CeCe Jefferson (Glen Saint Mary, Fla.)
Size: 6'2", 250 lbs
School: Baker County Senior High School
CeCe Jefferson enjoyed a monster junior campaign (68 tackles and 17.5 sacks, per MaxPreps), and he's being recruited accordingly. The defensive end grew up a Gators fan, but several contenders have emerged to potentially disrupt that longtime link.
He visited Alabama and Florida State earlier this month, along with another campus check-in at Gainesville. LSU, Georgia and Auburn offer more SEC options to the coveted defender.
Best Fit: Florida
This scenario comes with a major stipulation. Florida head coach Will Muschamp may be at risk of losing his job if the team stumbles again this season, which may strain Jefferson's relationship with the program. Alabama offers an intriguing Plan B if he elects to look elsewhere.
6. DE Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn.)
Size: 6'4", 270 lbs
School: Cretin-Derham Hall High School
There's a lot of buzz about Jashon Cornell in Big Ten country. The dominant defensive end carries offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota, among others in the conference.
Cornell, who collected 70 tackles and 15 sacks as a junior, visited Notre Dame and Northwestern this month. He plans to announce his decision in late August.
Best Fit: Michigan State
There's a reason East Lansing is viewed as a hot spot for difference-makers along the defensive front. The Spartans continue to produce versatile linemen while developing a reputation as one of the country's most impressive defensive teams.
Cornell could exhibit his wide range of skills at Michigan State.
5. CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif.)
Size: 6'1", 190 lbs
School: Long Beach Poly High School
Iman Marshall is the latest electrifying football star to emerge from Long Beach. His stock soared during a junior season that resulted in defensive player of the year honors from the Long Beach Press-Telegram.
USC and UCLA are well into lengthy recruitments of the Southern California star. Notre Dame, LSU and Ohio State are squads that could lure him away from the West Coast.
Best Fit: USC
Due to years of scholarship sanctions, USC is still in need of immediate upgrades across the roster. The Trojans may also be on the verge of returning to national prominence as perennial Pac-12 title contenders.
4. LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)
Size: 6'3", 215 lbs
School: Poteet High School
Malik Jefferson has garnered plenty of interest from in-state options, including Texas A&M and Baylor. Auburn, Alabama and Georgia have each extended offers, expanding his thought process.
He has also drawn heavy interest from Ohio State and Oklahoma. He tallied 83 tackles and 12 sacks last season, according to MaxPreps.
Best Fit: Texas A&M
This could come down to a turf war between the Aggies and other opportunities in Texas. Kevin Sumlin can seal the deal by selling early playing time in a renovated stadium.
3. LB Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Size: 6'2", 230 lbs
School: St. Xavier High School
He has visited Notre Dame twice since March, while Alabama also recently welcomed him to campus. Stanford and USC both offered in February.
Best Fit: Notre Dame
It's tough to turn down an opportunity in Columbus, but the Fighting Irish have a more immediate need for him on the roster, and Notre Dame still carries luster in the national recruiting scene. He would add to an impressive 2014 recruiting haul for the Fighting Irish at linebacker.
2. DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Va.)
Size: 6'5", 230 lbs
School: Oscar Smith High School
Josh Sweat played in the massive shadow of top-ranked 2014 defensive tackle prospect Andrew Brown last season, accumulating 94 tackles and 22 sacks. The spotlight is now on him, as offers from Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State and Texas A&M are among dozens that are pouring in.
He visited Virginia Tech earlier this month. He could be compelled to team up with Brown again at Virginia, and the Cavaliers will try hard to make a reunion happen.
Best Fit: Ohio State
Sweat would fill a hybrid role in the front end of Ohio State's defense. His versatility fits the Buckeyes scheme, particularly in blitz packages. Urban Meyer will make Sweat a top priority as signing day nears.
1. DT Trent Thompson (Albany, Ga.)
Size: 6'4", 292 lbs
School: Westover High School
He attended junior days at Alabama and Auburn. Thompson visited Clemson earlier this month, and the Tigers have feasted on Georgia talent in recent years.
Best Fit: Georgia
The Bulldogs have been diligent throughout a multi-year recruitment. That commitment and a firm understanding of his eventual defensive role with the team will lead Thompson to Athens.