After breaking down the top 10 performing offensive linemen, we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball and look at the top defensive linemen from Tuesday’s workout at The Opening.
Thomas Holley backed up his testing numbers with strong play on the field.
1- Thomas Holley, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln- Holley was the most consistently good performer during contact drills and one-on-ones. The 6-foot-4, 303-pounder is polished, agile, strong and athletic. His good testing numbers on Monday (5.19 in the 40-yard dash, 4.72 shuttle, 42 power ball) are an indication of his athleticism. What perhaps surprised was his advanced ability technique-wise in the actual football work. On the recruiting front, Holley recently visited Florida, Florida State and Miami. Notre Dame, Alabama, Penn State and a host of others are in the mix. The Irish signed Ishaq Williams out of Abraham Lincoln a few years back and most believe Notre Dame is the team to beat.
2- Andrew Brown, Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith- Brown won the vast majority of his reps and his quickness and power make him a tough match for any offensive lineman. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound Brown had an even better day than Holley testing Monday (5.06 in the 40 and a blistering 4.47 shuttle) and his plus athleticism makes him one of the elite prospects in the country, perhaps top three. Simply put, there may not be a more dangerous defensive tackle prospect in the country in terms of ability to disrupt and make big plays.
3- Bijhon Jackson, El Dorado (Ark.)- The 6-foot-1.5, 330-pound Jackson is a true interior prospect. He’s not going to blow you away laterally or running any sort of 40, shuttle or otherwise. What he can do, though, is flat out move in one-on-one drills. While he did not win every rep, he won most of them, including several against Michigan State center commit Brian Allen, who rarely lost. Jackson does it with quickness and power and once he gets to Arkansas, where he is firmly committed, he’s only going to get better. Jackson was very impressive Tuesday.
1- Da’Shawn Hand, Woodbridge (Va.)- Hand, the No. 1 prospect in the 2014 class according to 247Sports, wasn’t eye-popping during his reps and took some on the interior where he showed off his strength, but of the defensive ends that worked out in pads, he was the best over Barnett by a hair. The 6-foot-5, 254-pounder reminds us a bit of current Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence with the various things that he can do. No pun intended, but it’s Hand’s hands that set him apart. Hand has a top three of Michigan, Florida and Alabama (no order) with LSU and USC lurking. He will decide before December.
2- Gerald Willis, New Orleans (La.) Edna Carr- Though per high school rules in Louisiana, Willis could not compete with pads on, he was still outstanding. First, one of the things that stands out is that Willis is now 6-foot-3, 275 pounds. That’s quite big. The second thing is Willis is still skilled rushing the passer. In fact, he displayed excellent quickness and moved around like he was 240 during the one-on-one drills and was the only prospect to get the best of Cameron Robinson multiple times.
3- Garrald McDowell, Covington (La.)- Boy there sure is a ton of talent in Louisiana this cycle and here’s another one. Another Pelican State prospect that has to work outside of pads, the 6-foot-1, 252-pound McDowell was impressive. He’s exceptionally quick (backed up by a 4.56 shuttle that he ran Monday), uses his hands well and can get to the passer. Though 247Sports currently has McDowell projected as a defensive tackle, he may just end up being a shorter, thicker end. LSU recently offered and the Tigers are the current team to beat over Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ole Miss and others.
Though he was unable to put the pads on, Gerald Willis was impressive.
4- Derek Barnett, Brentwood (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy- The 6-foot-3.5, 265-pound Barnett proved that his offer list, which expanded considerably during the spring, is well-deserved as he was one of the better performers in pads during one-on-ones, showing the quickness that allowed him to run a stellar 4.24 shuttle during Monday’s testing. Barnett also has excellent strength, which he used to win more than his share of one-on-one battles.
5- Jalyn Holmes, Norfolk (Va.) Lake Taylor- Holmes, an Ohio State commit, did not win every rep, but the ones he did win he did based on impressive athleticism. Like Hand, Holmes is impressive when he uses his hands. Given his athletic versatility, the Buckeyes are getting a good one in the U.S. Army All-American. The question may just be what exactly he does.
6- Chad Thomas, Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington- Thomas is still extremely raw, but after looking stiff and somewhat lacking in the athleticism department last summer when we saw him, that part is really coming around (6-foot-5, 240 pounds, 4.85 40, 4.37 shuttle Tuesday night) and was evident during one-on-ones. He won some and lost some in terms of the reps, but showed some competitiveness and signs of putting it all together that leads us to believe the upside is there. His recruitment is currently Miami-Louisville.
7- Joe Henderson, Cleveland (Ohio) Shaker Heights- Because of state of Ohio rules, Henderson did not compete in pads. During his first rep, which came against Robinson, he was completely stonewalled (Robinson showed why he’s the top tackle in the country on that one), but after that he settled in and showed off some of the ability that made him the MVP of the Columbus Nike Camp in early June. The Tennessee commit backed up some stellar testing numbers from Tuesday (6-foot-3, 228-pounds, 4.76 in the 40, 4.1 in the shuttle). He will need some time to develop at the college level, but is exceptionally promising.
Brian Perroni contributed to this report