The nation’s top defensive tackle leads a strong group up front. Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith tackle Andrew Brown is an absolute load up front and will be very tough to handle. The Virginia commit has size, strength and athleticism and should show why he’s a top 10 player nationally.
Dexter Wideman and Thomas Holley are two more tackles to watch closely. Wideman, a soft Florida State commitment from Saluda (S.C.) plays a lot more on the edge but projects inside in college. He has the frame to easily add on 20-30 pounds or so and shows a relentless motor on film.
Holley, a Penn State commitment out of Brooklyn (N.Y) Abraham Lincoln, was one of the stars of The Opening last summer. He’s a big physical kid with the ability to step in and play early for the Nittany Lions as soon as next fall.
It’s not often you see a player committed to Alabama considered somewhat of a sleeper but Bossier City (La.) Airline tackle O.J. Smith is probably the least heralded in this group. At 6-foot-2, 320-pounds, he’s an absolute load in the middle and will hope to show he’s worthy of a Tide offer.
New Orleans (La.) Edna Karr standout Gerald Willis leads the defensive ends. Willis drew rave at The Opening last summer when he beat Cameron Robinson, the nation’s top overall lineman, on back to back reps. He’s a big kid who looks like he could grow in to a tackle but has the quickness to play on the edge as well.
Arlington (Texas) Martin’s Myles Garrett is rated as the nation’s No. 6 defensive end prospect, just two spots behind Willis. The Texas A&M commit is one of the most explosive lineman in the country with linebacker speed coming off the edge.
San Antonio (Texas) Brennan and Texas commit Derick Roberson is another top 10 rush end nationally coming in at No. 9 in the Scout.com rankings. Like Garrett, Roberson has great speed and can really get up the field. Greensboro (N.C.) Page’s Lorenzo Featherston round the group. At 6-foot-7, 220-pounds, Featherston is long, lean, athletic and very tough to handle one on one.
Few players will be watched as closely as Auburn (Ala.) outside ‘backer Rashaan Evans, the nation’s top player at his position. Evans was just bumped to 5-star status on Scout.com and it’s definitely well deserved. He has everything you could want in a linebacker- a great frame, hyper athleticism, toughness and the ability to make plays as a pass rusher, against the run and in pass coverage. He’s simply a very special talent.
Columbia (S.C.) Spring Valley and Alabama commit Christian Miller is the No. 4 outside ‘backer in the nation. Miller is a natural pass rusher who plays a lot with his hand down but size wise, he’ll have to make the adjustment to play more of a traditional outside linebacker role in college. One thing he can do is run and he should make a ton of plays in this game.
Jacob Pugh, a Florida State commitment out of Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby is yet another top 10 OLB on the Red defense, checking in at No. 8 on Scout.com. Like Miller, Pugh can really rush the passer and plays more like a defensive end right now. At a lean 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, he probably doesn’t have the frame to hold enough weight to play defensive end in full time in college but has the athleticism and speed to be a very good linebacker and deadly in pass rush situations.
At inside linebacker, the Red squad has two of the nation’s best in Kain Daub and Tre Williams, both rated among the top five middle ‘backers in the nation.
Williams, out of Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul’s Episcopal and an Auburn commit is the No. 2 inside ‘backer in the nation. He has it all- size, vision, instincts and loves to hit. Daub, the No. 4 ILB out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood has committed Florida State. He has similar size to Williams, maybe even bigger and brings the same physical, hard hitting style to the position.
The Red team secondary is led by the nation’s No. 3 safety in Virginia commit Quin Blanding. Blanding, out of Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside, does everything well and looks like a future star. He’s big and physical, has great football instincts and leads.
Stephen Roberts and Dylan Sumner-Gardner are the safeties for the Red squad. Sumner-Gardner, a Texas A&M commit from Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite is a do it all safety who can play the run and the pass. He’s a physical player with excellent cover skills. Roberts is actually a 4-star corner by Scout but he’ll play safety in this game. The Auburn commit has played safety in the past and is a physical player that should have no problem making the adjustment.
At corner, all eyes will be Gardena (Calif.) Serra’s Adoree Jackson. Jackson is the top recruit out west and the most explosive player to come out of the region since DeAnthony Thomas (Oregon). Jackson has great speed, is very physical and his ball skills are second to none. In fact, he has actually had a bigger impact at receiver this past season and could have a big impact on kick and punt returns in this game.
While Jackson is the No. 3 rated corner in the nation, Marlon Humphrey and Jalen Tabor aren’t far behind, checking in at No. 4 and 5 respectively.
Humphrey, out of Hoover (Ala.), has the prototypical size all colleges covet in a corner and is very physical. He shows the speed to turn and run with a receiver and is very instinctual.
Tabor, from Washington (D.C.) Edison-Friendship, looks like a safety and is all of 6-foot-2, 195-pounds. He can run though, is very smooth and is great in press coverage.
New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine and Texas commit Jermaine Roberts rounds out the secondary. Roberts is one of the top return men in the game and shows explosive speed. He’s not as big as some of the corners on this team but has superior quickness and plays bigger than his size.