CFB Future 100: Top 7 Defensive End Recruits in Class of 2017

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2016

CFB Future 100: Top 7 Defensive End Recruits in Class of 2017

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    Credit: 247Sports

    After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the 2017 class. Here, we present the Top Defensive Ends.

    Other Positions: 

    Few positions on the football field require the level of versatility necessary to flourish at defensive end. Players are challenged to disrupt the passing pocket with authority off the edge, aid interior rush defense and handle monumental perimeter containment assignments.

    The 2017 recruiting class introduces us to a new crop of playmakers at the position, headlined by seven top-100 prospects who star in five states. Here's a breakdown of America's next wave of standout defensive ends, including B/R's assessment based on tackling technique (15 points), explosive strength (20), hands (15), motor (10), run defense (25) and pass-rushing prowess (15).

7. 4-Star Zachary Carter

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 240 lbs

    High School: Hillsborough High School; Tampa, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 strong-side defensive end; No. 87 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 89/100

    Recruitment Status

    Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Carolina and USC have offered Zachary Carter since January, adding to a list of collegiate options that includes Louisville, Ohio State and Ole Miss. Miami and Florida appear to be primary contenders on the local front after extending offers well before his junior season.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Carter could grow into a much more physically imposing athlete than the player we see now, which would help boost his stock as a stout run defender (21/25 points). He's a quick striker off the snap (18/20 explosiveness) and maintains low pad level while tracking opponents out of the offensive backfield.

    He typically takes proper angles in pursuit of the quarterback, but increased pass-rush technique (12/15) will help him switch things up against offensive linemen and penetrate the pocket with increased consistency. Carter collected 76 tackles—10 for loss—and 5.5 sacks last fall.

6. 4-Star Lagaryonn Carson

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 260 lbs

    High School: Liberty-Eylau High School; Texarkana, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 strong-side defensive end; No. 64 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

    Recruitment Status

    Texas head coach Charlie Strong landed another foundational in-state defensive standout in Lagaryonn Carson, who committed to the Longhorns in October. Other interested colleges included TCU, Texas A&M and Arkansas.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Carson collects tackles in bunches behind the line of scrimmage (23/25 run defense), exhibiting excellent awareness at the outset of a play and continually peeking into the backfield while working to shed blocks. He's a freight train headed downhill (20/20 explosive strength), delivering collisions that can alter the way a running back or quarterback approaches plays afterward.

    His 2015 performance earned Texas Class 4A all-state Defensive Player of the Year honors, according to the East Texas Sports Network. Carson collected 125 tackles—25 for loss—and 14 sacks as a junior, tallying 32 total sacks over the past two seasons.

5. 4-Star Chase Young

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 220 lbs

    High School: DeMatha Catholic High School; Hyattsville, Maryland

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 weak-side defensive end; No. 55 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 90/100

    Recruitment Status

    There was already buzz brewing about Chase Young before his dominant 2015 campaign, as offers from Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Penn State and Maryland arrived in advance of the season. September saw interest skyrocket with Georgia, Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State joining the chase, while Oklahoma, USC and Notre Dame have extended offers this winter.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Young emerged as a terrorizing pass-rusher (15/15) during his junior campaign, lining up alongside teammate and 4-star Penn State defensive end signee Shane Simmons. He displayed consistent burst off the edge (18/20 explosive strength) en route to collecting 19 sacks and 27 tackles for loss, according to Brandon Parker of the Washington Post.

    His lateral movement is smooth, as he finds seams and surges toward daylight once he identifies ball location. He wraps up with a massive wingspan (14/15 tackling). His effectiveness as a pass-rusher could markedly improve next season and beyond with better finesse moves based on hand placement (11/15) that create a clear path to the quarterback, which makes him a possible 20-sack candidate in 2016.

4. 4-Star Robert Beal

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 230 lbs

    High School: Norcross High School; Norcross, Georgia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 weak-side defensive end; No. 42 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 97/100

    Recruitment Status

    Robert Beal pledged to Notre Dame on Nov. 1, nearly six months after the Fighting Irish extended an offer. Florida State and Georgia were considered legitimate threats, while UCLA, Texas and Michigan also put offers on the table.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Beal brings exciting dynamics to a defensive front, flashing better speed than many 4-star wide receiver recruits and targeting the backfield with full ferocity (20/20 explosive strength). We could see him fill an outside linebacker role in the right defensive scheme, giving him space to chase down ball-carriers (25/25 run defense) and sprint toward passers from a stand-up position.

    He's an aggressor at the point of attack, jolting offensive linemen with powerful blows delivered from proper pad level, and he uses strong handwork (15/15) to get leverage. Beal recorded 59 tackles and five sacks in 2015, according to Gwinnett Prep Sports.

3. 5-Star Jarez Parks

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 255 lbs

    High School: Sebastian River High School; Sebastian, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 weak-side defensive end; No. 30 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 88/100

    Recruitment Status

    According to Ryan Bartow of 247Sports, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Michigan were among the top options under consideration at the start of last summer, but alternatives continue to unfold. Jarez Parks' recruitment process reached a new level during his junior season when Notre Dame, Stanford and USC entered the equation. 

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Parks is asked to play a variety of roles at Sebastian River. He rushes the quarterback (11/15), supplies perimeter run defense (24/25) and handles downfield pass coverage quite well. He's a relentless defender (10/10 motor) who finishes plays with violent hits and exhibits excellent lateral range as rushing plays develop.

    His projected position remains somewhat undetermined, as elements of his game suggest he could flourish if allotted collegiate linebacker duties in a 3-4 defensive front. Parks, also a state discus champion, compiled 68 tackles and seven sacks last season, according to Jon Santucci of TCPalm.com.

2. 5-Star Joshua Kaindoh

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 237 lbs

    High School: IMG Academy; Bradenton, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 weak-side defensive end; No. 21 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

    Recruitment Status

    Joshua Kaindoh, who transferred to Florida from the Baltimore area before his junior season, attracted early Big Ten interest from Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Those coaching staffs have remained ardent since his move south, while Florida, Ole Miss and LSU factor into a growing collection of potential SEC landing spots.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    When I scouted IMG Academy in person last season, Kaindoh immediately stood out within a defensive unit loaded with elite college recruits. His length at this age is incredible, and he's still developing coordination (18/20 explosive strength) that will allow him to operate at an even higher level next season and beyond.

    Kaindoh isn't quite polished as a pass-rusher yet, but there's so much potential in that department (15/15) that he could prove to be the biggest menace in this class for college quarterbacks. His big mitts grab hold and bring down ball-carriers with consistency, helping him rack up six tackles per game as a junior, per MaxPreps.

1. 5-Star A.J. Epenesa

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 230 lbs

    High School: Edwardsville High School; Edwardsville, Illinois

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 strong-side defensive end; No. 13 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

    Recruitment Status

    A.J. Epenesa plans to carry on a family legacy at Iowa, where his father played, after pledging to the Hawkeyes in January. He chose the home-state squad over an expansive list of suitors that included Florida State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and USC.

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Epenesa presents major problems for opponents intent on establishing the run game toward his side of the field (25/25 run defense), showing explosiveness (20/20) both downhill and laterally in his pursuit of the ball. He's a balanced defender who maintains ideal knee bend and can use athleticism or sheer brute force to break away from blocks.

    His ability to bust into the offensive backfield early commands constant double-teams, which he routinely splits with a low center of gravity and violent hands. Epenesa secured 39 tackles—11 for loss—and six sacks last season.

    All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.

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