Josh Sweat spent his junior season playing in the shadow of Oscar Smith High School (Chesapeake, Va.) teammate Andrew Brown, the consensus top-ranked 2014 defensive tackle and Gatorade National Player of the Year.
With his former counterpart now on campus as a freshman at Virginia, the 6'5", 237-pound playmaker commands a spotlight of his own as one of the most coveted defenders in America.
Sweat, rated No. 1 nationally among weak-side defensive end recruits in 247Sports' composite rankings, is considered the top 2015 prospect in Virginia. The rankings list him at No. 13 overall in the class. He earned heaping praise with a dominant 2013 campaign.
He registered 94 tackles, including 31 for loss. Sweat finished the season with 22 sacks and was named to the MaxPreps Junior All-American Team.
Collegiate interest in Sweat arrived well before his breakout campaign. He held offers from Florida State, Ole Miss, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Temple and Tennessee before the end of his sophomore year.
More opportunities poured in during a sensational season as Penn State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, USC and South Carolina joined the chase. Ohio State, LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama and Oregon are also now involved in an expansive recruitment.
We broke down Sweat's game tape in an effort to discover what sets him apart from so many talented defensive ends in the 2015 class.
|School||Oscar Smith High School|
|Size||6'5", 237 lbs|
|Rankings||No. 1 weak-side DE; No. 13 overall in 2015 class; No. 1 in Virginia|
|Key Offers||Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, USC, UCLA, LSU, South Carolina, Penn State, Auburn, Alabama|
Sweat moves absurdly fast for his size. 247Sports has him clocked at 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and that time is hard to argue with when you watch him explode upfield in pursuit of the football.
He could glide against high school competition by simply relying on raw athleticism. Instead, Sweat has spent his career outworking opponents off the snap and polishing a rapidly developing skill set along the defensive edge.
His full-throttle style of play continues through the whistle. Sweat swarms to the ball with a head full of steam and helps teammates finish off tackles in the backfield by gang tackling.
When he meets the ball-carrier in open space, his wrapping skills shine. Sweat uses a gigantic wingspan to secure tackles and maintains his grip while attempting to force fumbles.
He crushes unsuspecting running backs as they attempt to make their way beyond the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle. His jarring hits create an intimidating presence on the defensive front and gradually wears down opposing blockers.
Sweat stands out as one of the best pure pass-rushers we've seen in recent recruiting classes. He's tough to contend with when lined up out wide and is stout enough to use interior moves on his way to the quarterback.
There's a heavy dose of swagger apparent in Sweat's on-field demeanor and body language. He clearly gets into the heads of opponents, who appear mentally worn down by the end of a difficult matchup.
Sweat is outstanding in limited space but also excels in downfield pursuit. He can hunt down offensive playmakers who appear to have found a seam, saving his team significant yards in the process.
It's scary when hustle meets elite natural talent. Those elements help create a devastatingly effective defensive end prospect.
There isn't much to gripe about when analyzing Sweat's game film. This is a prospect who already projects as an eventual top-tier NFL draft pick.
He stands to develop an array of counter moves as his growth as a pass rusher continues. Sweat would become increasingly dangerous if he is able to incorporate a consistent swim move toward the interior.
His speed already keeps offensive linemen off balance. He can capitalize on his unique agility even more by continuing to focus on hand placement and disengaging with separation moves on his second and third steps off the snap.
What are your expectations for 5-star DE Josh Sweat at the next level?
Sweat has his pick of practically every FBS program a young player could ever hope to play for, and rightfully so. He measures up against the most dynamic and gifted instant-impact defensive ends we've witnessed at the high school level this decade.
High expectations will be in place regardless of which campus he eventually calls home. Barring injury, many will expect three productive college seasons and high draft stock in 2018.