2010 Tiger Targets: DE

With new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele at the helm, the Tigers will attempt to increase the intensity and pressure that comes from an attacking, swarming defense.

An integral part of this new scheme will be getting pressure off the edge with talented sack specialists at defensive end. In a shift of focus from the offense to the defensive side of the ball, CUTigers takes a look at some potential pass rushers still on the board:


Gabe King is currently rated as the No. 5 defensive end prospect in the nation according to Scout.com.
DE Gabe King

THE LOW DOWN: Northern Guilford High School boasts some of the best top end talent in the entire nation, and it is headlined by the talented do-it-all end, Gabe King. The strongside end has outstanding size and strength at the position combined with a very quick first step. King has the ability to stuff runs at the point of attack and chase down ball carriers from the backside on plays designed to run away from him. What has really separated Gabe from the rest of the pack as a defensive end is his vastly improved pass rushing technique. King has launched himself from a solid four star run stopping end into a legitimate five star, complete player. He can stack plays up at the line of scrimmage, play sideline to sideline, and get after the quarterback. Such complete ends are hard to come by as it is, but when you temper those skills with an upside that's just beginning to be scratched, you have one of the best prospects in the nation.

THE CONTENDERS: Schools knew that King was a special player, but they perhaps didn't realize how special. Gabe has been singled out at every single combine he's been to as one of the best players, regardless of position. With ace recruiter and head coach Butch Davis at the helm of the Tarheel program, UNC has been on a recruiting tear over the last few years. When targeting a top prospect from their home state, one has to always consider them as the favorite. However, a recent visit to the west coast has shaken things up a bit. California, who does have some ties working in their favor, managed to secure a visit and blew the talented big man away. Oregon also profited from the trip, but it is the Golden Bears who managed to take over the top spot. Alabama is also a threat to steal a signature, but may be on the outside looking in. Then, there is Clemson. The Tigers managed to get an early visit that helped their cause planting them firmly in the lead group. However, Clemson must absolutely get Gabe back on campus if they have a shot. In addition, things may get interesting if the Tigers lure top recruit and team mate Keenan Allen their way. The crystal ball says that Butch works his magic and the distance to Berkley proves too much as King wears the Baby Blue.


T.J. Stripling is currently rated as the No. 16 defensive end prospect in the nation according to Scout.com.
DE T.J. Stripling

THE LOW DOWN: Stripling will remind some Clemson fans of their own Ricky Sapp. A speed rusher in every sense of the word, he possesses an excellent burst for a prospect of his size and often is able to simply blow by would-be blockers. He has a great frame with exceptionally long arms that will aid in both wrapping up on tackles and in disengaging from blockers. Stripling is a bit light and will need to bulk up in order to be successful at the college level, even possibly requiring a redshirt year to put on the necessary muscle. T.J. is also blessed with great athleticism and is more than capable of dropping into coverage and blanketing a tight end or a back out of the backfield. Once he masters a bit more technique to go along with his speed and adds some muscle to his hustle, Stripling has the raw ability to be a sack master extraordinaire at the college level.

THE CONTENDERS: T.J. has long been an SEC lean and nothing has changed with the talented playmaker. As always, the hometown Dawgs are going to be tough to beat for an instate prospect that they really want. However, conference rival Florida has long been the favorite school for the speedy end. The Gators were named Stripling's favorite at the beginning of the process and again as little as a month ago. However, things may have swung back into Georgia's favor when talented teammate, Ken Malcome pledged to be a Bulldog. Stripling and Malcome are good friends and have stated they would like to play together. The Tigers were running in the lead group for the end earlier in the summer, but have failed to make up any ground on the SEC schools. While there is some slim hope that Rumph's good relationship could garner an official visit and a chance to claw back into the hunt, this one may be over for the Orange and Purple. The crystal ball says Georgia shows why they are the best at locking down instate recruits they covet and keep yet another stud home.


T.J. Stripling is currently rated as the No. 14 outside linebacker prospect in the nation according to Scout.com, but currently favoring Florida and Georgia.
DE Neiron Ball

THE LOW DOWN: Ball is an explosive, tweener athlete that could be successful at either outside linebacker or with his hand down rushing the passer. Much like Stripling, speed is Neiron's greatest asset, and, much like Stripling, his greatest weakness is size. Ball's frame isn't as lanky as T.J.'s which may limit his ability in shedding blockers and batting down balls, but he is much thicker built and may have an easier time carrying the additional weight needed to play on the line at the college level. Neiron has great agility and ability to redirect and can easily play sideline to sideline from his end position. However, don't expect great things out of him against the run as he can get swallowed up at the line of scrimmage. Perhaps best suited as a blitzing linebacker and not a true defensive end, Ball is a terror when going after the quarterback. With a world of potential and athletic ability, he is going to require some fairly intensive coaching before he is game ready, but look for big production once he sees action.

