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Top 10 College-Ready Defenders in 2015 Recruiting Class

Tyler DonohueFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2016

Top 10 College-Ready Defenders in 2015 Recruiting Class

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    Florida defensive back Tavarus McFadden
    Florida defensive back Tavarus McFaddenCredit: 247Sports

    The 2015 recruiting class features a fresh crop of dynamic defensive playmakers. From front line to backfield, future college standouts are easy to identify when examining this latest collection of impressive prospects.

    While some players require significant refinement and time on the sidelines during a transition to the next level, others already appear ready to make an immediate impact. We rank the top 10 defensive recruits who are prepared to hit the ground running when they face collegiate competition.

10. DE Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn.)

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    Size: 6'4", 270 pounds 

    School: Cretin-Derham Hall

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Jashon Cornell, who tallied at least 20 tackles for loss as a sophomore and junior, is freakishly athletic given his large frame. He takes control within his first few steps off the snap and discards offensive linemen in bunches.

    His patience and vision against the run allow him to set the edge and attack laterally to spread the defensive front. He finishes off plays once he reaches the backfield, as evidenced by 15 sacks in 2013.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Cornell is a hot commodity in Big Ten territory, with Ohio State, Iowa and Michigan among teams giving chase. He named Michigan State his leader in late April during a conversation with 247Sports reporter Steve Wiltfong.

    Notre Dame and Ole Miss also remain in the mix. He is expected to announce a decision in August.

9. LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)

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    Size: 6'2", 225 pounds

    School: Poteet High School

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Malik Jefferson provides the presence of a grown man in the middle of a defense. He's an intimidating defender against the run and can also harass the quarterback, displaying elite closing speed.

    He doesn't give up on plays, and that relentless approach routinely pays off as he chases down ball-carriers. Jefferson, who picked up 83 tackles and 12 sacks last season, always appears under control when the game becomes chaotic.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Jefferson continued to collect scholarship offers in April, as Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Miami joined the race. Those newcomers will have to contend with in-state suitors Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor.

    Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma also present intriguing opportunities.

8. LB Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati, Ohio)

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    Size: 6'2", 230 pounds

    School: St. Xavier High School

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Justin Hilliard appears well-prepared for what's coming his way on a vast majority of plays. He finished his junior campaign with 80 tackles and five sacks, showing off a dominating approach near the line of scrimmage.

    His ferocity shines in blitz packages, and few blockers can contain him in a one-on-one setting. Hilliard is also highly capable in pass coverage, giving quarterbacks fits with fundamentally sound drop-back skills.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Hilliard has enjoyed an epic spring on the recruiting trail, touring several top-level football programs. His campus visits have included Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State.

    USC and Stanford will try to lure him to the West Coast. Iowa is another contender in the Big Ten.

7. S Derwin James (Auburndale, Fla.)

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    Size: 6'2", 201 pounds

    School: Haines City Senior High School 

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Derwin James is simply devastating as a defensive lynchpin. He quickly dissects plays and flies to the football at full throttle, ready to dish out a jarring blow.

    His skill set is balanced against both the run and pass. He disrupts receivers with physicality and cuts off passing lanes with a long reach and proper timing.

     

    Recruiting Update

    James committed to Florida State as a freshman. He has stayed true to that pledge, but his visit to a January junior day at Florida is worth noting.

    Other offers include from Clemson, LSU, Auburn and Ohio State.

6. CB Tarvarus McFadden (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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    Size: 6'3", 198 pounds

    School: American Heritage High School 

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Tarvarus McFadden was rarely targeted at the back end of a state championship defense in 2013 but shined whenever the action came his way. He commands immense respect in the secondary, exhibiting a wide range of skills that are highlighted by his ability to compete stride for stride and wrap up.

    His speed is top-notch and, when paired with his size, creates a total-package safety prospect. He is scintillating with the football in his hands and could contribute as a kick returner in college.

     

    Recruiting Update

    McFadden is a primary target for several squads in the Sunshine State. He recently visited Florida State and Miami, while Florida extended an offer in February.

    LSU, Clemson and Georgia are key contenders to watch beyond state borders.

5. DT Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas)

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    Size: 6'2", 310 pounds

    School: Gladewater High School

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Daylon Mack has been a man amongst boys in high school and bullied blockers en route to 97 tackles in 2013. His speed separates him from the pack and allows him to wreak havoc in the backfield, where he compiled 36 tackles for loss and six sacks last season.

    He takes handoffs at running back, providing an indication of his incredible athleticism. Few defenders approach his ferociousness when finishing off tackles, which helped him force eight fumbles last fall.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Mack committed to Texas A&M midway through his junior season. He visited Auburn in February and also holds offers from Ohio State, Alabama and USC.

4. CB Kevin Toliver (Jacksonville, Fla.)

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    Size: 6'2", 185 pounds

    School: Trinity Christian Academy

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Kevin Toliver helped anchor the secondary of a state champion in 2013, regularly interrupting the few passes that quarterbacks dared to send in his direction. He is physical and fast; however, his greatest attribute may be anticipation.

    He belongs in any discussion about America's top high school cover corner but balances that with stout run support. His size allows him to take on a variety of receivers and gives coaches confidence that he can shut down the opposition's primary pass target.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Toliver pledged to LSU during his sophomore season. He remains committed to the Tigers but still holds heavy interest from Auburn, UCLA, UCF and Miami.

3. CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, Calif.)

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    Size: 6'1", 190 pounds

    School: Long Beach Poly High School

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Iman Marshall didn't allow a single pass completion against league opponents last season, smothering receivers with precise footwork and fluid hips. He doesn't surrender ground downfield and eliminates space for quarterbacks to sneak the ball into.

    His run defense is tremendous, and Marshall has few peers in this defensive back class when it comes to open-field tackling. He's prepared to handle the rigors of a substantial role in a collegiate secondary next year.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Pac-12 programs have flocked to Marshall, but they're hardly alone in this pursuit. LSU, Penn State, Ohio State and Notre Dame will attempt to land an official visit.

    UCLA, USC and Stanford each aim to keep him close to home. Oklahoma is the latest team to extend an offer, which arrived in April.

2. DT Trent Thompson (Albany, Ga.)

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    Size: 6'4", 292 pounds

    School: Westover High School 

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Trent Thompson flashes the skill set of a linebacker despite pushing 300 pounds. He moves extremely well laterally and bursts with tremendous knee bend while maintaining a low center of gravity.

    His efforts against double-team coverage are a sight to behold, as he violently blows up backfields to derail offensive plays before they can begin. He compiled 83 tackles and 12 sacks last season.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Thompson is a longtime top target for the in-state Bulldogs, but several SEC foes have also entered the forefront of his recruitment. He attended junior days at Auburn and Alabama earlier this year while also taking the time to visit Clemson and Georgia Tech.

    LSU offered Thompson in late April.

1. DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Va.)

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    Size: 6'5", 237 pounds

    School: Oscar Smith High School

     

    What Makes Him Ready

    Josh Sweat was paired with top-ranked 2014 defensive tackle Andrew Brown as a junior and managed to earn a spotlight of his own. The ferocious edge-rusher finished the season with 94 tackles and 22 sacks, striking fear into opposing offensive playmakers.

    He is remarkably quick off the snap and already displays enough raw strength to handle himself in college trenches. An impressive wingspan enables him to corral ball-carriers, and he finishes tackles with crushing blows.

     

    Recruiting Update

    Naturally, Sweat has secured scholarship offers from every corner of the country. Top options include Florida State, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon and Texas A&M.

     

    Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

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