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May 13, 2013

Rivals Camp Series: Top defensive linemen

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

The regional portion of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour is over, wrapping up in Chicago and totaling 15 events around the country. Rivals.com breaks down the best of the best at each position with a look at the defensive side of the ball this week, as well as the athletes. Led by Justin Jones, who surprised everyone at the RCS Atlanta, here's the list of defensive linemen.

(Note: The following list does not necessarily reflect future changes in prospect rankings; it is based only on performances at regional Rivals Camp Series events. Many other factors and events will be taken into account before updated rankings are revealed the week of May 20. This list is for the class of 2014 only. Underclassmen will be listed separately.)

RIVALS CAMP SERIES TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN
1. DT Justin Jones, Austell (Ga.) South Cobb
Jones showed up late at the RCS Atlanta stop, but with the way he performed at the event, many offensive linemen probably hoped he would have missed the event altogether. Jones' weapon of choice against blockers is his violent set of hands, which combined with his strength and explosiveness off the ball makes him a handful to deal with. Jones has offers from Miami, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and others, but he hasn't started to cut his list as of yet.

2. DE Lorenzo Carter, Norcross (Ga.)
Carter came to the RCS Atlanta well-established as one of the top defensive prospects in the country. He only helped his case by showing the athleticism that has earned him an offer from pretty much every major program. Whether it's defensive end or outside linebacker, Carter has the skill set to disrupt from either position, and looked like he added muscle from the end of last football season. Carter is still keeping his school preference close, but Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee and Auburn are all in the mix.

3. DE Davon Godchaux, Plaquemine (La.)
Godchaux entered the RCS Houston as a Rivals250 standout with high expectations, but it is safe to say he exceeded all of them. His first step was overwhelming to any and all offensive linemen who dared get in his way, and he also showed a variety of moves and strength on his way to Defensive Line MVP honors. Godchaux held several offers before the camp and the list has only continued to grow since.

4. DE Dewayne Hendrix, O'Fallon (Ill.)
A Rivals250 prospect with more than 20 offers, Hendrix came into the St. Louis RCS on his home field and backed up the early hype by taking home Defensive Line MVP honors. Tennessee was the team to beat for Hendrix's services late last month, but USC is showing increased attention and would be a strong contender with an offer.

5. DT Derrick Nnadi, Virginia Beach (Va.)
Nnadi surprised a lot of people with his performance at the Richmond RCS. His explosiveness off the line and tremendous lower body strength made it very difficult for any offensive lineman to handle his push. The slippery footing in Richmond actually helped Nnadi because the offensive linemen had a tough time anchoring to stop his rush.

6. DE Da'Shawn Hand, Woodbridge (Va.) Woodbridge Senior
Hand came into the Richmond RCS with the burden of the high expectations that come with being the nation's top-ranked player. With that in mind, it looked like he was trying to be a little too fancy and the slippery field conditions hurt his performance. Hand still had the extremely fast first step and good hand technique that he is known for, but it didn't look as though he was being as aggressive as usual.

7. DT Andrew Brown, Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith
Brown's combination of size, speed, strength, athleticism and technique were on full display at the Richmond RCS. Betrayed by the slippery conditions, Brown was still able to show his great first step and excellent hand technique. His performance wasn't as dominant as others in the past, but he definitely still has the ability to be a big-time playmaker on the interior of the defensive line.

8. DE Gerald Willis III, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr
Willis is as steady as they come. At the RCS Houston, Willis used a wide array of moves to best his opponent as well as the power to bull over anyone in his way. He entered as the highest-rated defensive lineman at the camp and performed well with a target on his back. On the recruiting front, Willis continues to draw plenty of attention and lists a top three of Florida, LSU, and Texas A&M.

9. DE Gelen Robinson, St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
The question on the 6-foot-1, 230-pound Robinson since early in his recruitment is whether he is a future linebacker or defensive end? However, at the Chicago RCS, Robinson had another standout performance at defensive end and walked away with MVP honors. Several Big Ten schools have extended offers to Robinson, including Purdue, where his father was a hoops star.

10. DT Zaycoven Henderson, Longview (Tex.)
Henderson shied away from no one at the RCS Dallas, taking on all comers and even challenging top offensive lineman Demetrius Knox. His first step is a quick one in the middle and he showed a variety of moves and combinations. Henderson has committed to play college ball at TCU.

