With National Signing Day less than two months away, SI.com partners with Scout.com to analyze the top players at each position in the recruiting class of 2016.
The race to National Signing Day has begun. Sports Illustrated and Scout.com have partnered to provide complete coverage of college football recruiting. SI.com has been rolling out breakdowns of the top-ranked players at each position. Today, we’re looking at defensive tackles. Check out our previous breakdowns of quarterbacks,wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends, defensive ends and athletes. Follow along daily with conference-by-conference recruiting shows featuring analysis, breaking news, prospect breakdowns and much more, all leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
1. Rashan Gary
High school: Paramus Catholic (Paramus, N.J.)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 286 lbs
National rank: 1
Scout.com scouting report: “Gary is a mix of power, speed, athleticism and explosion. He has great speed and his ability to chase a play down is exceptional. He ran a 4.74 in the 40-yard dash at The Opening in July, and he plays fast. He can use his strength to overpower an offensive lineman, he has a tremendous change of direction and his explosion is off the charts.”
The latest: The top overall player in the 2016 class, Gary is uncommitted and remains among the most highly pursued players across the country. He isn’t scheduled to take another visit until heading to Los Angeles to meet with USC on Jan. 15 but seems to be leaning towards Michigan at this point. Gary has tallied 75 tackles and 14 sacks for Paramus Catholic this season, according to Maxpreps.com.
High school: Wake Forest (Wake Forest, N.C.)
Height/Weight: 6’4.5”, 335 lbs
National rank: 4
Status: committed to Clemson
Scout.com scouting report: “Lawrence is a prospect who jumps out the minute he steps off the bus. First, he looks the part. Then you see his bend and flexibility—an A+. Then you see his burst and quickness in drills. Then you see him use all of that to make plays in opposing backfields. Really strong in using size, power, and quickness to get penetration. Solid against double-teams. When fires off with good pad level, tough to slow down. Flashes violent hands.”
The latest: Lawrence is a recent verbal to Clemson, committing to Dabo Swinney and the Tigers on Dec. 14. The commitment to Clemson does not come as a surprise, as many thought he would pick his home state school over the likes of Florida and Florida State. Lawrence is the centerpiece of the Tigers’ recruiting class, which includes five other Scout 300 prospects.
3. Ed Oliver
High school: Westfield (Houston, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 289 lbs
National rank: 6
Status: committed to Houston
Scout.com scouting report: “Oliver's tapes are always a pleasure to watch. Whether you are watching him play in a complete game or just highlight clips you know each and every snap that he's a guy to pay attention to because he is a difference maker. He has a great motor and forces action. He is quick off the ball. Destroys blockers. Pursues the football relentlessly to make plays in the backfield or downfield if needed. Great instincts and awareness locating the ball.”
The latest: Oliver has been committed to the hometown Cougars since May but is still being highly pursued by programs like LSU and Texas. His commitment to Houston over Power 5 schools certainly made big news and bodes well for the Group of Five powerhouse coach Todd Herman is trying to build. Along with Oliver, Houston has commitments from two Scout 300 players, receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Courtney Lark.
High school: Lanier (Budford, Ga.)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 322 lbs
National rank: 9
Scout.com scouting report: “Brown has the frame of a true defensive tackle, but he is athletic enough to play some strongside end on the next level too. Quick off the ball and gets consistent penetration. Has improved pad level, but can still play with better leverage in the trenches. Stopping the run is an area he's become better at as a junior, but he is best at shooting the gaps, chasing the ball, and getting after the quarterback.”
The latest: Brown looks to be leaning toward Georgia at this point but has interest in programs around the SEC. He has visits to Georgia, Auburn and Tennessee coming up. Along with those three programs, Alabama and Mississippi State round out his final five schools of interest.
High school: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Height/Weight: 6’3.5”, 289 lbs
National rank: 10
Scout.com scouting report: “No one has recorded more sacks in Florida over the past two seasons than Manuel. He's a big, powerful and physical prospect that's very strong at the point of attack. He's violent and uses his hands well. He can stun lineman with his initial pop. Manuel gets off the ball quickly and plays with outstanding leverage. He has good speed, flexibility, agility, quickness and explosiveness. Manuel plays the run and rushes the passer equally well.”
