Recruiting: Top Defensive Ends

Sept. 12, 2005

CSTV Recruiting with Tom Lemming
Generation Next

By Tom Lemming

Special to


1. Ricky Sapp, Bamberg-Ehrhardt (S.C.), 6-5, 220 lbs., 4.45 (40-yard dash)


Overall, it's kind of a down year for defensive ends. There's no one clear-cut guy but, rather, four or five players that could be No. 1 by the end of the year. As for now, though, the top spot is held by South Carolina product Sapp, who complements an explosive burst (he runs the 100 meters in 10.6) with excellent technical skill. If he can gain another 40 pounds over the next few years, he could turn into a dynamic pass rusher. He's committed to Clemson.


2. Marcus Tillman, Franklin (Miss.), 6-4, 250 lbs., 4.7


Tillman's high school coach, Grady McCluskey, says the uber-versatile lineman and tight end is the best player he's ever coached. One of the top three players in Mississippi, Tillman is a big, strong guy that can really get upfield in a hurry, which is what you need in a pass rusher. He's a remarkable athlete (stronger than Sapp) who recorded 16 quarterback sacks as a junior. During the winter, he averages 20 points per game for the basketball team, and finished second in the discus at the state track and field championships with a toss of 132 feet. He's committed to LSU -- the Tigers really got themselves a real good one.


3. Eddie Jones, Kilgore (Texas), 6-3, 235 lbs., 4.7


The best player in northeast Texas helped lead his team to a state title. He doesn't have the ideal size for a defensive lineman yet, but he'll grow into a 270-pounder over time. He's a tough, smart, instinctive guy who's a leader on the field and makes everything look easy. To top it off, he has a closing burst like nobody's business. Last year, he recorded 131 tackles, 11 sacks, 36 tackles for losses, caused three fumbles and batted down 12 passes. He's committed to Texas.


4. Raven Gray, Enterprise (Ala.), 6-4, 243 lbs., 4.6


As far as potential, he has as much as Ricky Sapp. While he's a very promising tight end prospect, the sky is the limit for Gray at defensive end. The Alabama native is a wildly exciting ballplayer on defense -- high school offensive lines can't contain him and he demands, at the very least, double-teams. Often they put a tackle, guard and tight end on him -- and then even the fullback at times chimes in. He's so quick, and so active with an excellent burst. There no doubt he's a college All-American waiting to happen; he just needs to pick up his grades a bit. If he qualifies, he'll probably go to Auburn, Louisiana State or Mississippi State and will be an instant impact player.


5. Jermaine Williams, Maryvale (Ariz.), 6-4, 250 lbs., 4.7


Williams is the No. 1 player in Arizona. While the All-State selection is not as explosive as some of the guys ahead of him, he's just as productive when you look at the numbers. On defense, he recorded 100 tackles, 11 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. As a fullback -- he's a T.J. Duckett-style runner who's virtually unstoppable once he gets a full head of steam -- he carried 200 times for 1,300 yards and 16 scores. He's got a great attitude, his motor is always going and he's relentless in pursuit. One of those guys that just makes things look pretty easy. He's a big-time kid, and he's committed to Arizona State.


6. Lamarr Houston, Doherty (Colo.), 6-3, 256 lbs., 4.7


Houston may be the most intriguing of the bunch. He played fullback last year, but everybody's projecting him as a defensive end or linebacker because of his outstanding athletic ability. One of the two best players in Colorado, he would prefer to play fullback but obviously he's going to be outgrowing that and a lot of people don't want him there (to appease him, his suitors will tell him they're going to put him at fullback without intending to do so -- which a lot of people do anyway). I just think he'll wind up at end because he's such a big guy. Houston has played inside linebacker and defensive end but, like Williams, he's cast from the Duckett mold. Last year, he averaged close to 14 yards per carry on offense. Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska are among the schools on his short list.


7. Jermaine Cunningham, Stephenson (Ga.), 6-4, 220 lbs., 4.7


Cunningham plays on a team with a linebacker named Marcus Ball who's getting all the attention. But when you see this guy play, you know you're watching a kid with All-American potential He's thin-looking, but when you see him on film he makes just about every play -- last year, he notched 123 tackles, 13 sacks and 27 tackles for losses. He's one of those natural athletes that needs to put on more weight and gain strength, but if he does, look out! Among the schools chasing him are Auburn, Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma.


8. Lawrence Marsh, Josey (Ga.), 6-5, 260 lbs., 4.6


Marsh is the other guy from Georgia. He's big, not quite as active as Cunningham, but a smart and flexible kid with long arms and good body control. He's a very solid and steady ballplayer -- adequate against the pass and the run but not outstanding against either. Last year he tallied 85 tackles and 8 sacks. The Georgia prospect's grades are excellent. He's just one of the more reliable and serviceable defensive lineman in the country, but not as explosive as some of the other guys. His offers have included Notre Dame, Clemson, North Carolina, Florida and Oklahoma.


9. Aaron Maybin, Mt. Hebron (Md.), 6-4, 220 lbs., 4.6


Maybin is very explosive, probably the fastest guy in the state of Maryland. He's built like Cunningham, where he could afford to put on weight and strength. But he sure can run, and that's what the colleges are looking for in a tight end or a defensive end: a guy that can move his feet quickly and be tough and aggressive. Aaron is that. He's got all the Florida schools courting him, as well as Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech. Everybody in the ACC and SEC has noticed him by now.


10. Kallen Wade, Withrow (Ohio), 6-5, 220 lbs., 4.6


Wade is almost identical to Maybin and Cunningham. Last year he recorded a league-leading 13 sacks and garnered All-Cincinnati area honors. What he needs to do is really gain weight and strength, but he's very explosive. He can hit, spin and redirect with the best of them. He reminds me of Justin Tuck, the All-American from Notre Dame who left early last year -- Tuck came out as a 215-pounder, took a few years to gain strength and weight and, when he did, exploded onto the scene. Also, like Tuck, Wade will play college ball in South Bend. 



Football Home