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Rivals.com All-Bowl Team Defense

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team

CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position

Christian Wilkins
Christian Wilkins (AP Images)

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

The bowl season is over and with that comes out Rivals.com All-Bowl Team, not an easy team to put together. But here are the players that stood out to me on defense.

RELATED: All-Bowl Team Offense

MORE: How did 10 players who were predicted to break out fare?

DEFENSIVE LINE  

The skinny: Lawrence took official visits to LSU and Ohio State, plus also considered Alabama, before committing to the Tigers in late January. After enjoying his best collegiate season to date, Lawrence helped end the nation’s longest winning streak in the Fiesta Bowl with five tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks during LSU’s victory over UCF.

Farrell’s take: Lawrence was rated just outside our national Rivals100 and was No. 10 at defensive tackle coming out of high school. He had a great motor and was very athletic for a big man, but fought some injuries. He has come on late in his LSU career and is rising on the NFL’s list because of his exceptional play.

*****

The skinny: Mississippi State and Ole Miss battled for Simmons throughout his process, with the Bulldogs winning out at the end even though many thought the Rebels were his leader heading into National Signing Day. While the Bulldogs lost to Iowa in the Outback Bowl, Simmons once again proved that he is one of the elite defensive linemen in the country with four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack.

Farrell’s take: Simmons was an exceptional talent coming out of high school, a kid with size, explosion, a nasty edge and someone who could rush the passer and play the run. He was a five-star prospect and No. 1 at his position for a reason, and he’s continuing to put it all together. He was expected to have a huge season, and he's getting a lot of attention. He gave Iowa fits.

*****

The skinny: Bryant trimmed his list down to a top 10 and then took several visits before Clemson and Notre Dame emerged as his two leaders. He took an additional visit to both schools before committing to the Tigers during the summer before his senior year. While his defensive line comrades may get more attention, it was Bryant who totaled six tackles and two sacks against Notre Dame in the National Semifinals. He then added three tackles and another tackle for loss in the National Championship victory over Alabama.

Farrell’s take: Bryant was an interesting recruit out of high school because he made the adjustment from a huge linebacker to a defensive end. As a result, I was worried a bit that his ranking was too high, which is the opposite of what you’d normally think, because the athleticism to play in space as a linebacker would help any defensive end. Bottom line for me is that I wasn’t convinced he could be an elite pass rusher with the get-off and pass rushing moves I saw. He’s was up and down early in his career, but this past year he was amazing, and was certainly helped by the additional talent on the Clemson defensive line.

*****

The skinny: Wilkins took official visits to Clemson, Stanford, Penn State, Ohio State and Boston College prior to committing to the Tigers at the Under Armour All-American Game. After deciding to return to Death Valley in an attempt to win another National Championship, Wilkins dominated the interior defensive line against both Notre Dame and Alabama. While he may have only totaled five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a sack during these two games, his high-level of play was a deciding factor in both victories.

Farrell’s take: I remember the first time I saw Wilkins on film. It was after his freshman season of high school and his athletic ability was off the charts. As a Connecticut prospect, he didn’t get the national attention of many until later in his career, but I knew how good he was from the jump. Wilkins has already turned into one of the elite defensive tackles in the country and could emerge as one of the top five picks in the NFL Draft. His dominance doesn’t show in the stat sheet as much as expected, but he’s one of the top defenders in the country.

Honorable Mentions: Willie Baker – Louisiana Tech; Jaylon FergusonLouisiana Tech; Clelin Ferrell -Clemson; Quincy RocheTemple; Chase WinovichMichigan; Kendall Coleman - Syracuse

LINEBACKERS 

Tyrel Dodson
Tyrel Dodson (AP Images)

The skinny: Allen never saw his recruiting process take off, so during his official visit to Kentucky in January, which was the only school to offer him, he committed to the Wildcats. In the Citrus Bowl victory over Penn State, Allen finished off his All-American season and Kentucky career with four tackles, three sacks and a blocked field goal attempt.

Farrell’s take: Allen was a low three-star out of high school, a big linebacker who we had some concerns about when it came to lateral movement and what position he would end up playing. He’s turned into a tackling machine who can also blitz and get after the passer. His ability to cover in space as well as rush off the edge has scouts drooling. He destroyed Penn State.

