10 Most Underrated Defensive Recruits in Class of 2015

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IJuly 30, 2014

10 Most Underrated Defensive Recruits in Class of 2015

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    Credit: 247Sports

    The 2015 recruiting class is full of outstanding defensive recruits. However, some are not ranked as high as they deserve to be.

    Looking at the 247Sports composite rankings, several defenders can be deemed "underrated."

    These prospects show better skill sets on tape than their ranking would indicate. Instincts, quickness, tackling ability, speed and awareness are all key traits for a defensive player.

    Alabama has a 3-star pass-rusher who should be commanding more attention, while a ball-hawking safety is underrated mainly due to suffering an injury as a junior. Plus, a pair of 4-star cornerbacks actually deserve more praise than they are receiving right now.

    All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' composite rankings.

    Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports

Victor Alexander, LB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville is home to studs such as 5-star cornerback Kevin Toliver II and elite 4-star linebacker Jeffery Holland

    That is why it is easy for a prospect like 3-star linebacker Victor Alexander to be overlooked. Alexander is undersized for his position at 5'10" and 221 pounds, but he's smart, tough and physical on the field.

    Being ranked No. 583 in the nation is almost a slap in the face to him. Look for the Florida native and UCLA commit to be more productive than anticipated in Westwood. 

Chad Smith, S/LB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Ranked as the No. 387 recruit in country, Chad Smith will be interesting to follow at Clemson. The 3-star prospect is 6'3" and 207 pounds, which is big for a safety.

    That's more of the reason playing outside linebacker for the Tigers is a real possibility for the Virginia native. Smith is an underrated defender who has far better athleticism than people realize. He finished third in the SPARQ finals at The Opening by positing a rating of 140.97. 

    With his agility, hustle and short-area quickness, Smith should have a fine college career.

Taeon Mason, DB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    A 3-star recruit, Taeon Mason gave an early commitment to USC. That may be the reason why he's been somewhat forgotten about, which could explain him being in the 324th slot in the 247Sports composite rankings.

    On the field, the California native works as a long 6'0", 170-pound cornerback who isn't afraid of big receivers. Mason can jam and re-route at the line of scrimmage. Plus, he has solid speed to run with pass-catchers in coverage.

    The Trojans are all over a certain 5-star cornerback from California, but they have a good one in the fold already in Mason.

Christian Bell, OLB/DE

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    Credit: 247Sports

    It's a bit puzzling as to why Christian Bell is only ranked No. 346 in the country. He plays for a great program that produces college recruits regularly at Hoover High School. Plus, the 3-star prospect has performed well versus tough competition in Alabama.

    At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Bell does his damage coming off the edge. He has good first-step quickness to jump on top of offensive linemen at the snap, and he can chase running backs going away from him.

    Bell is a great fit for Alabama's defense. He can stand up in the Crimson Tide's base 3-4 scheme, and he can also put his hand down in sub-packages. 

Arthur McGinnis, LB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    A New Orleans native, Arthur McGinnis is a linebacker who is ranked No. 489 in the country. After watching more tape on him, it's hard to accept there are 488 better players in this class than him.

    At 6'2" and 226 pounds, McGinnis plays with good toughness and physicality. He possesses a thick frame, which helps him challenge blockers, but he also has the speed and range to make plays on the edges and in coverage.

    Texas A&M and UCLA are his top schools, per 247Sports.

    McGinnis told the following to Jason Howell of Rivals.com (subscription required) on July 3:

    Texas A&M is recruiting me as a strong backer because they basically run a 4-3 and they want me on top of the tight end and things that. Teams that run a 3-4 like UCLA and Oklahoma want me as that pass rushing outside linebacker. 

John Reid, CB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Although he is a 4-star prospect, No. 114 in the 247Sports composite rankings is a bit low for John Reid.

    He is a terrific cornerback from Philadelphia who excels in off-man coverage. The 5'10", 180-pounder has only average size, but his loose hips, awareness, anticipation and quickness in coverage are all impressive. Reid comes out of transition well, and he'll battle in press-man coverage.

    The sticky corner has Penn State at 100 percent in his 247Sports Crystal Ball.

Jahvoni Simmons, LB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Jahvoni Simmons is another 4-star prospect who deserves to be ranked higher. Currently No. 143 in the 247Sports composite rankings, Simmons has one of the lowest floors in the 2015 class.

    You know what you're going to get with this guy. He's a run-stuffing specialist who will be a classic "thumper" for your defense. Simmons, who is 6'1" and 225 pounds, has incredible strength, toughness and physicality at the point of attack.

    He diagnoses quickly versus running plays, and he loves to fill alleys. The Virginia native may be best only as a two-down defender, but there shouldn't be any negative surprises about him as a college player.

    Virginia is at 84 percent in his 247Sports Crystal Ball.

Justin Dunning, S

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Perhaps the main reason Justin Dunning is just No. 161 in the 247Sports composite rankings is because of the torn ACL injury he suffered as a junior.

    Dunning has worked hard to show people his knee is fine this summer, evidenced by his first-team 7-on-7 passing tournament selection at The Opening. At 6'3.5" and 204 pounds, quarterbacks likely confuse Dunning for a linebacker in the pre-snap phase of a play.

    The big defensive back roams around with good movement skills, vision and fantastic ball skills. Texas A&M have a star-studded recruiting class, but Dunning could emerge as the best player from the group down the line. 

Josh Smith, LB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    From Tennessee, Josh Smith has a chance to be a three-down linebacker at Vanderbilt. That is why his ranking at No. 276 can be considered low.

    The 6'3.5" 4-star 'backer weighs nearly 220 pounds, and he has a good combination of speed, quickness and strength. Smith can play inside or outside, and he isn't shabby in coverage.

    With the defensive-minded Derek Mason now in charge at Vandy, it wouldn't be surprising to see Smith grow into the Commodores' defensive captain in a few seasons. 

Tyrek Cole, CB

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Sure, he's No. 57 in the 247Sports composite rankings, but Tyrek Cole has the talent of a 5-star cornerback.

    He warrants an extra star, and he is even better than a lot of people realize. At 5'11.5" and 170 pounds, the Florida State commitment has good length to go with ideal confidence and instincts. Cole skates out of transition to re-attach himself to receivers in a hurry, and he has great speed.

    It's tough to accept there is a total 56 players around America who are better than Cole.


    Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.