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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Best available: Most-likely defenders

By Tom Luginbill

The athlete category can be very tricky to project as so many prospects now are playing as Wildcat QB’s with the majority moving to either the secondary, wide receiver or running back. Players in this category likely play on both sides of the ball on a consistent basis with the upside to play on either at the next level which gives them excellent value, but also can hinder their developmental progress because they have not focused all their time at one position heading into college. Below are five athletes that we feel confident will end up on defense.

ATH John “JuJu” Smith

Long Beach, Calif./Poly | Highlights Video | List of schools considering
6-1, 206 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 41 | ATH Rank: 3 | Stars: 4

Early on in the process we felt pretty strongly that Smith was an ideal fit to play wide receiver. After further review we feel every bit as strongly that safety is going to be his best position to maximize his upside. He has a ball hawking, physical mentality with a great motor. He’s always around the football and as a pass defender has a knack for pass break-ups.

ATH Marshon Lattimore

Cleveland/Glenville | Highlights Video | List of schools considering
6-0, 178 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 51 | ATH Rank: 5 | Stars: 4

Lattimore is a supplement on offense at the high school level and his athleticism is needed on that side of the ball because he is too good of an athlete to not be on the field all the time. However, his overall upside is going to be best as either a cornerback or safety at the next level. We anticipate him starting off as a corner. He has ball skills and size to match up. The question is whether that size eventually morphs into being a full-time safety.

ATH Ronnie Clark

Calera, Ala./Calera | List of schools considering
6-3, 210 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 96 | ATH Rank: 12 | Stars: 4

Clark is a load on either side of the ball as a wide receiver/OLB/safety prospect, but we are not sure he has the explosive burst to have the upside on offense that he has on defense. His build lends to a lot of scheme possibilities as a strong safety, nickel or outside linebacker. Plus, we think he might outgrow the WR position which would prompt a move to defense if he doesn’t start out there immediately.

ATH Montae Nicholson

Monroeville, Pa./Gateway | Highlights Video | List of schools considering
6-2, 210 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 252 | ATH Rank: 29 | Stars: 4

Nicholson is an extremely instinctive player who makes a lot of plays on both side of the ball with terrific ball skills. It’s those instincts that could see him as a fulltime safety at the next level. He’s a fierce and steady run defender, but has limited man-to-man experience to this point, but he plays pass coverage like he’s a natural wide receiver and attacks the ball in competitive matchups.

ATH Evan Berry

Fairburn, Ga./Creekside | List of schools considering
5-11, 194 pounds | ESPN 300 Rank: 293 | ATH Rank: 37 | Stars: 4

Berry, just like his older brother Eric, is primarily a Wildcat QB that projects best as a safety prospect. However, most of his athletic traits are evaluated by what he does on offense because he has limited reps on defense. He’s not a true fit at WR and while he is reminiscent of a power back at times, it is clear he is on offense at QB so that his athleticism can be maximized. Expect developmental progress on defense over the course of his college career

Team meeting the mark: Miami
The Hurricanes are riding a wave of positive buzz heading into the season, and if they can get to double digit wins in 2013, they could close incredibly strong. The needs are at RB, QB, offensive line and defense line. So far, so good. The top seven graded players in this class are all at those positions and RB Joseph Yearby could be another Duke Johnson. Imagine those two on the field at one time. OTs Trevor Darling, Reilly Gibbons and Kc McDermott provide much needed depth as the ACC’s top offensive line this year will all be moving on shortly. The Canes currently have three QBs committed, but we see Brad Kaaya as the guy to watch. Will all three stick with Miami? Time will tell. Miami must get bigger on defense, particularly in the front. DE Chad Thomas in our opinion has some of the best upside as an edge rusher this class has to offer. Things are looking up in Coral Gables with a new football operations facility and high hopes for the 2013 season.