After compiling several months worth of data in addition to cycling back for a closer look at the 2019 football season, SI All-American has put pen to paper at each position group.
As we work towards the preseason SI99, ranking the top 99 college football prospects regardless of position, establishing a top 10 ahead of the 2020 season for each position group plays paramount. The offensive positions rankings have wrapped up and we kicked off defense in the trenches with the interior line prospects earlier this week. Pass rushers are next up.
The defensive edge prospects offer one of the more unique skill sets across any position among the 14 SIAA will rank for the 2021 class. These are the premiere pass rushers with length, bend and that innate ability to put pressure on the passer from the edge in a variety of ways.
Here are the best of the best within the defensive edge projections ahead of the 2020 football season.
1. JT Tuimoloau, Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic
6-foot-5, 280 pounds
Considering Washington, Ohio State, Alabama, USC and Stanford, among others
Tuimoloau is not only the top Edge prospect on our board, he’s in the mix for top overall prospect in this class. The Washington native is a player we’ve been aware of since before high school, and even then there was talk he was already the best of the 2021 class. Tuimoloau can work as a “Buck” on the edges, as his size, strength and athleticism allow him to be effective both standing up and with his hand down. He can convert speed to power with ease as a pass-rusher, as well as set an edge, anchor and shed blocks in the run game. Although his size does warrant an interior projection to defensive tackle, and that is something we definitely can foresee in his college career, we begin Tuimoloau as a Edge prospect since he’s shown versatility to play as an on-ball Sam, Buck or Jack, 5-technique end in a 3-man front and as a 7/9-technique rush-end in a 4-man front.
2. Jack Sawyer, Pickerington (Ohio) North Pickerington
6-foot-5, 230 pounds
Committed to Ohio State
Perhaps the most polished pass-rusher on this list, Sawyer is also among the top overall prospects in the country. The Ohio State pledge spends some time standing up, but is at his best from a 4-point stance with both hands down. Sawyer has ideal snap quickness, as well as long arms and active mitts. He possesses a varied pass-rush toolbox. It consists of a classic speed rush, that he pairs with good bend and a front-shoulder dip at entry points, a spin, a stutter-go and speed-to-power, among others. Sawyer also plays with a motor that is noticeable on tape, showing speed and effort when pursuing backside runs and hunting ball-carriers. He works to keep his outside arm-free when he’s the play-side edge in the run game and takes proper angles with movement skills that translate from his basketball background. We strongly feel he has alpha-rusher traits, and fits well as a wide-alignment end in a 4-man front. It would not be surprising if Sawyer saw himself earn a role as a sub-package pass-rusher very early in his career in Columbus.
3. Demeioun Robinson, Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard
6-foot-4, 220 pounds
Committed to Maryland
There aren’t many Edge prospects in this class who are as active and disruptive as Robinson. He’s a talent who could begin to change the trajectory of Maryland’s program both on the recruiting trail and on the field, in a similar fashion Shaun Cody did for Pete Carroll and USC earlier this century in the year 2000. Robinson has excellent length on the hoof, which allows him to keep offensive tackles away from his breastplate. He also possesses ideal snap quickness to jump on top of blockers and quickness with his mitts. The future Terp can bend and corner flat to passers, as well as hunt with speed to chase runners in long pursuit. Whether it’s standing up or with his hand down, it would not be surprising to see Robinson on the field as a sub-package pass-rusher as a freshman.
4. Dylan Brooks, Roanoke (Ala.) Handley
6-foot-5, 250 pounds
Committed to Tennessee
Brooks is another player that is high on both our Edge board and overall board. He combines ideal length with solid activity with his mitts, including a chop and a powerful longarm stab. After he routinely reduces ground quickly on blockers, the long-framed Brooks shows enough ability to bend at entry points, before using a long stride to close and finish. With his length, Brooks can be a nightmare for passers trying to manipulate throwing lanes, as his arms and mitts present difficult obstacles. The future Vol also can be productive in the run game, showing solid scheme-read traits and mental processing, plus quick-shed ability versus tight ends and running backs. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is defensive-minded at heart and Brooks has the skill set to be a cornerstone defender on the edges in Knoxville.
5. Keeshawn Silver, Rocky Mount (N.C.) Rocky Mount Senior
6-foot-5, 255 pounds
Committed to North Carolina
The first thing that jumps out about Silver is his frame, as he has the size of a prospect who could kick inside at some point in his college career. With his thick frame, the North Carolina pledge has experience playing inside as a 1-technique, as well as some 4i, 5-technique and 7-technique on both the left and right edges. Silver can alter speed to power, a bull rush, a quick chop and a 2-hand swipe among his pass-rush toolbox. He’s also alert and aware to get his mitts up to disrupt throwing lanes. Aside from his effectiveness crashing to passers, Silver’s size allows him to set edges and he’s tough at the point. The future Tar Heel can come to balance in space, before quickly closing and finishing. We feel he could blossom into a star in Chapel Hill.
