Three-point stance: Protecting borders; top defenses; No. 1 pick
Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell’s thought-provoking Three-Point Stance is here with thoughts on some states that are vulnerable to out-of-state poaching, which teams will have the best defense in 2017 and whether Myles Garrett should be No. 1 overall.
MORE THREE-POINT STANCE: Impact commits/Clemson's elite status
1. The borders are open
When you think of states that are consistently being poached for top talent, a few easily come to mind while perhaps some others, especially one, aren’t so obvious. Here are five states I think are ripe for the picking for out-of-state programs.
- North Carolina – North Carolina is the first state you think of with the recent losses of Dexter Lawrence, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Bryce Love, Todd Gurley and some others of note. UNC and NC State haven’t done a good job keeping kids home for the longest time.
- The DMV – Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here including Maryland and Virginia together along with Washington, D.C. For the longest time, many of the top players in this region have gone out-of-state. Percy Harvin, Jonathan Allen and Khalan Laborn in Virginia to Chase Young, Keandre Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Kendall Fuller and others leaving Maryland. The Terps did a better job last year, but UVA and Virginia Tech have some work to do.
- Tennessee – This is more recent for the Vols, especially as three different five-stars left the state last year. Landing Cade Mays early is important for Tennessee, but the alert is up that the state can be raided.
- Georgia – This seems odd, as Kirby Smart did such a great job recruiting last year. But Aubrey Solomon, AJ Terrell, Davis Mills, Xavier McKinney, Jamyest Williams and others left the state. With so much talent, there is no way to expect UGA to keep all of them in state, but with half of the in-state top 20 committed already for 2018 and none to the Dawgs, this state is susceptible.
- Texas – Tom Herman has a big job ahead of him as Charlie Strong had some success, but when five-star guys like Marvin Wilson, Jeffrey Okudah, Baron Browning and Walker Little are all leaving, Texas is wide open.
2. Defense wins championships
Offense gets most of the attention in college football these days, but two of the best and most talented defenses have met for the national title in each of the last two seasons as Alabama and Clemson have put out star-studded defensive rosters. So who will dominate on defense in 2017 and which current 2018 commitment will be an absolute star for them moving forward? Here’s your answer.
1) Clemson – The Tigers over Alabama? Yep. The defensive line is loaded with Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and an emerging Clelin Ferrell and there will be great talent at linebacker and in the secondary, albeit young. Look for guys like Tre Lamar and Trayvon Mullen to emerge and incumbent starters Dorian O’Daniel, Kendall Joseph and Van Smith to take the next step.
2018 Future Star – DE Xavier Thomas could be as good as anyone Clemson has had along the defensive line in recent years and that’s saying something.
2) Alabama – Alabama just re-loads, but they lost a ton of talent, so it’s hard to put it first with guys like Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Reuben Foster, Marlon Humphrey, Eddie Jackson and others gone. Da’Ron Payne is a beast in the middle, this is the year Da’Shawn Hand is expected to emerge and of course Minkah Fitzpatrick is a star already. Rashaan Evans will take the next step and watch out for Mack Wilson at linebacker as well.
2018 Future Star – DE Jordan Davis may be a reach right now as far as a superstar, but his ceiling is very high as a long, athletic pass rusher.
3) Ohio State – The defensive line is so deep that some guys who would start for others will share time (sounds like Alabama last year) and the linebacker group has great potential. Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Dre’Mont Jones, Nick Bosa and others paired with Jerome Baker, Chris Worley and Dante Booker should lead an amazing front seven, but there are questions in the secondary and some true freshmen like Jeffrey Okudah and Shaun Wade will need to step up quickly. Replacing Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, all likely first-rounders, will be a challenge.
4) Florida State – The defensive line is loaded, led by Demarcus Christmas, Derreck Nnadi, Josh Sweat and Brian Burns and the secondary has playmakers in Derwin James, Trey Marshall and Tarvarus McFadden. The linebackers are the question marks, but it should be a deeper and much improved unit led by Jacob Pugh and Matthew Thomas.
2018 Future Star – Robert Cooper may need to re-shape his body a bit, but find me a more powerful defensive tackle in the 2018 class and a 350-pounder with lighter feet. It’s not easy.
5) Michigan – How the heck do I pick a Michigan defense that loses so many players? One reason – defensive coordinator Don Brown, the best in the business, has some amazing young talent to work with. Rashan Gary and Maurice Hurst will dominate the middle and players like Mike McCray, Ambry Thomas, Lavert Hill and even true freshman Aubrey Solomon could be upgrades in some sense. Losing Jabrill Peppers, Taco Charlton, Chris Wormley, Jourdan Lewis and the rest is tough and experience will be missing, but just watch what Brown does with his young talent.
2018 Future Star – CB Myles Sims is long, athletic and covers a ton of ground. As he fills out, he could be that rare tall corner who can work his way into the lineup as a safety initially and then become a star.
3. The Browns being the Browns
Should Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by the Cleveland Browns? Probably so, but I can see the Browns wanting a quarterback and understand the internal debate with head coach Hue Jackson wanting a signal-caller first. The quarterback position can change everything; an elite pass rusher can certainly help but won’t have the same impact. Elite defensive ends won’t win a Super Bowl without an elite quarterback leading the offense and yes that includes Von Miller winning it with an aging Peyton Manning.
So if the Browns want to take a quarterback and roll the dice – have at it. But Mitch Trubisky? Over DeShaun Watson? That’s where I’m lost. The Browns could ruin Trubisky's career, given his limited game experience already. In fact it’s better they are focused on Trubisky rather than Watson because it gives the latter a better chance at success and he’s the guy who could end up being elite.
As people say, the Browns gotta Brown and this is beyond confusing.