Team USA Impact Performers, Defense

After a week's worth of practice, and heading into tonight's game against American Samoa, here are the top five defensive players for the USA U-19 Team, based on this week.

Like with the offense, it's a tough job to pare things down to five players. This is especially true of the front three players in the 3-3-5 stack that Team USA is running. Four of the five players listed below played some linebacker this week, and the fact that they made so many plays reflects really well on the three-man defensive tackle combination of Jacob Hyde, Herbert Moore and Tyler Colbert, who held their ground against the run and funneled the running backs into those guys.

The issue there is that all three guys seemed to play at about an equal (high) level, so it's difficult to project them onto a list like this. And while certain defensive backs stood out, like Cameron Walker, Dashon Hunt, Malik Rucker and Darius Sims (in the return game), they didn't have nearly the week as a group that the front line did. And like I listed in the offensive article, Cameron Van Winkle was sensational as a kicker/punter. If you were listing an overall top-10 list, he'd probably be on it. But I didn't include him here.

Here are the top-five defensive players this week:

5) Cory Jasudowich, LB, Cheshire (Conn.) — Boston College

Jasudowich emerged as the man in the middle for the Team USA defense, and was named a team captain at week's end. That's appropriate for somebody who not only did a great job aligning people this week, but who also served as a rough-and-tumble enforcer against the run. Jasudowich isn't overly tall, but he's a thick 235 pounds, and he'll fit in well as a run-stuffer at Boston College.

4) Justin Bridges-Thompson, LB, Spartanburg (S.C.) — Undecided

When the coaches talk about the speed of the defense, they might as well be singling out Bridges-Thompson, who runs like a safety and has the habit of making impact plays. Bridges-Thompson really came on as the week progressed, intercepting a pass and grabbing a key sack on one of the last few days. He isn't a bigger guy at this point, but if he could get up to 220 pounds at the next level, he certainly runs well enough to play that hybrid OLB position in college. He has been offered by a few ACC schools, and I could certainly see him there.

3) Chase Abbington, LB/S, Fort Zumwalt South (Mo.) — Missouri

Abbington is arguably one of the top overall athletes in attendance, and certainly one of its more versatile ones. He is committed to Missouri to play running back, had some success early this week as a linebacker, then excelled at safety once he was moved to the back-line mid-week. He has excellent speed as a free safety type, but with his frame, it isn't hard to see him jumping up to the box at the next level. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Abbington is a long, fluid player who projects to add at least 20 pounds at the next level. His current weight is all in his lower body, and he has plenty of room in his upper body to continue to add. He had a couple interceptions this week, as well as a few WOW plays in pursuit.

2) Eric Beisel, LB, Rockwood Summit (Mo.) — Undecided

One of the rare players who looks good on the hoof, then looks better once the ball is snapped. Beisel is a solid 6-4 235, but what stands out the most is his nose for the ball. He's playing a SAM position here, and it seems like whenever the whistle is blown on a running play stopped short, Beisel has to unwind his arms from around the ball-carrier. He's a physical player who excels at sifting through the trash, and though he could certainly grow into a defensive end, with his instincts and speed, it's going to be hard to move him from his current linebacker spot.

1) Dajaun Drennon, DE, Timber Creek (N.J.) — Undecided

Two-way defensive ends are tough to find, which is why Drennon has offers from schools like Alabama, Florida State, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC. His top five is Notre Dame, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia and USC. Drennon has held up his end of the deal against the run, but truly shines whenever he's able to pin his ears back and get to the quarterback. Drennon had multiple sacks this week as the lone true defensive end in the 3-3-5, and had another play where he stopped a drive by knocking down a pass on the line. Drennon's capacity to add weight is also excellent. He's thick through the lower body, and could wind up weighing as much as 260 pounds in college. And on a defense with a number of quality athletes, Drennon stands out as a three-down player, and somebody who has started scratching the surface of his potential.

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