If you thought the talent was loaded on the offensive side of the ball in 2018, wait till you see some of the defensive recruits South Florida has to offer.
Before we break down the defensive talent, we’ll go over the criteria again: the players must live/play in Broward, Dade or Palm Beach County. From there it’s broken down by game film, attributes, stats and strength of schedule.
Here we go.
10. Rocky Shelton, 5-11, 205, 4-Star OLB, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas): Shelton is very reminiscent of Jets rookie Darron Lee, a 6’1”, 220 pound OLB who starred at Ohio State. Although Lee listed at 6’1”, he’s closer to 6’0”. But he never let his size become a deterrent. Shelton is the same way. Shelton is great at shedding blocks and finishing tackles. Rocky has a very high motor. Shetlon is a threat on special teams. He’s great on punt block and kickoff teams. Sometimes he over pursues a play thanks to that high motor, but he is raw. He’ll develop very well in the next few years.
9. Nadab Joseph, 6-2, 173, 4-Star S, Miami, FL (Edison): After searching the internet, a few videos popped up highlighting Joseph’s hard hitting talent. The LSU commit loves to step into the box and make a play. Despite being a big hitter, Joseph told Nola.com writer, James Smith, that the Tigers would love to use him at corner. He has adequate speed to make a big play if the ball ends up in his hands. He’ll come out of nowhere and make a play. Joseph is like a missile. He’ll launch his body at the ball carrier and deliver a devastating blow. Les Miles will love developing this kid into the next star defensive back in Baton Rouge.
8. Gilbert Frierson, 6-1, 185, 4-Star CB, Miami, FL (Coral Gables Senior): We’ve interviewed Frierson, and he is committed to being a star at the next level. The Miami commit is a long, physical corner. Frierson said that his long arms, speed and big frame have helped set him apart from other corners in this class. Frierson told us that he looks up to current Miami safety Jamal Carter. Frierson could be a top safety at the next level given his size and hitting ability. Although he is listed by several sites as a corner, safety seems to be a better fit for him. As a whole, he is a complete defensive back and great addition to Miami’s 2018 recruiting class.
7. Asante Samuel Jr., 5-9.5, 166, 4-Star CB, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas): Does the name sound familiar? It should. His father Asante Samuel was a NFL star who made it to four Pro-Bowls and won two Super Bowls (XXXVIII, XXXIX). The younger Samuel shares a lot of similar traits with his father. Both are roughly 5’10”, but play like they’re giants. Both are ball hawks. Samuel Jr. makes it look easy to pick off a ball and take it to the house. Despite missing four games last season, Samuel Jr. made an impact on the field. He leaves it all on the field, constantly diving out to make interceptions. Sure, he’s not the biggest guy on the field, but his tenacity is like a pit bull’s. He can make hits like a middle linebacker.
6. CJ Smith, 6-3, 190, 4-Star S, West Palm Beach, FL (Oxbridge Academy): Smith is a physical specimen. His 6-3 frame reminds me of former USC star Taylor Mays, but Smith is far more athletic. His hands are great for a young defensive back. As a sophomore, Smith finished the season with 22 tackles and six interceptions. If there were 10 jump ball match ups, Smith would win at least nine. He’s that good. Smith is a solid tackler, but ultimately his coverage skills are what make him stand out on tape. He’ll always find a way to be near the ball when it is in the air.
5. Tyson Campbell, 6-2, 180, 4-Star CB, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (American Heritage): Campbell’s dream came true when the Ohio State Buckeyes offered him on Aug. 4. Despite raving about the Buckeyes and planning a visit, Campbell could land at LSU or Miami. He’s interested highly in both schools. Campbell is part of a deep secondary headlined by 2018 corner, Patrick Surtain Jr. Despite playing alongside such talented defensive backs, Campbell finds ways to stand out. His acceleration is on another level. Watch his highlight video, and you’ll see him pick off a screen and turn the jets on. He reaches the end zone in a blink of the eye. On one-on-one jump ball match-ups, Campbell will put up one hell of a fight. He’s also a great open field tackler.
4. Al Blades Jr., 6-0, 170, 4-Star CB, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas): For a short time, Blades Jr. was committed to Miami. He decommitted, but Blades Jr. will officially visit Miami this fall. This is a program he’s very familiar with. No need to get into his ties to the program. If you’re a fan of the Hurricanes, or even college football, you should already know about that. Let’s talk about his ability on the field. Looking at the vitals, this kid has everything you want in an elite corner: 4.5 second 40 time, a solid 365 pound squat, and a 33.5” inch vertical and a four second shuttle time. When he picks the ball off, Blades Jr. Makes it his mission to find the end zone. Blades Jr. never gives up on a play, and you have to love that. He’s made some big plays at receiver, too. He has a sense of what it’s like to be on both sides of the ball. His field awareness is great, and he’ll make a lot of interceptions near the sideline without falling out of bounds.
3. Nik Bonitto, 6-3.5, 210, 4-Star WDE, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (St. Thomas Aquinas): After watching his video, one word can define this kid: Stud. He’s an effective pass rusher as both an outside linebacker and defensive end. If he does fill out, he’ll be a monster. Regardless of his size, he has a knack for getting in the backfield and wreaking havoc. He finishes every tackle and has a toolbox full of pass rushing moves. Bonitto has great speed and he’ll close off the outside forcing running backs to panic. What really stands out about Bonitto is that he’ll try to stifle a quarterback even if it doesn’t result in a sack. He always has his hands up swatting down passes. He’s a tough kid and loves to rough up the quarterback. At the next level, he may need to be more aware of hits on the quarterback after the pass, but ultimately he makes it his goal to make a QB’s day miserable.
2. Josh Jobe, 6-1, 180, 4-Star CB, Miami, FL (Columbus): One of my favorite videos of Josh Jobe displays his ability to lay the boom to ball carriers. He is an extremely physical corner. He is a bully on the field. Columbus is a team that features a few marquee names that are committed to Miami: Trajan Bandy and Christopher Henderson. Jobe sets himself apart from the two thanks to his physicality, but he’s also an intelligent defender. Personality wise, he’s a diehard Canes fan, and grew up dreaming of playing for The U. Despite being a junior, Jobe is 18 years and 4 months old. He’ll finish up this year at Columbus, play prep football next year and head to Miami after (should enroll in Jan. of 2018). Due to his size and physicality, he’ll probably be a big time safety at the next level. Like most of the defensive backs on Columbus’ the roster, Jobe has benefitted from the top level coaching the program has to offer.
1.Patrick Surtain Jr., 6-2, 181, 5-Star CB, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (American Heritage): Surtain Jr. plays on a team whose secondary is loaded with stars, but he is the leader of the pack. Surtain Jr. has the ability to bait quarterbacks into throwing passes they shouldn’t, and that is something that many high school corners lack. It’s a skill guys like Richard Sherman have made careers out of. His size allows him to matchup well with any receiver. The junior cornerback combines physicality with finesse, and is an excellent athlete. He’s a good return man. As of now, LSU is leading the race to land Surtain Jr. Another thing to note: Surtain’s father was a star at Southern Miss and played 11 seasons in the NFL.