February 24, 2010

Breaking down the top 25 DT's since 1996

We kicked off a new series on Orangebloods.com last week with a look back at the top 25 running backs prospects that I've evaluated in my time in the recruiting industry and after a ton of good discussion and depart, it's time to take a look at a position on the defensive side of the ball - defensive tackle.

Over the years, you'd probably be hard-pressed to find a state that has developed as much raw talent at the position as the state of Texas. Even on a list when so many players were injured, had bad grades or were even killed, the numbers from this group look might impressive.

The top ten on this list alone produced seven NFL players and three first-round draft picks. Anyways, enough of the build up - let's get to the list. Here's a look at the top 25 in-state defenve tackle prospects that these yes have seen since 1996.

25. Walter Thomas - Galveston Ball (No.17 in 2004)

Comment: There are a lot of players on this list that had grade/off-field issues that limited their upside and value as a prospect. Thomas is without question one of the poster children for non-athletic talent issues, as he emerged as a true difference maker as a senior at Ball and likely should have emerged as an NFL player over time., but after flunking out at Oklahoma State, he was cut by the Saints after 12 minutes of work at their training camp.

24. Jamarkus McFarland - Lufkin (No.12 in 2009)

McFarland's high school film

Comment: There was a time when I was certain that McFarland would finish his high school career ranked in the top ten, but a disappointing senior season had me questioning my initial evaluation. When McFarland is focused, in-shape and completely dialed in, he's a guy that can dominate the line of scrimmage, but there's some fear that his upside won't be realized.

23. Kheeston Randall - Beaumont Kelly (No.14 in 2008)

Comment: Randall emerged as one of the state's top defensive prospects as a senior and he's been a solid starter for the Longhorns as an underclassman and many NFL scouts believe that his star is about to take off as he heads into his junior season.

22. Jarvis Humphrey - Cedar Hill (No.11 in 2008)

Humphrey's high school film

Comment: Oh man, sometimes life just isn't fair and Humphrey's situation is proof of that. As a junior, Humphrey looked like a guy that was headed towards superstardom and a future NFL career, but kidney issues forced Humphrey to retire from football before he ever had a chance to take a snap at the collegiate level.

21. Ashton Dorsey - John Tyler (No.17 in 2010)

Dorsey's high school film

Comment: Dorsey isn't the best physical prospect on the list, but he's a guy with an elite-level first-step and he was unblockable as a senior at John Tyler against a schedule full of powerhouses. As he dedicates himself to dev eloping physically at the next level, he has a chance to be a true impact performer.

20. Taylor Bible - Denton Guyer (No.11 in 2010)

Bible's high school film

Comment: As far as true nose-tackle prospects are concerned, Bible is one of the best I've seen over the years. He'll have a chance to anchor the Longhorns defensive line for years to come as a one-technique with legit pass rush skills, which is a package that's tough to come by.

19. Calvin Howell - San Antonio Warren (No.9 in 2009)

Howell's high school film

Comment: Versatility, athleticism and play-making instincts on the field make Howell one of the more dynamic defensive tackles that have come through the state's ranks in a while and he showed flashes as a true freshman for the Longhorns before a concussion sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

18. Andre Jones - El Paso Andress (No.13 in 2007)

Jones' high school film

Comment: Jones is the poster-child for players that can't get out of their own way. Seriously, Jones should have been a three-year starter for the Longhorns and a Sunday player, but you just can't rob people at gun-point because some will frown on it. Actually, everyone frowns on it.

17. Thomas Derricks - Dallas Jesuit (No.9 in 2001)

Comment: I still can't figure out what happened with Derricks, who looked like the complete package coming out of Jesuit. After starting at Northwestern as a true freshman in 2001, he transferred from the school and eventually landed at Austin College where he was an all-conference player, but never the star he once looked capable of becoming.

16. William Morrisey - Silsbee (No.6 in 2004)

Morrisey's high school film

Comment: It's not like I'm the only person who missed on this one because he was ranked No.27 overall nationally back in 2004, but he's the only guy on this list that I truly second-guess after all of these years because he flamed out so quickly and without virtually zero fan-notice.

15. Larry Dibbles - Lancaster (No.6 in 2002)

Comment: Who will ever forget the sight of Dibbles showing up as a true freshman sporting the No.1 jersey number for the Longhorns? It might be the oddest thing I've ever seen in a Mack Brown practice, but the fact that Dibbles ended up starting for two BCS teams, including a national championship squad in 2005, makes him a home run selection, even if he never emerged as a pro prospect.

14. Paul Broussard - La Porte (No.34 in 1999)

Comment: Broussard had a lot of the same ability that fellow La Porte alum Shaun Rogers has showcased for more than a decade and he might have enjoyed the same type of pro career had he not been murdered outside of a restaurant while preparing for a return to Division I football after a stint at a JUCO.

13. Damione Lewis - Sulphur Springs (NR in 1996)

Comment: The 1996 defensive tackle class was loaded with big-time talent and none probably possessed a bigger national profile than Lewis, who dominated East Texas as a high school player and projected as a college star from the jump.

