East-West Shrine Game Prospects to Watch — Defense

Some of FAM’s players to watch from the defensive side of the football in the East-West Shrine Bowl (January 20, 2018 3:07 PM EST).

Cornerback

Brandon Facyson — Virginia Tech Hokies — Not the most productive senior campaign, but teams avoided him like the plague after he amassed 39 passes defended leading up to 2017. He’s 6-2 and likely enters the NFL at or above 200 pounds. Given the track record of Virginia Tech defensive backs, we’re buyers.

Heath Harding — Miami (OH) RedHawks — We love Harding, and recently touted him again in our Group of Five guys pieces. He’s shown tenacity against the run despite modest size at 5-10 190, and also was one of the MAC’s better pass defenders for the last few seasons. A leader as well, who will likely win over GMs. Really great potential as a nickel or safety as well, versatile.

Davontae Harris — Illinois State Redbirds — Has FBS size and solid speed despite playing for an FCS school, showing once again that the NFL will find you, and large universities always don’t. He shows up against the run and pass, filling the stat sheet with 5.5 TFL and 15 passes defended as a junior, 4.5 and 14 as a senior. Seemed out to prove he was NFL ready.

Deatrick Nichols — USF Bulls — Another player we addressed in our Group of Five guys pieces, Nichols is an active defender and one of many standouts on the Bulls defensively. Played early in his career, taking charge of the position as a sophomore and excelling as an upperclassman. Aggressive tackler in addition to showing great ball skills. Size worries some NFL folks, but he’s a potential demon as a nickel.

Greg Stroman — Virginia Tech Hokies — Teams avoided Facyson, and as a result Stroman (who lacks his teammates size) saw plenty of passes his way. He totaled four picks and eleven pass deflections this year, notching nine and 26 on his career. He’s lightning fast, quick-twitch, and excelled as a punt returner (4 TD) in addition to his defensive duties.

 

Safety

Dane Cruikshank — Arizona Wildcats — Freshmen received all the love for the Wildcats, but the versatile defensive back made big plays for Zona. Defended the run well, making double-digit run stuffs, but also a capable coverage man. Hybrid player with hybrid size at 6-1 200-plus, intriguing prospect and a fiery leader.

 

Tre Flowers — Oklahoma State Cowboys — Huge safety (6-3 200), extremely active tackler and also quite adept in coverage. Seasoned, having seen plenty of action all four years for the Pokes and acquitted himself well. Totaled 284 career tackles and and 29 total passes defensed. Reminds us of a slightly less prolific Obi Melifonwu in terms of his tackling, but the same type of aggressive, athletic and lengthy safety. Now let’s see if he tests as well…

Godwin Igwebuike — Northwestern Wildcats — A play-making safety with good size and speed, he paired with Kyle Queiro as a formidable senior duo of safeties. A great tackler upon contact, he collected 324 career tackles, and also amassed 30 passes defended. One of several intriguing Wildcat seniors, including Justin Jackson noted in our offensive piece.

 

Joshua Kalu — Nebraska Cornhuskers — Cornerback skills at the safety position for this versatile, tenured defensive back who manned both positions in Lincoln. Good size at 6-1 195 and is very adept in coverage for a safety as a result of his experience and length. Defended eight passes in just nine games for the Huskers this past season, with 34 total passes defended on his career (seven interceptions). Injury not a huge concern despite the games misses this year (hamstring).

Jamar Summers — UCONN Huskies — Another player with experience at cornerback and safety, starting his career at the former with accolades. He’s a cornerback sized individual, but isn’t afraid to mix it up as a safety. We like versatility in a draftee, especially in the defensive backfield, and Summers has that plus really exciting coverage skills.

Tracey Walker — Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns — Again, we mentioned Walker in our  Group of Five guys pieces, but we should have been more praising of the ULL product with good size (6-2 200) and a knack for plays. He showed terrific tackling ability this season, recording 97 stops, and also amassed eight interceptions and 19 pass deflections on his four year career. Plays in the box but also defends the pass well, making him a potential steal.

Linebacker

Jason Cabinda — Penn State Nittany Lions — Played inside and out for Penn State over a solid four year career, but at 6-1 234 is better suited for either the weakside in a 4-3 or the inside in a 3-4. Well-rounded and with terrific instincts, we think he’s best suited for the 4-3 Will position, but will earn pay either way as yet another really damn good PSU linebacker.