The latest: Manuel has named his top four schools, narrowing his interest to three Florida schools—Florida, Florida State and South Florida—and LSU. He has only taken a visit to LSU so far, and realistically, it appears to be a three-way race between the Tigers, Gators and Seminoles. Manuel has dominated the Florida prep scene over the last four years, racking up 166 total tackles and 51 sacks, according to Maxpreps.
High school: Shoemaker (Killeen, Texas.)
Height/Weight: 6’4.5”, 361 lbs
National rank: 19
Status: committed to Alabama
Scout.com scouting report: “A gifted physical specimen, who is quick and athletic for a player with his size. He is a bit raw as a prospect, but shows the explosion and get off of an elite level player. He is very strong at the point of attack, blowing offensive linemen up and forcing them in to the defensive backfield. He plays right over the center in high school, and moving to college he should do the same. He sheds blocks well and is a run stop specialist.”
The latest: Jones has been committed to Alabama since May and there hasn’t been much talk about that changing. He has yet to take his official visits but has spent some time attending Alabama training camps. Expect schools like Texas and LSU to make a run at Jones down the stretch in hopes of keeping him from going too far east to play his college ball.
High school: Neville (Monroe, La.)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 300 lbs
National rank: 25
Scout.com scouting report: “Lawrence will enter college ready to compete for playing time. Has great size, he plays for a great high school program, and he has good strength. Really tough to drive off the ball and at times, he simply takes over a game. Can really fire off the ball with quickness and violence. Very good against the run and knows how to get in the backfield. Still improving his pass rush moves. Someone you build the defensive line around in the middle.”
The latest: Lawrence is one of the top uncommitted players in the entire 2016 class, and LSU is pushing hard to make sure he stays in Louisiana. The Tigers certainly have a good chance of landing him, but Alabama is jockeying hard, too. Lawrence took a visit to the Horseshoe in October, and the Buckeyes also seem to be in play. UCLA has a lot of ground to make up in this race but did have Lawrence on campus for a visit in October.
8. Ed Alexander
High school: St. Thomas Aquinas (Hammond, La.)
Height/Weight: 6’2.5”, 315 lbs
National rank: 61
Status: committed to LSU
Scout.com scouting report: “Alexander is someone who can eat up a lot of space in the middle of the defensive line. He could play nose guard or defensive tackle on the next level. Very strong and powerful. Can manhandle offensive linemen at times with his power. Flashes violent hands. Can fire off the ball with quickness for his size. Not great agility or athleticism, but can get up the field quickly and penetrate offensive backfields. Tough to push back.”
The latest: Alexander is the longest standing commit on this list, announcing he was heading to LSU back in April. He has spent a ton of time on campus throughout high school and seems to be a solid lock to sign with the Tigers. LSU already has 11 commitments from Scout 300 players, and hanging on to Lawrence would show they have a firm grasp on the Louisiana recruiting grounds.
High school: Gilman (Baltimore, Md.)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 260 lbs
National rank: 70
Status: committed to Penn State
Scout.com scouting report: “Jordan is a physical player with a high motor. He fires off the ball with power and a low pad level, and he has the strength in his lower and upper body to jolt the offensive lineman. He gets off blocks and gets after the ball carrier quickly, and he chases plays down on the back side. He has quick hands to disengage from blocks, and he is disruptive in the run game. He needs to get bigger to play inside in college.”
The latest: Jordan has been committed to Penn State since June, but his recruitment is far from over. He took an unofficial visit to Maryland on Dec. 12, opening some speculation that he could give his home state school some serious consideration. Before committing to Penn State, he named Maryland and Virginia Tech among his top schools. Jordan is currently the third-highest rated player in Penn State’s class.
10. Julian Rochester
High school: McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)
Height/Weight: 6’5”, 312 lbs
National rank: 73
Status: committed to Georgia
Scout.com scouting report: “Believe it or not, Rochester started out turning heads as an offensive tackle when in ninth grade. He is now one of the top defensive linemen in the country a couple of years later. He's a DL who can play five or three technique on the next level. Good initial quickness off the ball, subtle movement for a guy his size, and he can overpower offensive linemen at times. Still so much room to grow in terms of technique, pad level, and power.”
The latest: Rochester has been committed to Georgia since June but recently took his first official visit to Louisville. He committed to Georgia over the summer on a surprise visit from Mark Richt, who is now the head coach at Miami. Teams like Louisville, Florida and Auburn will certainly try their hardest to use Richt’s departure as a pitch for Rochester to reopen his recruitment.