12. Cedric Woodard - Sweeny (NR in 1996)

Comment: Although I didn't have rankings back in 2006, I was a big fan of Woodard, who was a star at Sweeny and rated as a national top 50 prospect. Of course, Woodard more than lived up to his advanced billing, as he emerged as a very good college player and a six-year NFL veteran.

11. Sonny Davis - Austin Lanier (No.7 in 2000)

Comment: On a team that featured Thorpe Award winner Derrick Strait, Davis was the best NFL prospect on the Lanier team and still might rank as the best AISD prospect these eyes have ever seen. Davis was a dancing bear on the field and he possessed an extreme amount of athleticism for a kid that weighed 325+ pounds. Davis' issues were academic-related and he never stood a chance of playing college football because of it.

10. Shaun Rogers - La Porte (No.7 in 1997)

Comment: The same Rogers that you've seen in college and at the pro level is what we all saw from him when he was in school. Dominant at times and seemingly bored at others. As it turns out, I had Rogers slotted a little too low back in the day because he's a pretty rare guy from an ability standpoint.

9. Roy Miller - Killeen Shoemaker (No.4 in 2005)

Miller's high school film

Comment: Miller earned a five-star grade from me after a dominating senior season and performance in the US Army All-American game. He's another guy that ended up being exactly the player I thought he'd become for the Longhorns. As a player he had few peers, but he didn't quite have the body/frame of the usual five-star defensive tackle prospect..

8. Demarcus Granger - Dallas Lincoln (No.2 in 2005)

Granger's high school film

Comment: From a physical ability standpoint, Granger had everything needed to become an All-American in college and top-flight NFL prospect, but off-field issues and injuries sidetracked what should have been a long and productive football career. His ceiling was higher than Miller's coming out of high school, but his basement was much lower.

7. Frank Okam - Lake Highlands (No.2 in 2003)

Okam's high school film

Comment: Okam was one of those players that looked great on paper, but just never seemed to reach his potential for whatever reason, despite the size, athleticism and smarts that you dream about. Although he was a multi-year starter and all-conference performer for the Longhorns, he never became the player that everyone expected him to become when he came out of Lake Highlands.

6. Rod Wright - Alief Hastings (No.2 in 2002)

Comment: Everyone remembers that Vince Young was the top player in the 2002 class, but Wright wasn't far behind him at No.2 that year. Like Okam, Wright had everything you were looking for as a defensive lineman, but all of the talent he flashed as a high school or college player ever amounted to him being a dominant performer, despite All-America honors as a starter on the 2005 national championship team for the Longhorns.

5. Desmond Jackson - Spring Westfield (No.3 in 2011)

Charles' high school film

Comment: It doesn't matter whether it's on the football field, a camp or a combine, Jackson has proven to be one of the most impressive defensive tackle prospects I've ever seen come out of Texas. For the last two seasons at Spring Westfield, Jackson has been virtually unblockable at times and his first step, quickness and overall athleticism for an interior prospect is off the charts.

4. Marco Martin - Mesquite (No.14 in 2002)

Comment: Forget about his final ranking as a prospect because that had everything to do with his knee being ripped to shreds as a senior in the playoffs, which essentially ended his career as we once knew it. Before the injury, Martin was probably one of the best athletes I'd ever seen in a big body package, as he was just as likely to go 80 yards from his running back position, as he was to blow up a play in the backfield as a defensive lineman. Seriously, there's been a lot of players come and go over the years and I can honestly say that there's been only one Marco Martin. It's a shame that a cheap-shot block in the high school playoffs ruined what should have been an NFL career.

3. Ty Warren - Bryan (No.3 in 1999)

Comment: Warren could have been listed as an end because he wasn't a 300-pound prospect in high school, but he was always a player that I projected as an interior prospect when he was coming out of Bryan back in the day. An absolute beast at the point of attack, Warren challenged for the top overall spot in the 1999 rankings and might have emerged as the best player from that class.

2. Casey Hampton - Galveston Ball (NR in 1996)

Comment: Again, I didn't have a rankings list in 1996, but I did have a chance to see Hampton in person during the playoffs of his senior season and I'm not sure that I've ever seen anything like him on a high school football field. A tremendous athlete for a 300+ pound player, Hampton was a human wrecking ball that had the ability to shut down an offense all by himself at the high school level. The only knock on Hampton coming out of high school was his grades, but for anyone that saw him up-close, it's no surprise that he emerged as the foundation piece of a Super Bowl winning defense.

1. Tommie Harris - Killeen Ellison (No.1 in 2001)

Comment: There's only been one defensive tackle in the history of my rankings to finish in the top overall spot in the rankings and it's this former Oklahoma All-American and NFL All-Pro. From an ability standpoint, Harris proved to possess the perfect blend of size, quickness, athleticism and ability on the field. Although he wasn't as dominating on the field as a prep as any of the other players in the top five, his physical ability and skill make him the top defensive tackle prospect this state has produced in the last decade. Harris simply possessed the kind of rare physical skill that we're all waiting to see once again.

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