Near the conclusion of each and every recruiting cycle, the recruiting industry is often faced with similar questions, mainly which top prospects are ready to make that instant impact the following year at the collegiate level.
In order to have a chance to make that freshman year splash, we at SI All-American feel the fit between prospect and program has to be on point. Fit can fall under many broad definitions in the projection business, but we’d like to see some sort of combination of similar precedent, evidence of scheme translation, ideal fit with a position coach and of course the physical build and ability to contend with college players sooner rather than later.
In the spirit of looking ahead, here are some of the best college football prospect fits on defense in the class of 2021.
[Related: SIAA's Best Offensive Fits]
Latrell McCutchin, Austin (Texas) LBJ
6-foot-1, 175 pounds
Committed to Oklahoma
Formerly committed to Alabama, McCutchin is now set to play in the secondary in Norman for Oklahoma. The Sooners’ defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch, is a DB coach at heart and likely sees the Texan as a good fit for his coverage concepts, evidenced by continuing to recruit McCutchin while he was a Tide pledge. With his length, patience in press alignments, and possessing solid on-field mental processing, McCutchin has the potential to menace Big 12 receivers. We feel he’s also effective in bail-technique position and zone-turns, which all makes him a good projection to fit well in Grinch’s scheme that utilizes variations of cover-2 and cover-4 concepts.
Elijah Jeudy, Philadelphia (Pa.) Northeast
6-foot-3, 240 pounds
Committed to Georgia
Hailing from Philly, Jack is headed down to the Peach State to play for Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs love to talk about their base 3-4 defense and mint fronts, as well as how they’re “multiple." Jeudy will only strengthen their defensive confidence, as he has the ideal traits of a Jack ‘backer for the Dawgs. A hybrid defensive end - on-ball linebacker, the Jack player in Smart’s defense sees himself playing both with his hand down and standing up, so a prospect for this role needs to be able to effectively do both. Jeudy is a twitchy edge-defender who can jump on top of left tackles and bend off a speed rush, plus his toolbox also features a spin move, 2-hand swipe and a rip to counter. It takes only a few snaps of watching Jeudy on tape to see him as a great fit for the Jack position in Athens.
Demeioun Robinson, Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard
6-foot-4, 220 pounds
Committed to Maryland
Maryland head coach Mike Locksley has Jon Hoke running his defense, with the base alignment being a 3-4. The Terrapins will mix their fronts in sub, with their edge rushers being allowed to pin their ears back in a 4-down front with their hand down and rush upfield to get after the quarterback. This system is a perfect fit for Robinson, a defensive end/Edge hybrid who has tape standing up and playing with his hand down. Robinson has good snap quickness to shorten the edges in a hurry, strength to force his will due to achieving proper hip sinkage to win at entry points, as well as closing quickness after cornering to passers. Hoke will be able to stand him up on early downs, while allowing him to get his hand down in passing situations on sub-packages.
Monkell Goodwine, Ft. Washington (Md.) National Christian Academy
6-foot-4, 265 pounds
Committed to Alabama
‘Bama likes a 3-4 base defense, but Nick Saban’s priority unit probably spends more time in multiple looks with a 4-down front to adjust to offenses. Tide defenders must have versatility to their game, as it allows the unit to be flexible and effective. We see versatile traits on tape in Goodwine, as he can work as a 5-technique end in base, a 4i in Atlanta fronts (4-0-4), while also either playing strong-side end to the field in a 4-man front. In fact, it also wouldn’t be surprising if Goodwine saw snaps as an interior 3-technique before he left Tuscaloosa. With ‘Bama’s defense priding itself on being multiple and versatile, there aren’t many defensive linemen in this class who can potentially play as many roles in the defensive trenches as Goodwine.
Jordan Hancock, Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett
6-foot-1, 175 pounds
Committed to Ohio State
Hancock is our top-ranked Nickel, and that’s role he’s been recruited to play at Ohio State. The Peach State native is comfortable as a bump defender inside over slots and has solid motor technique in press alignments. Hancock has the hips and patience at junctions to challenge the breaks of slot receivers on options, choices and 2-way go’s. His route undercutting ability is aided by being able to easily plant and drive downhill to trigger to catch points, plus he displays good ball skills. With his length, coverage instincts, ability to be dangerous at catch points and willingness to blitz, Hancock projects as an ideal Nickel early in his career for the Buckeyes, with potential to move to the field or boundary on the perimeter.