*****

The skinny: Fisher, who held upwards of 10 offers, trimmed his list down to Northwestern and Baylor before committing to the Wildcats during the summer leading up to his senior season. Concluding his second consecutive 110-plus tackle season at Northwestern, Fisher totaled a season-high 13 tackles, to go along with a forced fumble and tackle for loss during the Wildcats' victory over Utah in the Holiday Bowl.

Farrell’s take: Fisher had good size and was always a good tackler, but he lacked great athleticism and we questioned his speed from sideline to sideline. He’s been much more quick twitch and athletic than we expected. A lot of what he does well is because of his football sense and anticipation, but he has clearly gotten faster and more explosive. He’s a tackling machine.

*****

The skinny: With approximately 20 offers on the table, Dodson committed to Texas A&M during a summer unofficial visit to College Station. Arkansas and Missouri were two of the schools he also considered at the time of his decision. Helping the Aggies dominate NC State in the Gator Bowl, Dodson finished with nine tackles, one tackle for loss and an interception, which he returned 78 yards for a touchdown.

Farrell’s take: Dodson was a four-star linebacker out of high school who was a big hitter with good size. He was quick to the football and arrived with a thump. He was a huge get for A&M out of the state of Tennessee back in 2016.

Honorable Mentions: Zachery HarrisTulane; Sione TakitakiBYU; James Nachtigal Jr.Army; Malik ClementsCincinnati; Ben Burr-KirvenWashington; Micah ParsonsPenn State; Peyton PelluerWashington State; La’Mar Winston - Oregon

DEFENSIVE BACKS 

The skinny: Gardner-Johnson committed to the Gators in March after his junior season, but then also took official visits to Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame during his senior season. However, he stuck with Florida and enrolled for the spring semester. The Gators’ defense dominated Michigan in the Peach Bowl, and it was led by Gardner-Johnson, who had five tackles and two second-half interceptions, including one that was returned 30 yards for a touchdown.

Farrell’s take: Johnson was an elite corner out of high school with great skills who liked to take chances. He was a sure tackler, closed well on the ball and was physical. It’s no surprise to see him develop and begin to excel later in his college career.

*****

The skinny: Recruited as both a receiver and cornerback by schools, Hawkins took official visits to Cal, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Boise State before committing to the Golden Bears on National Signing Day. In a Cheez-It Bowl void of much offense, Hawkins led the defensive charge for Cal with a season-high six tackles, plus a tackle for loss and a career-high three interceptions.

Farrell’s take: Hawkins was ranked as a Rivals250 wide receiver back in 2015 out of high school, but he could play both ways. He had adequate size and was filled out and strong and his ball skills were excellent. He’s developed into one of the better defenders in the Pac-12.

*****

The skinny: Terrell spent a majority of the summer leading up to his senior season taking unofficial visits before finally trimming his list of top schools down to Clemson, Florida and South Carolina. He committed to the Tigers in late August. Terrell saved his best for last this season, with a season-high eight tackles against Alabama in the National Championship game. More importantly, he returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown early in the first quarter and also forced a fumble.

Farrell’s take: Terrell was a five-star can’t miss out of high school with great size and speed and excellent ball skills. He was a threat to score from anywhere on the field and could match up with bigger receivers with ease. He’s beginning to develop into one of the most elite corners in the country.

*****

The skinny: Gervase’s recruiting process never took off, with his only offer coming from Air Force. Deciding to either walk-on at Iowa or Boston College, he took an official visit to Iowa City in January before committing to the Hawkeyes. Injuries initially slowed his progress at Iowa, but after regaining his health he earned increased playing time and a scholarship and was named a team captain prior to this season. He finished his Hawkeyes’ career in style during a Outback Bowl victory over Mississippi State when he had a key fourth-quarter interception and then batted down the Bulldogs' last opportunity with less than a minute remaining.

Farrell’s take: Gervase was not ranked out of high school and was a walk-on who obviously proved a lot of people wrong.

Honorable Mentions: C.J. Henderson Florida; Delvon RandallTemple; Deshawn Capers-SmithTexas A&M; Corrion BallardUtah