Defense in the game of college football is about affecting the passer and the recruiting class of 2021 has a bevy of pure pass rush prospects within it.
Many of the best listed below are members of the SI99 for their overall game, but this feature focuses on those whose top traits is most critical on obvious passing situations.
1. Jack Sawyer
6-foot-5, 245 pounds
Committed to Ohio State
The No. 3 prospect in the SI99, we consider Sawyer to perhaps be the most college-ready pure pass-rusher in this class. The Ohio State commit is at his best best from a 4-point stance in a 7 or 9-technique alignment. Sawyer shows good snap quickness, and is keen to use his mitts and length to his advantage. He has a varied pass-rush toolbox, featuring a classic speed rush, that he combines with good bend and a front-shoulder dip at entry points, along with a spin, a stutter-and-go and speed-to-power, plus others. Sawyer also plays with a revved up motor, illustrated by him routinely displaying speed and ideal effort when hunting ball-carriers from the backside. He works with movement skills that translate from his basketball background. He has traits to eventually be an alpha rusher for Ohio State DL coach Larry Johnson.
6-foot-4, 220 pounds
Committed to Maryland
Robinson is active and disruptive at the snap, plus he has good length to keep offensive tackles outside his framework. The Maryland commit shows ideal snap quickness to jump on top of blockers to shorten edges and hand quickness, which are ideal traits of a potential high-end pass-rusher. He bends and corners flat to passers, another element that is imperative to advanced pass-rushing, along with being able to sink his hips and win at entry points with speed and a low pad level. The Terrapins work in a base 3-4, and mix their fronts in sub, with their edge rushers in a 4-down front with their hand down, which is the ideal fit for Robinson. Maryland will be able to stand up Robinson on early downs as a Jack-type, before letting him rush with his hand down on sub-packages. Robinson is the No. 7 prospect in the SI99.
3. Dylan Brooks
6-foot-5, 250 pounds
Committed to Tennessee
Brooks combines ideal length at 6-foot-5, with solid activity with his hands. Among his favorites in his pass-rush toolbox are a chop and a powerful longarm stab, that he can use against both 45-degree and short-setters. Brooks consistently reduces ground quickly, but more impressively, he can bend at entry points, something tall Edges usually have a tough time with. Brooks also uses a long stride to close and finish on passers. With his length, Brooks can be a nightmare for passers trying to manipulate throwing lanes, as his arms and mitts present difficult obstacles. Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt should have fun using Brooks as a defensive chess piece to rush from various positions in Knoxville.
4. Elijah Jeudy
6-foot-3, 246 pounds
Considering Texas A&M & Georgia, among other
Jeudy fought a hand/wrist injury most of his junior season and played with a cast. Yet he’s still among the quickest upfield at the snap off the edge in the country. Jeudy consistently forces offensive tackles to bail and open their hips early at the snap. This offers him an easy entry point for him while he bends and dips, before cornering passers with little drift. Jeudy’s pass-rush toolbox consists of a classic speed rush that he can convert to power at the point, a spin, quick 2-hand swipe and a rip to counter. If he indeed re-commits to Georgia, look for Jeudy to play the Jack position. A result in Texas A&M landing his services will likely result in playing an Edge/Rush-End role in College Station.
6-foot-4, 235 pounds
Committed to Alabama
Turner has good twitch to his first step and vertical track when rushing the passer. He has good body flexibility and torso rotation to influence his hips to corner to quarterbacks in a fairly flat angle, while staying conscious to not over-rush launch points. He prefers to play with his hand down as a traditional 5 and 7-technique. Turner likes to use a longarm stab, as well speed-to-power as his go-to’s, plus he’ll spin to counter versus a jump set. With his snap quickness, flexibility and ability to bend, Turner has the potential to develop into a high-end pass-rusher at the collegiate level. His snap quickness awards him body force to take advantage of soft shoulders by offensive tackles. Turner can stand up and rush from a 2-point stance, but his optimal fit is with his hand down as C-gap Edge in a 4-man front.
6-foot-6, 230 pounds
Committed to Clemson
Patterson has outstanding natural pass rushing traits and is your classic 7-Tech rush end or and can also work as a Jack/Buck ‘backer as well. At 6’6”, the most impressive quality about him is his ability to bend.He can decrease his pad level and achieve sinkage at the entry point before cornering to passers with closing quickness and finishing ability. Patterson’s length also allows him to disrupt throwing lanes with his long arms and mitts. He’s got a bit of a limited pass rush plan and toolbox, but we feel that can be expanded and developed at Clemson under defensive coordinator Brent Venables. If developed properly, Patterson’s ceiling is that of an alpha rusher.
6-foot-4, 200 pounds
Committed to LSU
Though he is just merely around the 200-pound range, Carter’s twitchy first step allows him to routinely jump on top of offensive tackles at the snap. He works often with his hand down from a 7-technique alignment. This allows Carter to attack off the edge, and his short-area quickness sees him consistently move passers off their drop apexes. Carter is a confident player, and he plays with good toughness at the point of attack. He will need to diversify his toolbox in college, and add mass to his frame, but he projects well as a speed-oriented pass-rush rusher who can threaten SEC tackles on the edges at LSU as a stand-up buck/viper/jack-type.
8. Travion Ford
6-foot-4, 230 pounds
Committed to Missouri
Ford should develop into a starting-caliber edge-defender at Mizzou. Defensive coordinator Ryan Walters runs a 4-2-5 scheme with a good mix of both over and tite fronts, and Ford indeed projects as an Edge in this system. The future Tiger is at his best standing up in a buck or jack role from a 2-point stance where he can shorten edges in a hurry. Thanks to a quick first step Ford is urgent and active at the snap, and he routinely displays quick hands and light feet to redirect. As he continues to acquire a pass-rush plan, Ford’s ceiling should increase and expand exponentially under Walters and defensive line coach Brick Haley.
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