11. DE Qualen Cunningham, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton
Cunningham is a bit shorter than the ideal defensive end, but it's not as though he's significantly undersized. The inch or two he lacks in height is offset by speed and power. He's extremely young for his grade and could grow significantly over the next year. Cunningham dominated most offensive linemen at the RCS Phoenix, using a an explosive first step, which is rare for a high school lineman.

12. DE Chad Thomas, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
Thomas has one of the quickest first steps of any defensive lineman in this class. He is a tremendous speed rusher who can get up field in a blink of an eye. At the RCS Miami stop, Thomas captured the defensive line MVP award with a couple of wins against Rivals100 offensive tackle KC McDermott. It was his combination of speed and getting around the edge that has major BCS programs looking to land the Miami native.

13. DE Connor Humphreys, Portland (Ore.) Central Catholic
Humphreys has a nice blend of power and speed from the defensive end position. He has developed well physically and has nearly zero percent body fat. He's fast enough to get to the edge and blitz that way, or he can bull-rush offensive linemen and be successful there, too. At the Los Angeles RCS, Humphreys was basically unstoppable during one-on-ones.

14. DE Breeland Speaks, Jackson (Miss.) Callaway
The Callaway product benefits from going against Rivals250 offensive tackle Rod Taylor in practice every day and it certainly shows in the camp atmosphere. During the RCS Birmingham event, Speaks dominated from inside and outside. He was able to mix up his speed rush with a few power moves, while shooting his hands upfield. Speaks wasn't expected to take home MVP honors, but that's just what he did in the backyard of some top defenders from the Yellowhammer State.

15. DT Thomas Holley, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Lincoln
Holley has only been playing football for a short time, but he came to the Newark RCS and put on a show. The 6-foot-4, 299-pound Holley is a former basketball player and has the natural quickness that is very difficult for offensive linemen to handle. He got by on pure natural abilities at the camp and is refining his technique. Even at this early stage of his career, Holley showed that he can be a dominant player at the next level.

16. DT Enoch Smith Jr., Chicago (Il.) Mt. Carmel
Smith looked longer and stronger than when we had last seen him, measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 272 pounds at the Chicago RCS. Technically, he has always been ahead of the curve, and we were again impressed with the sound fundamentals he showed in contending for MVP honors in a deep defensive line group. Smith is a solid commitment to Michigan State.

17. DE Joe Henderson, Cleveland (Ohio) Shaker Heights
There was a lot of jawing between Cleveland-area rivals Henderson and offensive guard Marcelys Jones at the Pittsburgh RCS, but at day's end, both came away with MVP honors at their respective positions. The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Henderson has bulked up since his junior season, giving him better strength at the point of attack to complement his great speed off the edge.

18. DE Jalyn Holmes, Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor
At the Richmond RCS, Holmes used his natural physical gifts to make it a long day for the offensive linemen. His speed combined with a 6-foot-5 frame made it very hard for offensive linemen to get a good push on him. There is still plenty of room left for Holmes to fill out, which means that added strength will really benefit him, especially when he tries to make a move to the inside.

19. DE Kentavious Street, Greenville (N.C.) Rose
Street showed up at RCS Richmond looking to dethrone the nation's No. 1 player, Da'Shawn Hand. While he might not have outshined Hand, he still showed that he is one of the most talented defensive players in the country. After a slow start to the camp, Street showed his trademark explosiveness off the line and looked like he had improved his lower body strength. Street recently declared N.C. State his leader, with Miami, Georgia, LSU and Florida State also in the mix.

20. DT Craig Evans, Sun Prairie (Wisc.)
After not seeing Evans since last fall, we weren't sure how he would show up physically at the Chicago RCS. That didn't last long as it became apparent the Rivals250 prospect has put in good work since his junior season ended. The Wisconsin commit measured in at a very good 6-foot-2 and 312 pounds, while displaying sound technique and good strength during his Chicago appearance.

21. DT Khairi Clark, Hollywood (Fla.)
Clark flashed his ability to be a force in the middle by using his body power to knock his opponent off balance at the Miami RCS. However, he did lose a pair of reps against Harry Dumervil, as he couldn't counter the length and power from the two-star prospect. We would like to see him shed a few pounds, so he can use the quickness that made him a coveted prospect on a more consistent basis.

