Lone Star State Report: Top DLs

For the third year in a row, there is a bumper crop of outstanding defensive linemen in Texas. Size, speed, and playmaking ability are hallmarks of this group. And so is being heavily recruited. Defensive linemen are the hardest to find, most difficult to recruit, but also have the ability to get on the field as true freshmen at the college level.

Six players have already made verbal commitments. William Morrissey (6-1, 275) of Silsbee and Chris Smith (6-4, 260) of Allen, both members of the prestigious Texas Football magazine's Pre-Season Super Team have cast their lots with Dennis Franchione's Texas A&M Aggies. Morrissey actually committed last fall to R.C. Slocum's staff. San Antonio Roosevelt's Cory Bennett (6-4, 250) and fast-rising Alan Davis (6-4, 245) of Colleyville Heritage have pledged to Bob Stoops and Oklahoma, while Denton Ryan's Derek Lokey (6-3, 250) and Houston Lamar's Brian Orakpo (6-4, 215) are future Texas Longhorns.

Plenty of talent remains in the market as the state's top defender, big Franklin Okam (6-5, 315) of Lake Highland's remains uncommitted. Not only is Okam big and fast, but he also ranks in the top five percent of his class, making him a priority target for national recruiters Notre Dame and Stanford. Galena Park's Tremaine Johnson (6-2, 260) perhaps the most explosive of the bunch also has lots of college options. Wharton's massive Kellen Heard (6-6, 320) is also an offensive line prospect, as is Galveston Ball's Walter Thomas (6-4, 325). Ryan Johnson (6-4, 250) of Dallas Carter may be the best pass rusher in the state, with Klein Forest's McCollins Umeh (6-3, 250) not far behind. Also look for Kevin Mims (6-4, 235) who will anchor the defense at The Woodlands this fall.

Two players whose stock has risen dramatically throughout the summer combine/camp scene are Pearland's Cyril Obizior (6-4, 230) and Ennis' Tommy Daniels (6-2, 290). Two other players expected to emerge in the fall are Dallas W.T. White's Micah Howeth (6-4, 250) and The Colony's Will Smith (6-4, 260). Both players were injured as juniors and saw limited action, but both are ready to go for their senior campaigns. In addition to Heard and Thomas, Yaniv Barnett of Schertz Clemens (6-3, 270) and Brandon Mack (6-3, 280) are as good of prospects on the offensive side as they are defensively.

Undersized leverage players are gaining a place in college football, particularly in Texas where North Texas' 5-8 Brandon Kennedy has emerged as one of the dominant college defensive linemen. Two players who fit that profile are Dallas Lincoln's Ramel Borner (6-0, 270) and Lakeview Centennial's James McClinton (6-1, 300).

Three of the better players may be ticketed for the junior college route, but look for all three to be heavily recruited and double-signed. Belton's William Bell (6-3, 235) plays noseguard for the Tigers, but expect to see him move out to DE for his college career. Dickinson's Paul Brisco (6-4, 245) is an outstanding pass rusher and Ft. Bend Hightower's Mark Johnson (6-1, 245) runs the anchor leg on their sprint relay team and has been timed consistently in the low 4.5's.

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