Julien Simon, Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln
6-foot-2, 220 pounds
Committed to USC
We’ve tracked Simon since before he was in high school, and he can play running back, big slot, H-tight end, strong safety and mike linebacker. However, we feel he’s at his best as an off-ball Sam linebacker who works in space to the field. Simon is perhaps the best coverage ‘backer in this class, showing traits on tape that features easy transition quickness. He can be used as a wall-player in coverage concepts and play with a bail-technique that allows him to plant, drive and trigger downhill on underneath routes in the mid-range passing game. Simon’s production as a receiver in high school is the foundation of his defensive ball skills that show up on tape at catch points. Plus, he can kick inside and be the middle-hole player as a Dime ‘backer in sub. His game makes him an ideal fit to play linebacker in the Pac-12, which has several offenses predicated on Air Raid/Spread principles.
Prince Kollie, Jonesborough (Tenn.) Crockett
6-foot-1, 200 pounds
Committed to Notre Dame
Kollie picked the Irish over several schools, and we’re sure Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea is excited to get him to South Bend. The reason we feel strongly about this is because Kollie possesses perfect traits to play the Rover position in Lea’s defensive structure. Deployed to the field and needing to be able to factor in space, the Rover is a key cog in Lea’s system. Kollie is more than comfortable in space, as he can relate to 2 and 3 in coverage, flip his hips and factor in passing lanes. He moves smoothly with solid speed and navigational athleticism in flow when hunting runners laterally, plus he can also move inside to play Buck or ‘backer in Dime for Notre Dame, if ever needed. In the meantime, Lea’s definitely got himself an ideal Rover coming in Kollie.
Kamren Kinchens, Miami (Fla.) Northwestern
5-foot-11, 190 pounds
Committed to Miami
There aren't many traditional traits one would consider elite in scouting Kinchens, yet he's ultra productive -- 74 tackles and nine interceptions in 2019 -- versus the run and the pass on one of the best defenses in the state of Florida. He shows up big in the biggest moments despite freaky athleticism, length or speed. Remind you of any former Hurricanes? Jaquan Johnson was a jack-of-all trades leader of the secondary at UM for four years before getting a shot in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. Kinchens is a pure football player who can aid in the box, hold his own in coverage while possessing that nose for the ball that gets defenses off the field on third down. Neither will light up a combine from a testing or measurable perspective but they jump off the tape when it counts most.
Jamari Buddin, Belleville (Mich.) Belleville
6-foot-2, 210 pounds
Committed to Penn State
Penn State has developed perhaps the most athletic linebacker room in college football over recent years and Buddin brings some of that head-turning versatility to the table in that light. He is a stand-up edge presence more times than not on Friday nights in Michigan and displays true pass rushing traits off the edge. But his frame suggests he's more likely to play an off-ball linebacker role in Happy Valley, where his striking ability, flexibility and balance through contact fit into a three-down projection. Buddin displays comfort taking on blocks and scraping to ball to the point it suggests the greatest value in the projection could come as an inside linebacker in the Big Ten. PSU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry has developed similar projections at the prep level and Buddin could be likened to Jason Cabinda.
Dakota Mitchell, Winter Park (Fla.) High School
6-foot, 184 pounds
Committed to Florida
Mitchell is tabbed as the No. 8 nickel projection by SI All-American and fits into what Todd Grantham wants to do with the middle of his secondary quite well. The versatile defender is very comfortable inside the box and can be utilized as an additional blitzer as needed, something UF did well in 2019 in utilizing Trey Dean III, who notched two sacks and 3.5 more tackles for loss on the campaign. Seven Gator defensive backs registered stops behind the line of scrimmage last year, an area Mitchell is effective operating in. Against the pass, there are old school robber vibes from Mitchell when playing underneath, another concept Grantham can utilize to supplement his heavy man coverage, front-7 pressure system.
John Garcia, Jr. contributed to this feature
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