THE CONTENDERS: Ball is an interesting prospect in that every time it seems his recruiting focus is narrowing, it widens again. Once again, the favorite has to lie Between the Hedges, especially in light of the fact that Neiron's older brother, Neeland, plays defensive end for the Dawgs. The Gators are also providing stiff competition for Ball's services and the two SEC teams are deadlocked at the top. However, both teams have prospects higher on their boards, namely Stripling, among others. If the cards fall just right, Clemson could find Ball ripe for the picking. Georgia is running low on scholarships and should Stripling sign with Georgia, they would likely not have room for Ball as well. If Florida lands one of its other nationally ranked recruits at the position, they too could pass on Ball for lack of room. Clemson would find itself in a dogfight with Auburn to land the speed rusher, but most definitely needs to secure an official visit to stand a chance. The crystal ball says while Georgia fills up with Stripling, Florida has the room and takes Ball dashing the Tigers' hopes.


Corey Crawford was blown away by a visit to Clemson late last week and currently has the Tigers and Georgia as his top two schools.
DE Corey Crawford

THE LOW DOWN: Crawford is one of the more underrated prospects in Georgia and should see his stock rise over the next few months. His development has suffered some by playing out of position at linebacker when his true future lies with a hand on the ground. Corey is a big, thick athlete who should anchor the strongside of the line and be very effective against the run. He has a good frame and already possesses decent bulk to play the strongside position, but lacks the strength one would expect of a player of his build. With some much needed gains in the weight room, especially in the upper body, Crawford could become even more proficient at shedding blockers and stuffing the run. While Corey's pass rush game is still developing, he shows glimpses from time to time of a player that could ultimately be a threat coming off the edge. While he may never dominate in either facet of the game, Crawford has the ability to become a complete player and find himself on the field no matter the situation.

THE CONTENDERS: It is a two team race for Crawford, between Clemson Orange and Georgia Red. Clemson holds the slight edge for Crawford and will likely be the team to beat. Georgia is tight on scholarships and is already loading up along the defensive line. With both Ball and Stripling sitting on the board for the Dawgs, UGA may not accept an early commitment from the big end in hopes of luring a bigger fish. In addition, Morant's recent surprise pledge may have stolen Corey's spot. Clemson impressed Crawford immensely on a recent visit and catapulted into the lead for his services regardless of scholarship status at UGA. Clemson may walk away with an absolute steal as Corey has been incredibly impressive on the camp circuit garnering several on the spot offers, including one from Georgia themselves. Once thought to be below the offer board for the Dawgs, a quick workout in front of the coaches showed Crawford to be a prospect they couldn't pass up offering. The crystal ball says Georgia is too full to take Corey and Clemson walks away with an absolute steal of one of the fastest rising prospects in the southeast.


Kareem Martin is a prospect who has greatly benefited from the summer camp circuit and seen his stock climb steadily.
DE Kareem Martin

THE LOW DOWN: Martin is a prospect who has greatly benefited from the summer camp circuit and seen his stock climb steadily. A repeated standout in 1-on-1's, he shows a good variety of pass rush moves as well as a great burst around the end. Kareem has tremendous size and could wind up playing either end position depending on how he is able to handle the weight. He has great versatility and athleticism, often showing the ability to be around the ball at all times. Due to his exceptional quickness and proficiency of moves to beat blockers, his rush skills far exceed his run stopping ability and will need coaching up along with some instilled discipline to be an effective player on all assignments. Given a redshirt year for needed strength and bulk and perhaps another year in a back up role learning to be a more complete player, Martin has three year starter potential in him. Look for his recruitment to continue to heat up as he gets more exposure this coming year.

THE CONTENDERS: In a break from the trend in this article, Martin is an ACC lean at this time. Coach Cutcliffe put together a very nice class at Duke last year and is already looking to exceed it with this year's crop. Martin has the Blue Devils at the top currently as he sees both a valuable education, as well as a chance for some immediate playing time. A visit in late June put the Tigers firmly in the mix for the end and should secure an official visit from the prospect. Virginia Tech is also strong early, largely on their reputation for playing tough, hardnosed defense. He has yet to visit the Hokies, but will do so at the end of this month and will likely finalize a final five at that time. Also, as is always the rule of recent in North Carolina, don't count out UNC to make a late push if they happen to strike out on some of the other ends higher on their list. The crystal ball says that Clemson will have every chance to blow the prospect away on his official visit, but don't be surprised to see Coach Cutcliffe steal another underrated gem as he continues build an extremely solid class full of tough, hard working players.


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