Sunshine State has safety in numbers
The strength of the 2011 safety class lies in the Southeastern region of the country. The top 19 prospects from the position all reside there and 10 are from the state of Florida alone. In addition to location, this class can be summed up with one word: hybrid.
This class is comprised of big-framed safeties who lack the size to project as pure college linebackers at this time or the coverage skills to provide favorable matchups in man-to-man coverage. However, this isn't a negative in our eyes, particularly for college programs that employ a Rover or Bandit position, which is basically an undersized outside linebacker who can defend the run and cover underneath with great athleticism.
Looking three to four years down the road, it's actually very likely a handful of these elite safeties will be suiting up as true outside linebackers. The top five rated safeties already have good measurables, so it's inevitable some of their frames will bulk up in full-time weight training programs and gain the required power to play down in the box full time.
Top prospectsKarlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Ridge Community)
Ht.: 6-2 | Wt.: 210 pounds | Stars: 4 | S rank: 1 | ESPNU 150 rank: 21
College: Florida State
The top-rated safety in a deep Seminoles safety class, Williams possesses a rare blend of size and athleticism. He plays the Wildcat position on offense and has shown in camps the ability to play receiver in college, but we feel his large frame coupled with his great range and ball skills makes safety the likely spot in college, at least until he outgrows the position. Hasean Clinton-Dix (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips)
Ht.: 6-2 | Wt.: 194 pounds | Stars: 4 | S rank: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: 26
This versatile Alabama pledge has found the right program and defense to showcase his talents. Clinton-Dix runs like a safety, but hits and closes with the explosiveness of a linebacker. He's perhaps the most well-rounded run- and pass-supporter in this class. He's also one of the few three-level safeties coming out of high school who can effectively defend the deep pass, play down in the box in run support or come off the edge as a disruptive blitzer. Gerrod Holliman (Miami/Miami Southridge)
Ht.: 6-0 | Wt.: 188 pounds | Stars: 4 | S rank: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: 46
He may not hold the major offers shared by the other ESPNU 150 safeties, but we feel Holliman should because he is the total package. His great range, length, deep coverage skills and instincts are all coveted at the position in college. Plus, Holliman seems to consistently be around the ball making plays and still has room to bulk up.
Safeties to watch• At 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Avery Walls (McDonough, Ga./Union Grove) lacks ideal measurables, but is one of the best football players in this safety class. He's a fierce competitor who plays bigger between the lines and flies to the football with little wasted motion. His lack of length may hurt him at times in college, but this explosive safety has the intangibles to mask them in our opinion and should continue to bring a big-play element to the position.
• Wayne Lyons (Oakland Park, Fla./Dillard) has been proactive in his national recruitment with the questionnaires he has sent to college coaches and for good measure. The safety prospect will be a prize recruit for the program that lands him. We feel he projects best as a strong safety thanks to his great physicality and tackling skills he displays as an underneath defender. However, what makes Lyons so coveted is his ability to also cover, particularly in zone schemes, with great closing burst and overall range. It will be interesting to see how he is utilized in college.
• You appreciate Keelin Smith's (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) frame when you see him in person. The FSU commit is a tall, sleek athlete with a tapered body that should continue to add bulk and complement his good physicality. What makes Smith so intriguing is the scheme versatility he could provide in Tallahassee. He possesses the fluid hips required to turn and transition at corner, as well as the great range and run-support skills to be productive at safety.
NotesDeshazor Everett (DeRidder, La./DeRidder) is undersized, but a very good underneath pursuer. He's falling under the radar for teams utilizing a hybrid safety. ... Fast-pursuing LeShundrick Morrison (Dallas/Bryan Adams) is also in the sleeper category because he lacks prominent offers and is a shade under the four-star threshold, despite having a lot of ability. ... Florida State has five safeties committed in this class, but it's doubtful they all end up at that position. ... There are two four-star safety tandems in 2011: Keelin Smith and Lamarcus Brutus (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) and Tyler Hunter and Geraldo Orta (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes). All but Orta (Clemson) are committed to Florida State. ... Erique Florence (Valley, Ala./Valley) is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in a very physical class. ... Illinois safeties Glen Faulkner (East Saint Louis, Ill.) and Sean Cotton (Melrose Park, Ill./Walther Lutheran) may be overshadowed by the overall Southeastern talent in 2011, but both are solid top-25 positional prospects representing the Midwest.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.
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