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Next Up: Comparing DE recruits to college and NFL stars

Matayo Uiagalelei
Matayo Uiagalelei (Nick Lucero/

Comparisons are always part of recruiting coverage, so during our two-week Next Up series we take a look, position-by-position, at who could be one of the next superstars in college football by comparing them to a current college or NFL player.

We move on to defensive ends.

THIS SERIES: Comparing QB recruits to college and NFL stars | RBs | WRs | TEs | OL


CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100

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Matayo Uiagalelei is the next JT Tuimoloau

What’s interesting about this comparison is that one reason why Uiagalelei could end up at Ohio State is because of the early development and success of Tuimoloau and what position coach Larry Johnson has done for him in Columbus already.

Both players have a quiet competitiveness about them at least on the high school level, they both look like a million bucks and Uiagalelei is actually the same weight but is two inches taller and has more length.

Tuimoloau quite honestly didn’t do many national events during his high school career so a lot of his ranking was based on what he did during his high school season and projecting what a 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end would be able to accomplish in college. We know more at the same stage on Uiagalelei and he’s also incredibly special.


Damon Wilson is the next Will McDonald

McDonald was not completely overlooked in high school but certainly did not receive the recruiting attention of Wilson although there are many similarities in their games. Wilson is about two inches taller which means he might have even more length and disruption in the backfield as the two can both line up wide, be terrors off the edge or have inside moves to make it hard on offensive tackles as well.

This is a heady comparison because McDonald has been phenomenal at Iowa State, nearly unstoppable at times, but Wilson, who is looking at Georgia, Ohio State and others, has the same edge-rushing ability and productivity to be a nuisance to quarterbacks and others in the backfield.


Brenan Vernon is the next Joey Bosa

This might sound outlandish since Bosa has had such a phenomenal career in the NFL but the comparison almost writes itself. Heck, the two literally look like each other.

Vernon is 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds. Bosa is 6-foot-5 and 280. Both come off the edge with speed and power and a motor that’s in attack mode to get after the quarterback. The only difference – and this is a significant one for some – is that Bosa starred at Ohio State as Vernon, who’s from Mentor, Ohio, committed to Notre Dame early in his recruitment and never looked back. Both are similar personality-wise, all-business, no-nonsense and for those reasons and many others this seems to make a lot of sense.



Victor Burley is the next Myles Murphy  

Murphy, who finished as the top-ranked strongside defensive end and No. 4 overall in the 2020 class, has had a terrific career at Clemson and is almost exactly the same height and weight as Burley is at this stage. Maybe Murphy has an inch on the Warner Robins, Ga., four-star defensive end but it’s negligible and there are so many similarities between these two.

Both are from Georgia and committed to Clemson. Both are physical specimens. Both have speed and toughness and are menaces off the edge. Murphy projects as an early draft pick so Burley has a lot to live up to but he’s more than capable to be next in that Tigers’ defense.



Adepoju Adebawore is the next Felix Anudike-Uzomah

Anudike-Uzomah is a sack machine for Kansas State. He forces fumbles, he’s physical and tough, he’s relentless against offensive linemen. Adebawore has the potential to be the same way.

Adebawore is about 15 pounds lighter than the Kansas State standout defensive lineman but they play in a similar fashion. The high four-star four-star Oklahoma commit from North Kansas City, Mo., (Anudike-Uzomah also is from the Kansas City metro area in Lee's Summit, Mo.) – has the frame to easily add some weight and keep his athleticism while adding to his power base.

One main difference between the two? Adebawore had offers from some of the best programs in the country. Anudike-Uzomah was almost completely overlooked as a two-star prospect with Kansas State, Tulsa and Northern Iowa involved.