- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's not as great a year on the interior of the defensive line as it is on the edge, but the position does have some elite prospects and good depth. Eleven defensive tackle prospects are in the initial ESPNU 150, including Anthony Johnson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker), who is the No. 2 overall prospect in the country.
Defensive tackles that can make an impact are hot commodities, evidenced by Ndamukong Suh going No. 1 overall in this year's NFL Draft, but this class has some prospects with that potential.
The class features players who bring different body types and skills to the table, but a theme of this class is slightly undersized with a high motor. Almost all the tackles in the ESPNU 150 are in the 6-foot-1 range, and some of them are south of 280 pounds. They may not all be massive players, but many of these prospects can explode off the ball, be very active and cause problems.
Anthony Johnson (New Orleans/O. Perry Walker)
Ht.: 6-3 | Wt.: 295 pounds | Stars: 5 | DT rank: 1 | ESPNU 150 rank: 2
He is an impact player that can cause problems from the interior of the line. Johnson is a physically good-looking prospect for the position with good size and the frame to add more bulk. He can be explosive, able to quickly get off the ball and get penetration. He is also tough taking on blockers, has good range and can create inside pressure against the pass.
Desmond Jackson (Houston/Westfield)
Ht.: 6-1 | Wt.: 273 pounds | Stars: 4 | DT rank: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: 25
On paper, Jackson will not blow you away with his size, but he's thickly built and powerful. He can be tough to block because he's strong, plays with leverage and uses his hands. He displays a good feel for the game and good athleticism. He can be tough against the run but is also a good pass-rushing defensive tackle.
Todd Barr (Lakewood, Calif./Lakewood)
Ht.: 6-1 | Wt.: 251 pounds | Stars: 4 | DT rank: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: 30
He doesn't have prototypical size, but Barr has good quickness and a great motor. He plays with good pad level, uses his hands and reads blocks. Barr has the frame to add some more bulk. That added with his motor and ability should make him a real headache for blockers.
DTs to watch
• Nile Lawrence-Stample (Davie, Fla./Nova) is an interesting prospect. He has a compact, thick build and will play all over on defense in high school. He impresses you with his speed for his size, but we would like to see him play with his hand down more consistently. Lawrence-Stample, who is in the mold of current Florida State DT Jacobbi McDaniel, displays the tools to be a powerful, disruptive defensive tackle and is certainly someone to keep an eye on.
• The borough of Staten Island, N.Y., produced an excellent defensive line prospect in the 2010 class, Dominique Easley, and Brooklyn, N.Y., boasts a good defensive end prospect for 2011 (Ishaq Williams), but the Bronx is also home to a talented defensive tackle. Al Page (Bronx, N.Y./Christopher Columbus) may not receive the same fanfare as the other two and is not as dynamic a player, but he has good size, strength and uses his hands well. He can be a stout presence in the trenches or create some penetration.
• Jonathan Battle (Americus, Ga./Sumter) lacks ideal size and is battling back from a knee injury. If he can bounce back healthy and regain his pre-injury form, he could end up being a real steal. Battle is an athletic and explosive defender with a good motor who could see his stock rise.
Tim Jernigan (Lake City, Fla./Columbia) is among the top defensive tackle prospects in this class. He fits in that slightly-undersized but thickly-built, explosive and disruptive mold. He can be a little wild and is a risk taker at times, but Jernigan is a violent defender with a good motor. ... Antwaun Woods (Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft) can be explosive and disruptive. At 6-foot-1, he doesn't have ideal height, but he is a thickly-built prospect who will need to watch how he develops his frame. When he is hitting on all cylinders, he can be tough to block. ... Jordan Wade (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point) is a big, towering defensive tackle that can be a stout presence in the heart of the trenches or collapse the pocket. ... Jordan Phillips (Towanda, Kan./Circle) is an athletic, versatile big man who should fit well as a defensive tackle in college. He reminds us some of current Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard. ... Mickey Johnson's (Covington, La./St. Pauls) a compact, thickly built tank that can be explosive and disruptive. ... Todd Peat (Tempe, Ariz./Corona Del Sol) is a high-motor, violent defender that will make blockers work to and try stop him.
Craig Haubert is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has more than a decade of coaching experience.