Leon Jacobs — Wisconsin Badgers — Another B1G backer who excelled in numerous spots as needed for his team (including fullback). Huge hitter at 6-2 245, and moves well laterally despite his bulk. Played all over a 3-4 with the Badgers, and will be a potential steal for a pro team in that ilk that can give him some time in one position.

Joel Lanning — Iowa State Cyclones — Yes, he’s a great story, playing both ways etc… However more importantly that taught him both sides of the game, and his natural instincts honed through such learning are what allowed him flourish as a play-making linebacker. He’s a project, because defensively he’s raw, but he could be a solid game-managing MIKE thanks to the knack he has and his decent 6-2 230 frame.

Tegray Scales — Indiana Hoosiers — A TFL machine for the Hoosiers, he’s vertically challenged at just six foot, but reasonably stout at 230, and his instincts make up for it. Sees plays developing and disrupts in an instant. Fills the hole with bravado despite his size, and could is worth a flier thanks to his football skills, not listed height…

 

Matthew Thomas — Florida State Seminoles — Not your typical linebacker, despite standing 6-4, as he’s extremely lean but lightning fast. Will test off the charts in terms of movement, but lacks bulk and as a result is scheme limited for now as a 4-3 Will. Ceiling is way up there, but needs to be in his best position and the weight-room.

Kenny Young — UCLA Bruins — A superstar for the Bruins the last two years, and basically the next great Bruin linebacker, the mascot is apropos for the mauler of a linebacker. He’s just 6-1, but a stout and powerful 245, and he gets to the football and makes plays. Over the past two seasons Young recorded 200 tackles, 17 for loss, and personally snagged five turnovers (one pick and four fumble recoveries). Again, he just makes plays.

Defensive Linemen

Folorunso Fatukasi — UCONN Huskies — Yet another UCONN defender, he’s also long tenured and showed great promise as an underclassman. This year he showed mobility and strength, also happens to be 6-4 303, and thus has caught plenty of draft attention. Discussed him in the Group of Five guys pieces, and he can show off his promise as a space eating tackle in the game.

Poona Ford — Texas Longhorns — His height is going to limit him, as he’s listed at 5-11, but he’s a HOSS on the inside. Eats up space, blockers, gravity, everything… eliminating runs at him. We are huge fans, as some GM will be as well. Could show off his power against some really good centers.

Don’t judge a Poo by its package

 

Alec James — Wisconsin Badgers — Not the most prolific end, but he’s a seasoned 3-4 end with decent stats considering how many plays were being made by the blitzers he set free. NFL defenses in the scheme value a player who knows the end position, and James learned it from some of college football’s best.

Justin Lawler — SMU Mustangs — Yes, another Group of Five guy, but who’s keeping track? A pass-rushing maven and non-stop run defender all rolled into one. Could be a gem for a 4-3 defense, as he’s got the size, get-off and attitude needed. Prolific career and a team leader, both pluses as well.

James Looney — California Golden Bears — He’s not massive in terms of girth (6-3 280), but he’s an active as a 3-4 end.  Played around the front at Cal, and will benefit from a focus at that spot. Potential is there, but still a project.

Joe Ostman — Central Michigan Chippewas — The heart and soul of the CMU defensive line for years now, we snubbed him on our Group of Five list. For that we are idiots. He’s a tenacious defender, always working towards the ballcarrier, thus big time sack and TFL numbers as a result. Not sure how he will test, some could be a steal or a late riser, but will play on Sundays without question.

Jamiyus Pittman — UCF Knights — The shorter of UCF’s talented tackle duo (Tony Guerad being the taller), Pittman was a man among boys in the pits for UCF over his four years of lettering. A stout 6-0 311, he’s a fire plug but shows decent penetration when called on. Just a fireplug of a defender who fights for every inch. Great roster guy, reminds us of former PSU tackle Anthony Adams.

Deadrin Senat — USF Bulls — Yep, another Group of Five mention, he’s an ox of a man and will show off on the bench. Weightlifter strength shows on the field, but he’s also very mobile for his bulk. Not towering, but immovable until he wants to move.

CHECK OUT THE OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH AS WELL!

 

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