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2021 West Region Recruiting Breakdown: Defense

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Taking a look at the crop of prospects out West and whether it’s a good year at each position

NCAA Football: California at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday I broke down how the class of 2021 compares to the last 5 years in the West region in terms of strength of each offensive position. Today I’ll go through the defensive positions. If you want more details into the methodology check out Friday’s article. But in summary...for each position I compare the number of prospects in the West region with a 247 sports composite rating of both 0.85+ and 0.93+ in the 2021 class with the 5 previous classes.

Defensive Tackle (DT)

Class of 2021- 5 of 40 (12.5%) at 0.85+; 1 of 9 (11.1%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 9 of 69.2 (13.0%) at 0.85+; 2 of 14.6 (13.7%) at 0.93+

The percentages are fairly close but the total number of defensive tackles in each group are lagging substantially behind the historical averages. That could just be a lot of players designated as athletes or offensive linemen who will end up switching sides of the ball or that some of the players at defensive end will bulk up during this season and be viewed as future defensive tackles. More than likely it’s a combination of both.

There’s only one premium DT out West this year which is worse than average but still better than last year when there were none. The 2016 and 2020 DT classes were abysmal out West while the 2017-2019 classes were generally pretty good. This year falls somewhere in between.

UW Targets: JT Tuimoloau- 5*, 0.9972 rating; Sammamish, WA. Voi Tunuufi- 3*, 0.8739 rating; Salt Lake City, UT.

The crown jewel. JTT. Tuimoloau is arguably the #1 player in the country and he’s in Washington’s back yard. This is the kind of guy that differentiates Pac-12 schools from the Alabama, Ohio State, and Clemson’s of the world. Since 2014 there have been 23 defensive tackles rated as 5* prospects. Only 1 of them went to a Pac-12 school and it was now-Seahawk Rasheem Green to USC before their recent collapse. And only 2 of them were from the West region. It’s borderline unprecedented that someone of JTT’s skill and size is found in this half of the country and it would be equally unprecedented if UW managed to land him. But they will give it their best shot.

Of the 4 other non-JTT targets in the West region, the Huskies only have an offer out right now to Tunuufi out of Salt Lake City. There are a pair of players on the fringe of the 0.93 rating in California but one is already committed to USC. The final one is Braezhon Ross out of Las Vegas who has an impressive offer sheet but doesn’t have the rating to match it currently so either he may have peaked early or the scouting services haven’t caught up to the head coaches yet.

Defensive End (SDE+WDE)

Class of 2021- 9 of 89 (10.1%) at 0.85+; 2 of 22 (9.1%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 15.8 of 107.8 (14.6%) at 0.85+; 2.2 of 18 (12.2%) at 0.93+

The historical averages are somewhat supported by really good years in 2016 and 2017 when nearly 20% of defensive ends with at least a 0.85 rating came from the West region. Since that point it has dropped below 15% every year and if it stayed at around 10% this year would be a new recent low. There was only one defensive end above a 0.93 in the West last year as well as in 2018 so at least there are technically double the options in 2021 than there were in those classes although one is already committed to Clemson so there’s essentially still just one out there.

UW Targets: Quintin Somerville- 4*, 0.9640 rating; Scottsdale, AZ. Derek Wilkins- 4*, 0.8983 rating; Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Maurice Heims- 3*, 0.88 rating; Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

It’s evident that the Huskies are trying to land several defensive ends in this class and that they don’t have a lot of faith in the crop out West. Nearly 20% of Washington’s total offers right now are out to defensive ends and only 3 of the 11 are in the West region. The Huskies have offered DEs from Maryland, Iowa, Florida, and Texas so far in this class. We’ll see if they can manage to actually pull any of them in as bringing in talent from outside the region was an extreme rarity in the Chris Petersen era.

Washington has had some success getting players out of Saguaro in Arizona where Somerville goes to high school but they’ve all been defensive backs recently. The Huskies have only offered 4 players from Rancho Santa Margarita since the start of the Chris Petersen era before 2021 but we’ll see if they can get at least one of their defensive ends this class who are both fringe 3/4 star guys.

Linebacker (ILB+OLB)

Class of 2021- 13 of 78 (16.7%) at 0.85+; 5 of 20 (25%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 17.8 of 105 (17.0%) at 0.85+; 3.8 of 19 (20%) at 0.93+

I think it’s fair to say that this can be considered a good linebacker class out West. There was actually a slightly higher amount of premium talent in both the 2016 and 2018 classes but 5 guys in that range is pretty good. There are also at least two players above 0.93 labeled as athletes that most people think will wind up at linebacker so if both officially have their designation changed and continue to produce then this could be one of the best linebacker classes in recent memory out West. Although last year was higher from the absolute top end with both Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell viewed as 5-star guys.

UW Targets: Wynden Ho’ohuli- 4*, 0.9402 rating; Mililani, HI. Easton Mascarenas- 3*, 0.8792 rating; Mission Viejo, CA. Logan Fano- 3*, 0.8778 rating; Provo, UT. Trey Reynolds- 3*, 0.8628 rating; Queen Creek, AZ.

