L.A. Combine Recap: Defense

Many talented players took the field Saturday in Los Angeles at the Scout.com Combine and we break it down by the different sides of the ball. First up, the defense and defensive tackle George Uko and a surprise cornerback prospect...

Defensive Linemen

The defensive lineman had a couple of key no-shows, but the ones who did show up left a big impression.

Headlining that list was George Uko from Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo. Uko was no stranger to the Scout.com Combine, earning All-Underclass Honors a year ago, but this year, he showed he was clearly the best defensive lineman there.

"Uko looked like a monster and his performance did not disappoint as he was not only the cream of the crop amongst the linemen, but may have been the best player at the event regardless of position. He dominated in the one-on-one portion of the event," said Greg Powers of Scout.com.

Uko wasn't the only one who starred though. Josh Shirley, the four-star outside linebacker, spent much of the day working with the defensive ends, and it was difficult for the offensive linemen to keep up with him. The Fontana (Calif.) Kaiser defender is so quick off the edge, giving him an advantage that he may lack with his weight.

"Shirley has one of the best bodies of any prospect in the west. He worked as a defensive end in the one-on-ones, and there wasn't an OL who could stay with him. He was just as impressive in coverage," said Tracy Pierson of BRO.

Jerrell Gordon from Compton was a late add, but the 6-3, 330-pounder had a great showing in the drills.

And Rakeem Yates, who like Uko, got his first taste of the Scout.com Combine circuit a year ago, had another solid showing, continuing the tradition of Fresno (Calif.) Edison prospects in Los Angeles.

Eddie Plantaric from Fair Oaks (Calif.) Del Campo showed that he could play either inside or outside at the next level. Encino (Calif.) Crespi defensive lineman Hroniss Grasu is another in the same boat, able to play inside our outside or even on the offensive line.

Other defensive linemen who stood out included sophomore Antwaun Woods from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, Brent Williams from Taft, Jordan Turner from Las Vegas (Nev.) and Wesley Flowers from Fresno (Calif.) Edison.


The linebacking corps was not as deep and talented as in the past, but there were still a good deal of backers who showed well.

When Shirley did reps at linebacker, he showed why his athleticism has caught the eye of so many schools around the country. He may still end up playing with his hand down in college, but make no mistake, he can play linebacker too.

Also impressing was Santa Clara (Calif.) Wilcox's Anthony Pohahau, who measured in at 5-11, 243, but showed good sideline-to-sideline movement and great physical play.

Chris Connolly, from Capistrano Valley who's headed to Hargrave Academy, had a decent showing as did Adam Pulsipher, a 2011 kid from Murrieta Valley (Calif.) worth keeping a close eye on for the future.

Defensive Backs

The best unit at the combine was in the secondary, and it was loaded. Some of the best safeties and corners nationally were in attendance. Yet it was a little-known corner from Los Alamitos who stole the show.

Shaquille Richardson was often overshadowed by his teammates and their high-powered offense a year ago, but Richardson was rock solid all day, picking off six passes throughout the 1-on-1s.

"If there was one player who out-performed his rep it would clearly be Shaquille Richardson," said Pierson. "He has good size for a corner, at about 6-0 and with a good frame, and was probably the best cover man at the camp, with great hips and a very smooth, effortless ability to stay with his man." Powers agreed with that, saying: "Richardson was not a name on many top recruiting lists, but he should be after his performance today. He was the consensus number one corner at the combine and consistently held the top receiver performers in check. He also had about five or six interceptions, by far the one of the best performances. He had more people oohing and awing."

But Richardson wasn't the only stellar corner, as four-star corners Demetrius Wright (Corona) and Joshua Shaw (Palmdale), also had big days.

"Shaw is another big, physical defensive back that gave the wide receivers all they could handle on Saturday. Shaw really manhandled the wide receivers trying to get off the ball. He is probably better suited to play safety on the college level, but he more than held his own at cornerback on Saturday. Shaw really elevated his stock with a strong performance," said Kevin Carden of SCPlaybook.com.

Shaw's stock has been on the rise all spring, and he did nothing to hurt it.

"Shaw was unbelievably strong in coverage all day. It was nearly impossible for receivers to get off the line against him and once they did he had the skills to keep them locked down. He was likely the most impressive physical specimen at the combine," said Powers.

Wright has long been overshadowed by his teammate, elite running back Jordon James, but Wright has exploded this spring.

"He was known as the teammate of Jordon James, but that is no longer the case as he has emerged as an elite talent in his own right with a bevy of top offers," said Powers. "He had solid showing in the one-on-ones and was right in the mix with the rest of the top talents." Wright's physical nature is what makes him such a tough matchup.

"A strong case could be made for Wright as the top defensive player on Saturday. He really jumped out during 1-on-1's because of his physical play at the line of scrimmage. Wright did an outstanding job of jamming and re-routing the wide receivers all day. At times, you almost felt bad for the guys lined up in front of him because they literally couldn't get off the line," said Carden.

Then there was Parker, the five-star safety from nearby Narbonne HS. Parker was one of the stars a year ago as just a sophomore, but now as one of the elite prospects nationally, he's becoming more and more of a player to watch.

Parker didn't test, but made his presence known in the drills, despite being more of a hitter and having to be out of his element.

"Parker is one of the most intimidating players on the West Coast and always shows up to camps focused and ready to compete," said Carden.

Of course, several under-the-radar guys emerged.

One in particular was Devon Hall from Rio Mesa HS in Oxnard.

"Hall could very well have been the sleeper of this combine," said Don Hoekwater of InsideSparta.com.

And his teammate, Enrique Thomas, continued his torrid spring with a strong performance in Los Angeles. Tevin McDonald from Fresno (Calif.) Edison had a strong performance for the second straight year.

"McDonald was solid in his performance, and has a good body, at about 6-0 and 185," said Pierson.

Steven Bethley wasn't going to let his best friend and teammate Uko get all the credit from Don Lugo, turning in a strong day in testing and in the drills.

Joshua Mitchell from Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt goes up against some of the best receivers in practice every day at Roosevelt, and it translated on Saturday.

"Mitchell was one of the most impressive corners we saw today," said defensive backs coach Mark Dye. "He's really active and physical."

Bene Benwikere from Gardena (Calif.) Serra is in the same boat, going against arguably the best receiver corps in the country, and he too showed it on Saturday.

A pair of underclassmen who did well were Inglewood (Calif.) sophomore Kyle Evans (younger brother of Notre Dame-bound Shaquelle Evans) and Thierry Nguema (younger brother of UCLA freshman Tony Dye).

Other defensive backs of note included Charles Garrett of Dorsey HS, Anthony Jones from Riverside (Calif.) North, Seth Campbell from Las Vegas (Nev.) Basic, Josiah Marshall from Compton and Junior Kavienga from Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger.

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