This is an outstanding crop of defensive ends. Nine of the top 10 are rated among the top 100 prospects in the nation. And top-rated Jadeveon Clowney, who is ranked as the No. 2 player in the country, could move up to No. 1 because running back/linebacker James Wilder, my preseason choice as the best player in the nation, has been injured.
1. Jadeveon Clowney is a 6-6, 240-pounder from Rock Hill, S.C., who is the No. 1 or No. 2 player in the nation, depending on whom you believe at the moment. He is a high school version of Mario Williams, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft three years ago. Clowney is so gifted that he even played tailback recently. He had 26 sacks last season. He has long arms, exceptionally quick feet and great athleticism. South Carolina leads Alabama in his recruiting. He has the potential to be the best pass rusher in the last few years.
2. Jeoffrey Pagan of Asheville, N.C., is a 6-4, 250-pounder who is committed to Florida. He isn't big or fast but has great desire, a non-stop motor and lots of aggressiveness. He is the No. 11 player in the nation, a poster boy for desire and heart.
3. Ray Drew of Thomasville, Ga., is a 6-5, 245-pounder who is ranked as the No. 14 player in the nation. He is a minister of a congregation of 200 people, a leader on and off the field. He is uncommitted but Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Auburn are favored. He might visit Michigan and Notre Dame. He was his region's defensive player of the year in 2009.
4. Jermauria Rasco of Shreveport, La., is a 6-4, 244-pounder who is expected to commit to LSU. He is the No. 17 player in the nation. As a sophomore, he was credited with 26 sacks. As a junior, he had 12 1/2. He is the No. 1 prospect in talent-rich northern Louisiana.
5. Cedric Reed of Cleveland, Texas, is a 6-6, 240-pounder who is committed to Texas. He is the No. 31 player in the nation. He is physically imposing and looks like an NBA power forward. He averaged 22 points per game on the basketball team. He is a great pass rusher.
6. Aaron Lynch of Cape Coral, Fla., is 6-6, 240-pounder who has de-committed from Notre Dame and now is considering Florida, Florida State and Miami. He is the best athlete on the West Coast of Florida. He had 16 sacks as a junior. He is rated as the No. 61 player in the nation and figures to be an impact player as a freshman.
7. Stephon Tuitt of Monroe, Ga., is a 6-6, 255-pounder who remains committed to Notre Dame. He chose the Irish over Georgia Tech. He is the No. 77 player in the nation. He has good straight-ahead speed and burst.
8. Brennan Scarlett of Portland, Oregon, is a 6-5, 250-pounder who is one of the two leading prospects in Oregon. He could be a defensive tackle in college. He runs well and is very productive. He had 15 sacks as a junior. He is the No. 84 player in the nation. Uncommitted, he is considering Oregon, California, Notre Dame, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington, Arizona State, BYU, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
9. Xzavier Dickson of Griffin, Ga., is a 6-3, 235-pounder who is the No. 87 player in the nation. He is undersized but very athletic, good in pursuit and has a good change of direction, burst and body control. Uncommitted, he is considering Georgia, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Texas Tech, Alabama, Mississippi State, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida State, Florida and Auburn.
10. Sterling Bailey of Gainesville, Ga., is a 6-5, 240-pounder who is committed to Georgia. Big and strong, he runs well and makes plays in pursuit. He hails from a state that is loaded with talent this year.