22. DE Denzel Ware, Opelika (Ala.)
The last time we saw Ware he was a touch undersized for the end spot, but he added some upper body mass, which allowed him to take on bigger tackles at the Birmingham RCS. He displayed a nice compact rip move to go along with good hand placement in one-on-ones. We like the transformation of his body frame and feel it will continue to pay dividends, especially if he ends up in the SEC at the next level.

23. DT Ricky Walker, Hampton (Va.) Bethel
Walker may not look like a dominant defensive tackle prospect, but he really put on a show at the Richmond RCS. Most of the offensive linemen couldn't handle his quickness off the line and his hand technique was some of the best at the camp. Walker does still have room in his frame to add muscle, which would really benefit him when trying to make counter moves.

24. DT Trey Lealaimatafao, San Antonio (Tex.) Warren
A little on the short side, but still stout and strong, Lealaimatafao proved to be too much for the competition during one-on-one drills. He packs a powerful punch and made quick work of everyone he faced at the RCS Houston. When he received his invitation to the event, Lealaimatafao was just beginning to draw major attention. Since that time, he has been raking in offers from across the country. He recently committed to Texas.

25. DT Michael Barwick, Cincinnati (Ohio) Summit Country Day
The 6-foot, 291-pound Barwick is a seasoned veteran of the camp circuit, and he made sure to test himself against the top offensive linemen at the Cincinnati RCS. That effort paid off after Barwick easily handled all comers in the one-on-one portion of the event and took home a defensive line MVP award. Barwick currently holds offers from eight schools, most notably Indiana.

26. DE Deondre Clark, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass
The thing about Clark that stood out at the RCS Dallas was his quickness. His foot speed was too much for most opponents on the day, but he also mixed in several moves to make his way into the offensive backfield. At this point, Clark seems to have his eye on the SEC, but Oklahoma is not letting him go without a fight.

27. DT Michael Sawyers, Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth
As a classic-style defensive tackle, Sawyers does most of his damage against the run. However, he showed terrific strength during one-on-ones at the RCS Atlanta. Sawyers has a great motor and it will surely take more than one blocker to slow him down on the field this fall. He recently picked up offers from Miami and Purdue, and already has offers from Florida State, Ole Miss and Tennessee.

28. DE Verondtae Wilkinson, Trotwood (Ohio) Trotwood-Madison
Similar to fellow Midwest defensive end Gelen Robinson, the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Wilkinson is a 'tweener who is likely best suited for a hybrid outside linebacker, defensive end role in college. He lined up at defensive end -- where he plays in high school -- at the Cincinnati RCS, and was one of the most explosive rushers at the event.

29. DE Joyan Williams, New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr
Williams may be "the other" defensive end at Edna Karr High, but do not think that means he is any less of a talent. At the RCS Houston event, Williams displayed a deep arsenal of moves and a great first step to get the best of his opposition. His recruitment was beginning to heat up before the camp and continues to build as more colleges take a look.

30. DE Garrald McDowell, Covington (La.)
McDowell impressed as soon as he walked into the RCS Houston. At his size, McDowell has little bad weight and the frame to add to an already impressive build. He is strong at the point of attack and does a good job of getting separation and controlling his opposition. McDowell's recruitment was already taking off before the camp, but he has since added several big-time BCS offers and is taking his time with the process.

31. DE Mick Stoltenberg, Gretna (Neb.)
We had seen film of the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Stoltenberg prior to his appearance at the St. Louis RCS, so we knew this was someone to watch. However, the extent to which Stoltenberg impressed was not entirely expected. Few teams had shown much interest in Stoltenberg prior to his St. Louis RCS performance, but his recruitment has taken off since.

32. DT Courtel Jenkins, Wayne (N.J.) DePaul Catholic
Jenkins took the most reps of any of the defensive lineman at the Newark RCS. At 6-foot-1, 315 pounds, Jenkins is in surprisingly good shape and keeps a high motor throughout all of his reps. Jenkins was extremely competitive and made sure he finished every rep.

33. DT Deshaywn Middleton, Winston-Salem (N.C.) Parkland
Middleton isn't a guy who is going to wow with his speed off the ball, but he made his impact by never giving up on a rep at the RCS Charlotte stop. He's very physical and he doesn't stop until the whistle blows. He also knows how to keep good leverage and then overpower with his strength. Middleton has offers from N.C. State, Wake Forest and Duke, with North Carolina showing increased interest as of late.

