Patrolling the ground game is a feat that defensive coordinators deem priority number one especially when adapting a winning game plan. Keeping the airways secure is a challenge that only the best ball-hawking secondaries can accomplish. It takes excellent coverage ability, lots of speed, and an aggressive nose for the ball to be considered a top high school secondary. The fall of 2015 gives us five groups that would rank at the top of any scout’s or coach’s list.
5) Detroit Martin Luther King (Detroit, MI)
Confidence should not be misconstrued for cockiness when looking at the MLK secondary. Ambry Thomas is a well skilled defensive back who is willing to line up against any receiver in the nation. He is fearless in coverage and often gambles against the competition. The results usually favor Thomas who is even more confident with the ball in his hands. Lavert Hill derives his confidence from his excellent footwork and hips, an obvious staple need for defensive backs. Working on these two things has been the focus of this current summer. Not for development but for sharpening as Hill already has some of the best defensive footwork in the region and now has developed that “shadow-like” coverage ability. Boosting an already athletic and shutdown type defense is the plan for the MLK secondary. Putting a halt to their opponents’ passing game is something Thomas and Hill shrug their shoulders to in a self-assured “piece of cake” type of way.
4) Manvel (Manvel, TX)
Derrick Tucker and Deontay Anderson are the most physical tandem at safety in high school football. This toughness brings an attitude to a defense that sends ripples of panic throughout the high school football scene down in Texas. Critics peek at the 40 yard dash times of both safeties and figure them as sub par at best. Opponents would tell these critics to hush with that version of madness because it only puts size-able chips on these two all-star performers’ shoulders. With their rugged run stopping skills, the secondary of Manvel often forces the offense to pass and this plays right into the hands of the mighty Mavericks. Basic in theory but as effective as gas in a car, the toughness of the Manvel secondary is what launches them to the top of the charts.
3) Junipero Serra (Gardens, CA)
Any receiving corp that faces the Cavaliers of Serra will be lined up against SEC style safeties. Brandon Burton and CJ Pollard head up a highly athletic unit with a dependence on physical skills and less on the knowledge of schemes and a playbook. They take on the mold of the SEC safeties, renown for their athleticism, because of Serra’s coverage ability. Serra gets tested by teams with a lot of in state California speed, yet they hold their own in high octane recruits. Burton and Pollard give quarterbacks a reason to double clutch all potential throws. The royal blue and scarlet have a tough 2015 schedule, but they can depend on a secondary to deliver much needed defensive scores. A playoff run is expected but Serra is ultimately looking at conference and state titles.
2) IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
Three players with three different skill sets combine to shut down all illegitimate attempts at passing against the Ascenders’ defense. Saivion Smith’s skills are full of finesse and targeted toward creating turnovers. His graceful high step after an interception or fumble recovery has become a part of his gameplay, leaving smiles on even the most sullen of fans. Spencer Perry takes on the role of captain and guides his teammates not only with knowledge and pre-determination of offensive schemes but also with a “lead by example” mentality. Khalil Ladler brings his superb quickness and high end anticipatory skills to the field making him one formidable force to reckon with. Scouts have to wonder why a offensive coordinator would dare to test the IMG secondary. Could it be because of pride, thinking that these guys are not as good as the pundits say? Or maybe they feel that it is imperative to show their respective teams that any team can be beat and they stand up to any challenge. Bottom line is that when the opposition faces this extremely talented secondary they should start every sentence, thought, and potential football deed with the idea of “these IMG defensive backs are very, very good.”
1) Meridian (Meridian, MS)
The Wildcats have Zaire Jones and Quincy Lenton who gladly accept the role of being their brothers’ keepers. Communication is the most important part of their game as Jones and Lenton take it upon themselves to have the entire defense on one accord every single time the ball is snapped. While Lenton prides his game on sure tackling, Jones makes it necessary to garner and force as many turnovers as it takes to get Meridian a win. This secondary will rarely be beaten deep during the upcoming season, as both safeties bring sub 4.5 40 yard speed to the field. The Meridian secondary talks as one, thinks as one, and moves in symmetry. Opponents will have to face a defensive backfield that plays the pass and the run equally well. A safety that is a ferocious hitter usually gains the respect of an offense pretty fast. A safety that brings the wood and is also able to get back to his zone responsibilities is feared. Imagine what teams playing Meridian think when they see two of these type of safeties. Double the trouble is right. A second thought is woe to the offensive coordinators who have to face these guys.