Welcome to part two of building the perfect 2011 recruiting class. My name is John Daker.
We got the fun part out of the way last week, tracking down the 14 or 15 best 2011 recruits to run a spread-n-shred offense.
This week, I'm circling the 11 recruits (with video!) I'd take to reload my defense. They've been chosen both for their individual talent and for how well I think they'd play together.
As a Big Ten fan, I concentrated first and foremost on stopping the run, and made that the top priority of these players. With a good cover corner and free safety, my plan would be to put eight in the box to begin with, then adjust as the opposing offense moved towards passing.
My weakside linebacker, my free safety, my cover corner and my strongside end needed really strong skills against the pass, but everyone else was chosen for their skills at stopping the run.
That being said, I took the best free safety on the board for 2011. He's going to have to cover a lot of turf with eight in the box.
Before I get ahead of myself, please, read on.
Alabama has made Sacramento, CA defensive tackle Viliami Moala their top priority for 2011, and it's not hard to guess why. He's the ideal nose in a 3-4 defensive look like the one the Tide hung their hat on with DT Terrence Cody.
Moala is a 6'2", 352 lb gentle giant who had kept his recruitment quiet and local for the most part, until Bama came calling with bells on.
I'm not aiming to run the 3-4, but I would still shade Moala over the center in a one-technique look and have him slant to the playside. That way, he could occupy the blocks of two linemen like he was born to do, and give my linebackers and rush ends a look at the backfield to assess run or pass.
Film of him doing all these things and more here.
Lake City, Florida defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan would be my three-technique tackle in the class.
The five-star player notched 136 tackles from the DT position as a junior. When paired with a space-eater like Moala, he'd be great for stopping the run and beating interior linemen to the point of attack.
He is also agile enough to act as a pass-rushing tackle of a kind the SEC has grown so fond of.
Film can be found here.
I know it's borderline fetishistic to say, but I would recruit Ray Drew just for those arms!
Those are just the kind of arms you want on a weakside end; one long arm to keep blockers at a distance, the other to get a paw on a passing running back or quarterback and wrap him or slow him up.
Those arms could post 80 tackles, 15 TFLs and eight sacks easily at BK university.
Jernigan, Moala and Drew are great prospects, but defensive end Jermauria Rasco was who I would rely on to set the tone of my defensive line.
Rasco is an absolute bull of a defensive end, capable of overpowering tackles with pure determination. Adding finesse to his game will come with time, but he'd see snaps from day one for his ability to muscle by tackles with strength and active hand work.
He'd get swallowed up a few times by more senior linemen, but I'd take him to get the better of anyone on an island in pass protection.
Film of him in one-on-ones here.
I massively overranked LB Trevon Randle in the B/R 100 to make a point about putting your own stamp on things, but he would still be my top choice for weakside/pass-defending linebacker in the 2011 class.
He amassed a stunning 152 tackles as a junior while grabbing three picks and playing offense and special teams. He has the agility of a safety, plays great in space and makes quarterbacks pay for wobbly throws, and his tackling form is outstanding.
If my defensive line gets half the pressure I think they could, Randle could grab twice as many picks and notch half as many tackles with the same amount of effort.
Steward can defend the run well and throw some hard hits, but what I really liked was how disciplined he looked making his drops in pass coverage.
The ideal cover-two middle linebacker is capable of dropping into the mid- or deep-zone and covering both hash marks.
Steward looked like he could do that and more on film. What he somewhat lacks in height and build he makes up for in his ability to hang with athletic tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
And his hard hitting can really motivate his team, which teams look for out of their middle linebacker as the functional QB of the defense. I'd say he checks out on all counts.
James Vaughters' film is amazing, especially when you realize he's only a sophomore in this particular clip. But the notable part for me was how he played hand down and still did so much damage against the run.
For that reason, I think he'd be a great rush linebacker, blitzing different gaps and disrupting the blocking assignments of the O-line. He challenges and comes off of blocks extremely well, has excellent vision and, when he isn't knocking defenders back, is running right past them.
I would've liked to have seen more footage of him playing in space against the pass, but with two good pass defense linebackers in the class, he'd be freed up to cause havoc in the backfield 80 percent of the time.
Scout loved Leroy Scott back in April, crowning him the top cornerback in the class (temporarily).
Though the hype has died down somewhat with Rivals' sobering assessment of him (he's their No. 16 CB overall), I think Scout was on to something.
I like Scott as one of the better run-defending corners in the class. He squares up, sets his feet and fans his arms out, preventing the ballcarrier from going by.
Though not imposing size-wise, he has good tackling form, driving his shoulder and using every trick to disrupt backs. I especially liked his play on special teams. He remained calm in the face of a returner, set his feet, and drove.
He might need to lose the sitting-in-a-chair pre-snap stance since bigger receivers could just push him over, but otherwise, I'd take him just on the basis of special teams play.
In a class light on cover corners, Grant is a crown jewel, a combine freak with fluid hips, a high football IQ and a workmanlike demeanor.
He's been making the rounds of football combines with the Raw Talent group, a squad of players from Ohio. Grant has visited UNC, Georgia Tech, Cal, UCLA and USC in the past few weeks, and left a trail of hungry secondary coaches in his wake.
With my run support corner in the fold, I'll need a cover corner to blanket the opposition's best receiver, even if it means man coverage. Grant lacks the ideal size (5'11", 175 lbs), but has the speed (4.56 40) and the ups (a whopping 41 inch vertical, verified at a combine) to hang with the best in college football.
Playing to HaSean Clinton-Dix's strengths means putting him as near to the line of scrimmage as possible.
Clinton-Dix plays the safety position akin to the Steelers' Troy Polamalu, as a run-support safety/linebacker hybrid who can destroy blocking assignment or mirror running backs out of the backfield on passing downs.
As coach, I would try to reign in his tendency to overpursue the run. Quarterbacks will be trying to exploit his too-quick run diagnoses until he gets his backpedal in good enough shape that he can bail out when necessary. But his raw athleticism demands to be played at its greatest strength.
Against a passing team...well, let's hope BK University isn't a member of the Big 12.
With all the emphasis I've put on run support, I'd better grab the best free safety prospect in the class. He'll need speed to be covering a lot of ground, size to break up passes and natural instincts.
Atlanta, GA athlete Damian Swann has all that and more. He has breathtaking anticipatory awareness at the deep safety position. His highlight film is full of plays where he appears from nowhere to step in front of a pass for a pick.
Plus, he accelerates through tackles to make them more punishing. He'd be a great player to have in your defensive backfield, a stealthy force for QBs and venturesome wide receivers to reckon with.