Rivals.com's 2015-16 All-Bowl Team: Defense
RELATED: All-Bowl Team: Offense
Another college football bowl season is in the books. Rivals.com takes a look back on the bowls, big and small, and names its own All-Bowl teams, moving to the defense today, and where these players began as recruits.
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee | Brentwood (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy (four-star, 2014)
The Skinny: No. 169 overall, the No. 11 strongside defensive end and the No. 5 recruit from Tennessee in the 2014 class, Barnett committed to Tennessee over Vanderbilt. The Vols ended the season as one of the hotter teams in the country, thanks to a formidable defensive line led by Barnett. In a 45-6 blowout win over Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, Barnett once again ignited the defense with eight tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
Farrell’s Take: Some guys do a lot of developing between the time they sign and when they arrive on campus, and Barnett is clearly one of those players. We liked him obviously based on his top 175 rankings, but did we see his massive impact on the SEC so early as a freshman? Nope, we didn't. His sophomore season was a bit up and down due to injuries and being more of a focus for offenses, but he finished very strong. He is exceeding our expectations quite a bit and has become stronger and faster earlier than projected, much to the delight of Vols fans.
DE Aziz Shittu, Stanford | Atwater (Calif.) Buhach (five-star, 2012)
The Skinny: No. 27 overall, the No. 3 strongside defensive end and the No. 4 recruit from California in the 2012 class, Shittu took official visits to Stanford, Cal, Texas A&M, UCLA and USC before finally committing to the Cardinal. While Stanford’s offense got most of the attention during the Rose Bowl win over Iowa, the defense also dominated. Shittu finished with ten tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks
Farrell’s Take: Shittu was a five-star back in 2012 because of his quick first step, ability to play inside or outside and natural athleticism. He hasn’t lived up to that ranking overall but he finished with a strong senior year. He was a raw prospect out of high school with many untapped abilities and he could be looked at the same way as an NFL prospect. His size and athleticism combination is still rare and elite.
DT Kenny Clark, UCLA | Rialto (Calif.) Wilmer Carter (four-star, 2013)
The Skinny: Clark was a four-star who was the No. 24 defensive tackle and the No. 39 recruit from California in the 2013 class. He committed to UCLA over Washington, after taking visits to both schools. While UCLA suffered a disappointing 37-29 loss to Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl, Clark dominated the interior defensive line with a game-high 11 tackles, plus two tackles for a loss and one sack.
Farrell’s Take: Clark was a four-star out of high school but wasn't in the Rivals250 mainly because of concerns against the run but that has changed as evidenced by his bowl performance. He was a very agile and athletic kid and has added good bulk in college and now he can clog the middle and flush the passer, making himself a potential first-rounder at the next level. He's very active inside and outside the tackles.
DT Davon Godchaux, LSU | Plaquemine, La. (four-star, 2014)
The Skinny: No. 114 overall, the No. 9 strongside defensive end and the No. 10 recruit from Louisiana in the 2014 class, Godchaux committed to LSU and then stuck with the Tigers over late pressure from both Auburn and UCLA. During a 56-27 victory over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl, Godchaux was a major reason that the Tigers were able to slow down the Red Raiders. He controlled the interior line with three tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble.
Farrell’s Take: Godchaux was just shy of being a Rivals100 prospect but we liked him quite a bit as a high four star nonetheless. He was ranked as a strongside end but a move to defensive tackle was certainly not out of the question because he had good size although his frame wasn’t huge. We liked his ability to set the edge and play the run and that is what he showed in the bowl game as he was very strong at the point of attack even as a high school player.
LB Scooby Wright, Arizona | Santa Rosa (Calif.) Cardinal Newman (two-star, 2013)
The Skinny: Wright was a two-star, who was not ranked nationally, at his position or in California in the 2013 class. After a fantastic 2014 season, injuries cut Wright’s 2015 season down to only two games. However, he did manage to return for Arizona’s 45-37 victory over New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl, where he was able to showcase the level of play everyone saw last year. Finishing with 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks, Wright declared for the NFL Draft soon after the game.
Farrell’s Take: Ouch, we are taking this one on the chin and I love the fact that Scooby has used the perceived disrespect as motivation, even making his Twitter handle @TwoStarScoob. A filled-out linebacker from Northern California in high school, his height and speed were questioned but you can't account for his natural instincts. He knows where the ball is going at all times and finds the best path to it consistently, something we just didn't see on high school film. Arizona can brag about this one for a long time as they found a star who showed toughness coming back from injury this season.