6. Elijah Jeudy, Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast
6-foot-3, 240 pounds
Committed to Georgia
Jeudy’s tape is among the most fun to watch in this class. He spent most of his junior season dealing with a hand/wrist injury, thus a cast/club was on him. However, his snap quickness was still evident. Jeudy routinely jumps on top of offensive tackles at the snap, forcing them to open their hips and creating an easy entry point for him as he simultaneously achieves a good bend and dip to corner to passers. Jeudy features a classic speed rush that he can convert to power when he needs to, as well as a spin, 2-hand swipe and a rip, which is his prominent counter versus blockers. He appears to be adding mass to his frame, which should allow him to hold up well on the edge in the run game. The more we study Jeudy on tape, the more obvious it appears he has the skill set of a “Jack” in head coach Kirby Smart’s defensive scheme.
7. Jeremiah Williams, Birmingham (Ala.) Ramsay
6-foot-4, 220 pounds
Considering Auburn, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and others
A more compact edge prospect compared to others on the list, Williams may have the best range within the top 10. Not only can he pressure the passer with a lower center of gravity and a first step that leaves tackles with less time to combat his speed rush, but he can work just as well off the ball as a true second-level player. From there the Birmingham native can affect the offense in coverage, as a downhill talent or as a blitzer, showcasing great anticipation and instincts on his path to the backfield. Armed with a strong punch and great hands overall, a lack of elite length is compensated by an understanding of how to beat blockers in the phone booth with subtle quickness and a mature pass rush plan. Williams -- who can win with an inside long-arm stab, inside chop-and-club, rip, and swim in addition to the speed rush -- fits best as a Jack or Sam edge-type working on the flanks in a defense with a 3-4 base.
8. Quintin Somerville, Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro
6-foot-3, 230 pounds
Committed to Michigan
The future Wolverine is a true first-level threat with pass rushing traits strictly off the edge or even inside on occasion. Great hand technique combines with pound-for-pound strength and flash quickness and finishing power to affect offensive tackles and guards alike, regardless of alignment. Somerville's frame will likely designate him to the outside on a more permanent basis once competing in the Big Ten, a role in which he is already plenty familiar. A polished pass rushing tool box pairs well with his hands and borderline elite first-step quickness, where moves like a long-arm stab, slap-and-club, arm-over and a rip bridge the gap between blocker and passer. Just as consistent versus the run as a true edge setter, with strong hands and leverage while working in contain, Somerville offers a true three-down skill set sooner rather than later when he arrives in Ann Arbor.
9. Dallas Turner, Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas
6-foot-3, 225 pounds
Committed to Alabama
The Crimson Tide commitment pursues the passer with some of the best bend in the class of 2021. Turner can scream off the snap of the football and proves flexible, if not yet polished, at the point of contact against offensive tackles looking to contain his explosiveness. The speed to power conversation rate is on the higher end of the spectrum and his level of intensity in between the white lines mirrors that natural ability to any defensive coordinator's liking. Turner has the athleticism to stand up or compete in underneath coverage responsibility, but he's most comfortable as a classic, hand-in-the-dirt pass rush prospect who can challenge the edge with speed and a consistent longarm stab move. Flashing counters like a spin and a hesitation move, adding polish to Turner's pass rush plan will only accelerate his timeline for impact once in Tuscaloosa for good.
10. Zaire Patterson, Winston-Salem (N.C.) Preparatory Academy
6-foot-6, 230 pounds
Committed to Clemson
Perhaps the most raw prospect on the list given his lack of Friday night football experience compared to his peers, there's still too much flash to ignore with Patterson's game. The extremely long and lean athlete, who has a basketball background, has a head-turning first step off the edge at his size and he already shows comfort coming off the ball as a stand up defender. There are hints of speed to power conversion and even strong bend at 6-foot-6, but he has also shown great awareness despite the inexperience, redirecting based on the play flow and playing the passing lanes with that elite wingspan, even corralling a pick-six down the line in 2019. Patterson has room to add to his pass rushing toolbox as much as he does physically with his frame, but truly sits among the most twitchy edge rushers in the class of 2021 with that rare blend of elite traits to continue the pass rushing production in Death Valley.
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John Garcia, Jr. contributed to this feature.