The big target here is likely Ho’ohuli who the Huskies were considered to be the leaders for as of a few months ago. But that was also the case with a pair of 4-star Hawaiian linebackers early in the 2020 class and both wound up headed to the Midwest. We’ll see if things are different this year. The Huskies also have an offer out to Jonathan Flowe but considering his brother just picked Oregon I find it unlikely we’re seriously in the running. Then there are a trio of slightly lower rated guys who all show potential and could easily move up into 4-star range over the next few months.

Outside linebackers Jaraye Williams from Kennedy Catholic in Burien and Josh McCarron from Archbishop Murphy in Everett are also 4-star rated and if Washington decides to offer either you would imagine they’d have a great shot with them as well. There is also the group I mentioned labelled as athletes who I’ll get to below.

Defensive Backs (CB+S)

Class of 2021- 14 of 99 (14.1%) at 0.85+; 2 of 19 (10.5%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 26.4 of 165.6 (15.9%) at 0.85+; 6 of 29.2 (20.6%) at 0.93+

Historically the West region has actually had a larger percentage of premium defensive backs than you would expect given the overall depth numbers. You can see that there are currently about 66 fewer DBs than you would normally have in the 0.85+ range and that’s because if someone is going to have a growth spurt and become a D1 prospect at a position in their senior year, corner is probably the easiest place to go.

This is a slightly below average class for the 0.85+ crowd percentage wise as well but I’m not overly concerned about that quite yet. However, it does look to be pretty abysmal on the high end talent side with about half as many elite guys as you would generally expect. Last year was also a down year in that regard so hopefully this isn’t the start of a trend.

UW Targets: Zakhari Spears- 3*, 0.8739 rating; Los Angeles, CA. Committed to Washington

Jaylin Davies- 4*, 0.9517 rating; Santa Ana, CA. Steven Ortiz- 4*, 0.9036 rating; Goodyear, AZ.

Washington already has Spears in the boat as the only defensive player currently committed to the Huskies. They appear to be in very good shape with Steven Ortiz who is a little bit undersized from the typical UW build but without a growth spurt would seemingly come in and challenge for the nickel spot which will be open in 2021 after Elijah Molden graduates. There’s also an offer out to a 4-star safety from Texas but that seems to be an uphill battle. Two of the players listed as athletes from the West region also project as DBs at Washington so that could be an option as well.

Athlete (ATH)

Class of 2021- 11 of 65 (16.9%) at 0.85+; 2 of 8 (25%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 12.6 of 71.6 (17.6%) at 0.85+; 1.6 of 6.2 (25.81%) at 0.93+

Right this second it appears to be a pretty normal year out West for athletes but there will be a lot of fluctuation in this group since some will be given other positional designations. I decided to list the athletes under defense to balance out the article but theoretically you would expect it to be close to a 50/50 split. Right now though things definitely appear to be slanting towards the defense which makes it the right call for the 2021 class.

UW Targets: Ethan Calvert- 4*, 0.9603 rating; Westlake Village, CA. Julien Simon- 4*, 0.9583 rating; Tacoma, WA. Denzel Burke- 4*, 0.9287 rating; Scottsdale, AZ. Will Latu- 4*, 0.8986 rating; Spanaway, WA. Jaylin Smith- 3*, 0.8889 rating; Mission Hills, CA.

This group can almost entirely be divided into potential linebackers and potential DBs. Calvert, Simon, and Latu are all expected to wind up at LB at the next level. Ethan is the younger brother of current Husky Josh and also has a brother at UCLA. There’s speculation that, like Daniyel Ngata in the 2020 class, the youngest Calvert will choose to forge his own path and go to a 3rd different school but Washington will try to bring him into the fold. Julien Simon and Will Latu are both local kids and it would be a disappointment if the coaching staff went all out for either and wound up missing.

Burke and Smith both project as DBs in Washington’s system and when the Huskies offered Smith earlier this winter he said UW was a dream school of his growing up. Of course, since then he has been offered by Clemson so Washington has plenty of competition. Burke comes from the same school as Byron Murphy and Jacobe Covington and Washington would love to bring him in to continue the tradition of secondary members from Saguaro but a lot of schools are looking at him as a wide receiver. We’ll see what position he prefers in college and how it affects his recruitment.

OVERALL DEFENSE

Class of 2021- 52 of 371 (14%) at 0.85+; 12 of 78 (15.4%) at 0.93+

Historical Average- 81.6 of 519.2 (15.7%) at 0.85+; 15.6 of 87 (17.9%) at 0.93+

Right now it looks like this is maybe a down year out West for defense but it’s close enough to the historical averages that a couple of kids getting bumps in the ratings over the next few months would even it out.

Obviously if you just look at the state of Washington then the presence of a generational recruit like JTT changes the shape of how you view the defensive class. Even if he were only a very good defensive tackle it would still be a pretty solid class with another 4 players considered either inside or outside linebackers at the next level who are in the 4-star range. Of course it will be an incredibly difficult task fending off the blue bloods for JTT but if Washington can build the linebacker corps primarily out of this in-state group that will still be a very impressive haul.