5 Defensive Players You Shouldn’t Forget About

1. DE Eli Howard (6-3/250): In looking at Howard’s film, just the first two plays, the middle drill where Howard has to fight off an offensive tackle to make a play on the running back. Of course, because it’s a highlight film, Howard makes the play twice. Defensive line coach Kevin Patrick mentioned after National Signing Day that Howard has great hands and he does. Caveat, it’s high school highlight film, but imagine that frame at 260 or 270 at defensive end and holding that edge and moving off that offensive tackle. I don’t know that Howard will absolutely be the starting strongside defensive end, but I hope he’s in the rotation.

2. S Willie Sykes (6-1/195): Sykes originally played his senior year with Lonzell Gilmore, listed below, and originally committed and played his freshman year at Arkansas. Not a ton of playing time, lots of special teams I think, but Sykes was a legitimate 3-star player and because he played as a true freshman, he redshirted last year and is now just a sophomore and has three years to play. Sykes mainly played safety for spring and I’d guess that’s where he continues to play. And his offer list coming out of high school was also legitimate, Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Pudue, Washington state, Fresno State, New Mexico. Oregon State and Utah to name the bigger programs. It would be nice if Sykes bulked up a bit in his redshirt year and is playing close to 190 or 200 pounds. In his high school film, Sykes makes good plays on the ball and does a nice job of playing centerfield.

3. DE Lonzell Gilmore (6-3/250): Gilmore was a rush end and a bit undersized as a defensive end, but would have been perfect if Texas Tech continued to play that smaller rush end. At Spring, all Gilmore did was make plays and last spring, Gilmore had bulked up to 260 pounds and played defensive tackle. I’m hoping that Gilmore gets to play exclusively defensive end and I hope like heck that he’s also part of the defensive end rotation. There are legitimate options there and if

4. DE Kaleb Hill (6-1/227): Kaleb is the twin brother of Kolin and both eventually ended up at Texas Tech, Kaleb originally starting out at Boise State and Kolin originally starting out at Notre Dame.

The Hill Brothers were bookends at high school, one playing on one side and the other on the other. They’re a lot like Gilmore in that they were absolutely appropriately sized in high school and caused all sorts of havoc, but they were both a bit of tweeners at the college level. Maybe not fast enough to play linebacker and not big enough to play defensive end. Kolin is said to move to the rush end position at 250 pounds and I’ll be interested to see where Kaleb ends up the spring and how much he actually weighs.

5. LB Johnathan Picone (6-1/220): Picone was one of those rush end / linebackers in high school and so his adjustment has taken a while. Lots of blitzing and coming off of the edge in high school He was allowed to just run around and make plays and that’s fantastic in high school, but I get the feeling that he’s had to be more disciplined and that has taken some time. I’m still really excited about Picone. He’s dedicated and I think he’s pretty smart and those are two really good things. And he’s plenty athletic enough to play linebacker too.

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