The Nation’s Top Units Series…Defensive Line

In the past decade there have been more defensive lineman drafted in the NFL than any other position. So how important is a good defensive line in football?  In pro football the defensive lineman are expected to bring the offense to a grinding halt. In college football defensive linemen are considered the cornerstone of any dominating defense. In high school football defensive linemen need to be a complete hindrance to any offensive progress.  One great defensive lineman is just not enough. Coaches consider it a rare gift to have dominating defensive fronts.  After all, it is difficult to find a combination of size and strength in an athlete, and then expect that same player to have the speed, the athleticism, and the endurance to play four quarters of football at a high level. Consider the following five schools as having the most commanding defensive fronts in high school football.

5)  St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Get familiar with the name Nick Bosa.  Not only is he the number one defensive lineman in the nation, but he also has teamed up with several top end athletes including Kedonis Haslem to form one of high school’s best defensive fronts.  Most offenses that play St. Thomas Aquinas get used to moving backwards.  On a successful offensive day going against this unit a team might gain crumb-like yardage.  Bosa and Haslem are both very old school with their techniques and would rather win battles with brute strength.  While they are rarely contained, when they do slow down there is enough talent with Colin Nace and Kivon Bennett to clean up any leftover offensive hope.  This crew is solid from end to end and has a plan to wreck havoc when the fall football season comes.

st thomas aquinas

4)  St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, AL)

The most frightening part about St. Paul Episcopal’s front four is the fact that their high profile players are interchangeable.  Both Darius Whitfield and Ryan Johnson can both be moved to each line position, whether it is defensive tackle or either end spot.  Why is this important?  The offensive blocking scheme can’t adjust at the same pace that Whitfield and Johnson can be moved around. This movement also creates confusion in the backfield by constantly throwing off play timing as well as keeping the offense from gaining any type of rhythm.  Because St. Episcopal is able to eliminate 70 percent of the offenses’s run game with just its front four, this puts a lot of strain on the opponents’ passing game helping to set up the ultimate advantage of the Saints’ lethal pass rush.  We can expect a lot of questionable looks between the opposing teams’ quarterbacks, running backs, and offensive coordinators when the front four from this unit put on their gear for the fall football season.

St. Pauls

3)  IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)

There are rumors in the high school football world that an opposing quarterback once went to his coach during the middle of a contest with IMG Academy and had the following short discussion.

Coach to qb…”What’s the problem out there, we’re getting slaughtered!”

QB to coach…”I’m sorry coach but every time I get the ball it feels like the walls are closing in!”

An ominous look, but all the more accurate example of what quarterbacks go through when facing the front four of IMG Academy.  The opposing team’s game plan may be straight forward, double team IMG’s All-American defensive end while locking out their all-everything defensive tackles.  What’s not so easy is going out there and executing the plan once the front four of IMG decide to play knock-around guys with the opposing offensive line.  Stopping Malik Barrow, Cam Spence, and Shavar Manuel will be quite a job this fall.  A bulldozer and two high speed tanks are what their opponents see when lining up in their stances.  An average bench of 300 pounds and all three guys with sub 5.0 40 yard dash times would make any opponent’s stomach queazy.  One of life’s great paradoxes would be to wish those who face the Ascenders good luck, but it would be even crueler not to.  The fall football season approaches and so does the intense pressure that the front four of IMG bring to the game.


2)  East English Village Prep (Detroit, MI)

Double vision:
| noun noun | dou * dou * ble * ble _ vi * vi * sion * sion |
def. the vision left to ball carriers who try to run through the “Ville’s” defensive line.

Double vision is created by Chauncey Golston and Cedrick Lattimore.  Two super athletes, as scouts are describing them, both Golston and Lattimore are Iowa Hawkeye commits. They both have a similar athletic posture and an exact plan for the offense.  That plan is to disrupt by sacks and tackles for losses. Some may be skeptical of this broad approach, but after watching both individuals perform it turns out to be a formidable thing to do.  Offenses do their best to use one blocker on Golston and Lattimore but with no avail.  When the double teams begin, the “Ville” defense then begins to show its full strength as turnovers soon follow.  East Village Prep plans on being top in its conference in sacks and turnovers.  Can they make a run at the state title? Only time will tell but in the meanwhile fans will enjoy watching their front four stymie the opposition.

east english village

1)  Lake Forest Academy (Lake Forest, IL)

The coolest nickname in high school football has been secured by the defensive line of Lake Forest Academy.  “The P.O. Box Boys” are led out to battle by Thomas Schaffer and Daniel Joseph.  Why such an odd nickname?  This front line is known to take entire offensive gameplans and return them ineffective to the original sender, i.e. offensive coordinator.   This set of all star book ends are almost impossible to stop.  Schaffer at 6’6 and Joseph at 6’4 are not only able to bring would be blockers to a halt, but they are also able to deflect passes by clogging up passing lanes.  Coach Bowkett keeps his team motives and game plans off the radar as good as any coach in the country, but it is hard to hide the reputation of a defensive front this menacing.  If they are able to keep their competition at a standstill, the school colors of orange and black may become all too familiar during playoff time.

Up next in the Nation’s Top Unit Series … Backfields. Stay Tuned

lake forest academy

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