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Helmholdt: Midwest defensive top performers

Helmholdt's top offensive performers Midwest analyst Josh Helmholdt takes a look at the top defensive performers from games he scouted this weekend in Northeast Ohio.
1. Marshon Lattimore, ATH, Cleveland Glenville (2014):
The 6-foot, 185-pound Lattimore is an athlete prospect who excels at wide receiver and safety for Glenville. He lands on the defense list not necessarily because that is where he made the biggest difference on Friday but because that looks to be where he has the highest potential in college. Were he just evaluated as a wide receiver prospect, Lattimore would still fall in the BCS-caliber territory. As a cornerback, though, Lattimore has a chance to be really special. He is fluid and rangy with great speed and ball skills. He came down with an easy interception Friday afternoon against Cleveland John Adams and also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass on offense.
2. Gareon Conley, CB, Massillon Washington:
While the rest of his team got off to a fast start, Conley was silent for much of the first half outside of jumping on a muffed punt return. After Canton McKinley started to rally in the middle quarters, however, Conley picked up his game and started to make a greater impact on the game. The three-star prospect showed his speed on two plays: one while tracking down McKinley's quarterback across the field on what would have been a sure touchdown, and the other on a 66-yard touchdown reception. Conley has added necessary bulk to his 6-foot-1 frame. He still plays a little stiff but shows a great break on the football in coverage.
3. Kevin Kavalec, DE, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius:
Kavalec appeared on the recruiting scene, then quickly ended his recruitment over the summer, making a commitment to Boston College in June. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, he did not look quite that big on the field and has the stature of a linebacker. However, when the pads started popping, Kavalec showed he is more than capable with his hand in the ground. He plays with a great motor but also maintains edge discipline by being strong at the point of attack and keeping his eyes in the backfield. Kavalec started his evening quickly, getting a big hit on the quarterback on the first series, and maintained that intensity and pressure on the pocket throughout. He also saw a number of plays at tight end and proved he could be an option for that role in college as well.
4. Donovan Munger, DT, Cleveland Shaker Heights:
Now that it appears his senior season is finished, Munger's recruitment is going to be one of the most closely watched in the coming months. He has offers from across the country, and while expectations are that Ohio State will be tough to beat, others teams are going to get their shot. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound Munger has always been listed as a defensive tackle, but a case can be made that offensive guard will end up being his spot in college. He has the frame for it and is light on his feet. That is not to say Munger cannot be a defensive tackle. While he does tend to take plays off, he can get in the gaps and wreak havoc in the offensive backfield.
5. Antoine Miles, DE, Canton (Ohio) McKinley:
Like Kavalec, the 6-foot-3, 257-pound Miles is also undersized for the defensive end position and did not look quite his listed size. Contrary to Kavalec, Miles started off slowly before turning up his play in the second half when he was in the face of Massillon Washington quarterback Kyle Kempt, who is committed to Cincinnati, a school Miles himself is strongly considering. Miles has a good first step, but where he really shows explosiveness is when he gets around the tackle and closes on the ball carrier. He is starting to learn how to use his hands, but his best -- and most used -- pass rush move is still a straight speed rush around the end.
6. Joe Henderson, DE, Cleveland Shaker Heights (2014):
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Henderson plays exclusively at defensive end for Shaker Heights, but even he admits his future could be at outside linebacker. He is a true 'tweener, and where he ultimately lines up in college has everything to do with how his body develops over the coming years. Henderson still looks rail thin, and he does not have the biggest frame to add weight to. Still, his ability to rush the passer off the edge is his greatest strength, and that could keep his hand in the ground in college. He plays stronger than he looks and does a great job holding the edge. Henderson does not yet know how to maximize the advantage his length gives him, but that should come in time.
7. Solomon Warfield, DB, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward:
When I saw Warfield as a junior, the 6-foot, 170-pound safety was always looking for the big hit. It was impressive when he would connect with the ball carrier, but he just as often missed. On Saturday I saw a much more disciplined Warfield. There were not as many big sticks, but there also were not the disappointing misses. He plays bigger than his listed weight and when he does line up a ball carrier, he delivers his whole body into the tackle. Warfield is also more effective in pass coverage as a senior. He plays way off the line of scrimmage -- sometimes as much as 20 yards -- he says to see the field better. His backpedal is smooth and he closes on a play in an instant.
8. Erick Smith, DB, Cleveland Glenville (2014):
You do not appreciate just how big Smith is until you stand next to him. He not only has great defensive back height at 6-foot-1, but he is a thickly-built and strong kid. Those physical attributes help him to be very effective in run support, and we saw him come up and make several nice open-field tackles Friday afternoon against Cleveland John Adams. For most of the day, Glenville played Smith in a nickel cornerback role, but long-term he looks best-suited to be a free safety prospect. His speed is good and he covers a lot of territory in pass coverage. Georgia Tech has already offered, and more will join the Yellowjackets before too long.
9. Kentrell Taylor, LB, Massillon (Ohio) Washington:
Trying to corral slippery Canton McKinley quarterback Eric Glover-Williams was a tall task for the Massillon Washington defense, but the sophomore signal caller had much more success on the edges than he did running between the tackles. The reason is was the 6-foot, 230-pound Taylor gobbled up almost everything that came through the middle of the field. Taylor is a true run-stuffing middle linebacker who does a great job taking on blockers and plugging gaps. He is not as effective when asked to play in space, and he is not often asked to do that. His final stat line on Saturday included double-digit tackles, a sack and a recovered fumble.
10. Christopher Worley, ATH, Cleveland Glenville:
The question many have had with the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Worley is what position does he play in college, and that question still hangs out there to some degree. Originally tabbed as a safety, Worley has started to move closer to the line of scrimmage as his career progresses, and he plays an outside linebacker role for Glenville. Worley has good height and length, but he will need to add plenty of bulk to play the linebacker role in college ... and that does appear to be where he is headed. He will always be undersized at linebacker, but his skill set and mentality as a football player appear best suited for outside linebacker.
Dante Booker, LB, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent St. Mary (2014):
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Booker should be one of the top few prospects in the state of Ohio's 2014 class, but we did not get a chance to see him play Friday night. He did not dress due to a knee sprain.
Shaun Crawford, ATH, Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward (2015):
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Crawford plays both wide receiver and nickel cornerback, but I listed him with the defense because that is where he was most effective. Crawford had a few drops on offense, but he is an outstanding open-field tackler on defense.
David Katusha, DT, Cleveland St. Ignatius:
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, Katusha is lean for a defensive tackle. He lines up at nose guard in St. Igantius' three-man front but appears better suited for the three-technique spot in college.
Marcus Whitfield, DB, Massillon (Ohio) Washington (2014):
Whitfield's best plays in Saturday's game came at wide receiver and included a 37-yard first half touchdown reception. Long-term, though, he will likely be recruited more heavily as a safety, and he does need to work on shoring up his open-field tackling.
Dameon Willis, DB, Cleveland (Ohio) St. Ignatius (2014):
Willis looked all of his listed 6-foot and 195 pounds. Physically he appears closer to a linebacker than a safety, and his game resembles that as well. He hits like a linebacker but doesn't run as well as you would like to see out of a safety.
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