LB Aiavion Edwards, Baylor | Stephenville, Texas (three-star, 2012)
The Skinny: Edwards was a three-star, who as the No. 31 safety and the No. 76 recruit from Texas in the 2012 class. Edwards was a late bloomer, who committed to Baylor after taking an official visit in late January. While the Baylor-North Carolina game was not full of impressive defensive play, Edwards stood out with 17 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble during the 49-38 victory in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Farrell’s Take: Edwards was a guy who emerged later on the radar but was coveted not only by Baylor but by Oklahoma, Stanford and TCU amongst others. He was always a willing tackler in run support and that showed in the bowl game shootout but he wasn’t ranked higher because of some question marks about his pass coverage ability in space. He’s a typical Baylor recruit, a speedy kid who can cover a lot of ground and flies around, but with Edwards sometimes that aggressive nature can hurt him. In the bowl game it certainly didn’t.
LB Kendell Beckwith, LSU | Jackson (La.) East Felicicana (four-star, 2013)
The Skinny: No. 92 overall, the No. 4 athlete and the No. 3 recruit from Louisiana in the 2013 class, Beckwith committed to LSU over Alabama after taking an official visit to Tuscaloosa. During the 56-27 victory over Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl, Beckwith was another LSU defender who flourished, finishing with eight tackles, four tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks for the Tigers.
Farrell’s Take: Ranked as an athlete, Beckwith was a natural talent on the football field and the question was whether he’d be a defensive end or a linebacker. He’s emerged as one of the best jumbo-sized linebackers who can also get after the passer and he showed off all those talents in the bowl game. He’s not the fastest guy to the ball or off the edge, but he takes tremendous angles, anticipates plays well and has an extra gear when he needs it.
CB Caleb Williams, Georgia Southern | Tyler (Texas) Tyler J.C. (two-star, 2014)
The Skinny: After being unranked coming out of Bishop T.K. Gorman High School in Texas, Williams became a two-star cornerback at Tyler Junior College in 2014. Williams played in all 25 games over the last two seasons, including 11 starts in 2015. In the GoDaddy Bowl gainst Bowling Green’s explosive offense led by quarterback Matt Johnson, Williams led the surprising Georgia Southern defense with five passes defended, plus three tackles.
Farrell’s Take: Williams is an example of the overlooked recruit out of high school who has to prove his way at JUCO and emerges as a standout. He was too short for most as a cornerback and, despite being a very good athlete competing in four sports including track, he didn’t have the speed many wanted to make up for his lack of height. But against Bowling Green’s high-powered offense and elite quarterback, he had a great game and was all over the field.
CB William Jackson, Houston | Houston (Texas) Wheatley (three-star, 2012)
The Skinny: Jackson was a three-star athlete, who was not ranked nationally, at his position or in Texas in the 2012 class. Jackson committed to Houston out of high school and then stuck with his word after a year at a junior college. This season he become one of the top overall cornerbacks in the country , and proved that again with 10 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defended in a 38-24 victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl.
Farrell’s Take: Jackson was under recruited out of high school and only had a Houston offer (and a late one at that) after a solid but unspectacular high school career. Now he's rising on NFL boards and pushing with his size and fluid hips towards second-round status. His ability to get his head around and make a play on the ball in tight coverage has been impressive and he has good ball skills and he’s becoming a more sure tackler as evidenced in the bowl game against elite talent.
S Derwin James, Florida State | Haines City, Fla. (five-star, 2015)
The Skinny: James was a five-star, who was No. 5 overall, the No. 1 safety and the No. 3 recruit from Florida in the 2015 class. James’ commitment to Florida State almost three years prior to his National Signing Day ended any drama in his process. While the secondary was deep for the Seminoles this season, James still earned his way into significant playing time. Despite a 38-24 loss to Houston in the Peach Bowl, James dominated his position with 14 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and one pass defended.
Farrell’s Take: I've said it before and I will say it again -- James is the most athletic and dynamic safety I have ever scouted and that's saying something. And, after an average start, he came on and became a dominant defensive back as a freshman and his bowl game performance was off the charts. He can blitz, he can tackle in space and support the run and he can cover a ton of ground in the passing game. And this is only the beginning as he will be an absolute star in college and beyond, which is why we had him as a top five player.
S Donnie Miles, North Carolina | Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett (three-star, 2013)
The Skinny: Miles was a three-star, who was the No. 66 athlete and the No. 67 recruit from Georgia in the 2013 class. He was an early commitment to the Tar Heels, who never wavered on his word. Despite giving up 49 points in to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Miles was consistently around the ball, finishing with an extremely impressive 22 tackles.
Farrell’s Take: Miles was ranked as an athlete out of high school because he was an exceptional running back as well and could catch the football as well but we figured he’d end up on defense because he liked to hit. However, 22 tackles in a game is almost half as many as he had his entire junior year of high school so perhaps we didn’t see this performance coming. The former Miami native had a great career on a great team in high school and was a huge part of UNC’s defensive turnaround this season.