The defensive backfield is considered the last line of defense. A great secondary is built around speed, coverage skill, and sure tackling. Some of the best high school secondaries in the past have had the perfect mix of all of these components and this year’s group did not fall short in any of these categories. The following teams clearly have some of the best units in high school football for the 2016 season.
5) IMG Academy Ascenders (Bradenton, FL)
The talent pool continues at IMG Academy with a defensive backfield that features two all state picks and one pre-season All-American. Isaiah Pryor is a stud and gets coverage help from Marcus Williamson. And recently Houston Griffith, who is one of the best cover guys in the class of 2018, transferred in from Chicago’s Mt. Caramel. Griffith has been slated the most versatile player in his class. This leads to the exact reason for IMG’s dominance which stands on the fact that each member of its secondary can play both corner and safety at an all-star level. Hard to imagine IMG’s pass defense not ranking in the top five nationally at season’s end. After meshing their skill sets, the Ascenders’ secondary will have a unit of the most advanced skilled ball hawks in the country.
4) American Heritage Patriots (Plantation, FL)
Covering top ranked receivers is nothing new to American Heritage’s secondary. In the past five years they have faced a total of 18 receivers who went on to play division one college football. Little will change in 2016 in terms of schedule difficulty nor will American Heritage’s secondary dominance decline. Add the fact that you have NFL All-Pro Patrick Surtain leading the mighty Patriots, and you have a crew of defenders with pro-style discipline and budding knowledge. The players. Will Allen III, Patrick Surtain Jr., and Marco Wilson lead the group. When these players walk onto the field this fall it will be to the dismay of opposing offensive coordinators.
3) Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas, NV)
Expectations for the Bishop Gorman Gaels’ defense are always high. Their defensive backs have had the luxury of facing one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in practice. This has been to the advantage of the secondary for the past two years. Alex Perry has some of the best cover skills in high school football and is one of several defensive backs in his class who is already considered college game day ready. The reality of the Gaels’ national schedule can’t be ignored. It would be extremely difficult to end the season as the number one team in the country. But if they are able to get through the first four games unscathed you can credit a lot of it to awesome secondary play.
2) Cass Tech Technicians (Detroit, MI)
Cass Tech has been consistently competitive on defense for the past decade. For two years the Technicians have had dominance up front but this year their secondary will receive the respect that it has earned. It features two All-American types in Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Donovan Johnson. They both have the skill level to shut down the fastest of aerial attacks. Very physical and aggressive in press coverage, Cass Tech won’t have problems pushing opposing receivers around. By year end it won’t be a surprise to see this crew of talented defensive backs with the number one pass defense in high school football.
1) Rancho Cucamonga Cougars (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
The top cornerback tandem comes out of Rancho Cucamonga with Jaylen Redd and Thomas Graham. It’s never a bad thing to have shut down corners that are both sub 4.5 40 yard guys. And with the come-uppance of Darren Hall you have arguably the best secondary in the nation. Hall works as a sort of big brother to the shadow-like corners and as a unit they have zero tolerance for the deep ball. Reliance on speed is not necessarily a bad thing but is indeed a necessity when it comes to Rancho Cucamonga’s overall pass defense. It’s neither careful nor courteous to claim that the Cougars secondary can shutdown any receiving corps in the nation.
Next Up…Offensive Backfields. Stay tuned.