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Oakland Nike: Best of the defense

After previously breaking down the top offensive performers at the Oakland Nike Football Training Camp, today we take a look at the top defensive performers out of the class of 2014. The defensive group featured arguably the two best position groups at the camp in the linebackers and defensive backs and there were no shortage of standouts.

Adarius Pickett's complete performance earned hiim an invite to The Opening.

Defensive back

1. Adoree Jackson, Junipero (Calif.) Gardena Serra – Athletically it is so obvious that Jackson is elite. His ability to burst out of his back pedal, flip his hips and quickly cover ground is as good as I’ve seen in 2014. He is one of the few defensive backs that leaves no doubt that his athleticism can overcome his average size.

2. Andre Chachere, Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West – One of the most complete defensive backs in attendance, Chachere showed good size and great reactive quickness. He stayed in the hip pocket of wide receivers all day long and had one of the days best days testing among the DBs (38-inch vertical, 4.06 shuttle). Currently he only holds offers from San Jose State and Houston but we expect that list to grow significantly this summer.

3. Ron Robinson, Corona (Calif.) Santiago – Listed as a safety, Robinson certainly has safety size but he looked as comfortable as any cornerback in coverage on Sunday. It looked as though the 6-2 defender got his hands on as many balls as any other defensive back at the event and with only an offer from Northwester, Robinson is another prospect who’s profile is due for a major rise.

4. Kevin Griffin, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle – Another big, physical cornerback with plenty of speed (48-second 400 meter track guy), Griffin is not only tough at the line of scrimmage but when the ball is in the air, he closes extremely quickly and can transition out of his backpedal and into his break extremely quickly. Currently his offers are Washington State and Montana but Griffin is a BCS level recruit.

5. John Plattenburg, Corona (Calif.) Centennial – Plattenburg was one of the top overall athletes at the defensive back position and earned the position MVP for his efforts. He’s still relatively new to the position so there were some skills in position work that he wasn’t as comfortable with but when he was turned loose in competitive settings, he was outstanding in just reacting and getting the football. His offer list has exploded of late and his recruitment continues to rise.

6. Adarius Pickett, El Cerrito (Calif.) El Cerrito – Pickett is the complete package at cornerback. He has good size, plays physical, is instinctive and maybe most importantly, he loves to compete. Despite a high profile and with little to prove, very few defensive backs took as many reps as Pickett and most of those reps were wins. Pickett’s play pulled him an invite to The Opening.

7. Brandon Simmons, Arlington (Texas) Mansfield Timberview – Simmons is one of the more cerebral, instinctive safeties in the 2014 class. He’s efficient in his reads, doesn’t take many false steps, takes great angles and always seems to be around the football. The Stanford commit earned an invitation to The Opening with his performance.

Linebackers

1. Joey Alfieri, Portland (Oreg.) Jesuit – Alfieri’s performance on Sunday earned him both the linebacker MVP award and an invite to The Opening. Both were well-deserved as Alfieri is really unique prospect. Athleticism is really what sets the big Oregon linebacker apart. He’s very quick twitch in all of his movements and can get to full speed immediately. He also has good size at the linebacker position.

2. Michael Lazarus, Berkley (Calif.) High School – Last year at the northern California Nike Camp, Lazarus was a big bodied underclassman that was a little bit slow of foot who you hoped would develop into a prospect. That development has taken place. Lazarus showed outstanding feet, change of direction and quickness and he already possessed one of the best linebacker frames in California.

3. Derik Calhoun, El Cerrito (Calif.) High School – Calhoun is one of the quickest linebackers in the country in his ability to move laterally and accelerate to the football. Though he struggled at times in the pass-rush portion of Sunday’s camp, he was still one of the most athletic linebackers to compete at the stacked event.

4. Chandler Leniu, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco – Leniu has an unassuming frame as a stocky interior type of backer but it would be a mistake to underestimate him. The three-star was as effective as any other linebacker in getting to the football during pass-rush drills, showing great rush instincts, quickness and strength.

5. Jamardre Cobb, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian – Cobb was one of the more competitive linebackers in attendance. He uses his hands well to disengage from defenders, doesn’t stay blocked long and showed plus athleticism in coverage during both 7on7 work and 1on1s.

6. Fred Warner, San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills – A BYU commit, Warner definitely looks the part. He’s a very athletic 6-3, and has great movement skills. Going through agility and position work, Warner was athletic as any other linebacker in attendance. Though he comes across as more of an athletic outside linebacker than a bruiser in the run game, he showed plenty of upside on Sunday.

Defensive Line

1. Tashon Smallwood, Fresno (Calif.) Central East – Smallwood isn’t the biggest defensive lineman and others will pass the look test over him but he is certainly effective. The USC commit has tremendous quickness for a big-bodied defender and really uses leverage well to get to the quarterback. As he develops physically, his good feet will serve him well in the Pac-12.

2. Mori Savini, Sandy (Utah) Jordan – At 5-9, 265 pounds, it’s unlikely that Savini is a major college prospect. Few schools will take a chance on a player with those measurables but he has to be included on the top performers list. His punch, hand strength and hand quickness were unreal. It didn’t matter how big the offensive lineman in front of him was, Savini could influence him with his hands and get to the quarterback. Savini could be a FCS steal for someone.

3. Sharif Williams, Fresno (Calif.) Central East – While Smallwood has the more athletic upside compared to his teammate Sharif Williams, Williams has the more impressive frame. Well put-together as a physical presence inside, Williams is quick and athletic at defensive tackle and had one of the better days among the interior defenders.

4. Jase Franke, Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure – Affectionately referred to on Sunday as “Red” due to his fire engine red hair, Franke only showed one speed and that was full-go. He’s a big strong, barrel-chested defensive end that could project to defensive tackle or offensive guard but currently has very little bad weight on him. He also had one of the best motors at the event and had to be slowed down by the coaches at times. He only has one offer to date but could be a summer candidate for more.

5. Meshech Burrell, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle – Burrell is an interesting prospect. He didn’t play much last year for the powerhouse program of De La Salle and he didn’t really insert himself much in the one-on-one portion of the day on Sunday either. He makes this list as a projection more than anything else because his 6-5, 235-pound frame was probably the best defensive end body in attendance and during the position work, it was hard to ignore his quickness and athleticism. Burrell is a senior sleeper to monitor in 2013.

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