34. DE Trent Harris, Winter Park (Fla.)
At the Orlando RCS, Harris flashed his tremendous quickness off the snap and his ability to work outside and inside against slower linemen. While he's not the biggest defensive end, he showed the athleticism to be a pass-rush specialist, as well as a potential outside linebacker.

35. DE Harold Landry, Fayetteville (N.C.) Pine Forest
Landry was a standout at the RCS Charlotte after showing an array of moves and surprising athleticism. He committed early to Boston College, and if the Eagles can keep him they'll likely have a guy who can play either defensive end or linebacker. South Carolina, Clemson and other schools are making a push for Landry, but he's staying true to Boston College for the time being.

36. DE Nile Sykes, Lombard (Ill.) Montini
Although Sykes lands on the defensive line list, he spent the entire Chicago RCS working with the linebacker group. At 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds, linebacker might be the position for which Sykes is best suited in the future. He hung right with Rivals100 linebackers Nyles Morgan and Clifton Garrett throughout position drills and one-on-ones.

37. DE Lonnie Marts III, Jacksonville (Fla.) Harvest Community
Marts is the son of Lonnie Marts II, who spent time in the NFL as a linebacker and standout special teamer. The younger Marts lined up at running back as a sophomore, but after a significant growth spurt, he is now settled on the defensive line. At the Orlando RCS, Marts won most of his reps while relying on his technique and fundamentals. He has the lineage and agility to be a big-time prospect along the front four.

38. DE Dylan Thompson, Lombard (Ill.) Montini
The 6-foot-4, 271-pound Thompson brought up the level of play for the entire line group at the Chicago RCS. An Ohio State commit, Thompson is a fiery competitor who is not afraid to get vocal and motivate those around him. Thompson is listed as a defensive end, but his size and strength may necessitate a move to the three-technique spot in college.

39. DT Antoine White, Milville (N.J.)
It was great to see White at the Newark RCS. At 6-foot-2, 287 pounds, White has a very good frame and that can be filled out at the next level. There is still a lot he needs to learn from a technique standpoint, mainly hand technique and playing with leverage. White also seemed very receptive to coaching.

40. DT Armon Watts, St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers College High
Watts took more reps than any other lineman at the RCS stop in St. Louis. His drive to compete was only matched by the results of his countless one-on-one snaps. Most impressive were his quick hands and violent initial effort. Most surprising was the speed he showed, despite being a larger lineman.

41. DT Tae Thibodeaux, New Iberia (La.) Westgate
Thibodeaux, who became known for his ripped compression at the RCS Houston, is on the smaller side for a defensive tackle, but he is as active as they come. There was hardly an answer for the Westgate standout, as he routinely got into offensive linemen during one-on-ones and then worked through them to make the play.

42. DE Rohan Blackwood, Brooksville (Fla.) Nature Coast
Blackwood is a basketball player by trade who just came on the scene last fall. He impressed with how far he has come in a short period of time at the Orlando RCS. The two-sport star was relentless during one-on-ones, constantly getting up field and to the quarterback before a couple of linemen were out of their stance. His athleticism is off the charts and it's no surprise that he received BCS offers following his camp showing.

43. DE Jermaine Sheriff, Hialeah (Fla.)
Sheriff hails from the same high school that has produced NFL defensive linemen Corey Liuget and 2013 NFL draftee Corey Lemonier. He might not be as high of a prospect as the aforementioned players, but he caught our attention at the RCS Miami stop. In one-on-ones, Sheriff was able to beat his man off the ball with above average speed. We would like to see him develop a few more moves, but that should come with reps and film study.

44. DE Khyiris Luavai, West Valley (Utah.) Granger
Luavai is a somewhat unknown commodity without a single scholarship offer. At RCS Phoenix, he defeated four-star tackle Casey Tucker in one rep and ended up on the winning end of most other matchups as well. Luavai moves well for his size and doesn't just rely solely on bull rushing. Instead, he possesses a touch of finesse that acts as a change of pace.

45. DT Brock Boxen, Beaver Falls (Pa.)
Boxen was an absolute bull at the Pittsburgh RCS. He played with great leverage and leg drive, but lacked very good hand technique. He did make a few moves to the inside, but he was also caught a few times. Boxen's lack of sustained quickness and explosiveness is an issue, but one that can be corrected with hard work inside and outside of the weight room.



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