Friday Night Lights: Who We'll Be Watching on Defense

By Jordan Wagner on July 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm
Damon Webb

Beautiful weather. Brand new lights at Ohio Stadium. Some of the nation's best high school prospects. It's shaping up to be a great night on one of Ohio State's biggest recruiting weekends of the year.

Earlier in the week, we took a broad look at today's Friday Night Lights camp. Throughout the week, we have kept a running list of visitors expected to attend. There will be plenty of future stars in the Shoe today.

Jeremy Birmingham already took a look of the offensive players that you should keep a close eye on. Now, let's take a look at some of the defensive players that headline the star-studded event.

Defensive Line

The talent defensive line group is headed by a pair of four-star Ohio State pledges – Jashon Cornell and Dre'Mont Jones – who may decide to forgo workouts and instead focus on recruiting other top prospects for the Buckeyes. The highly-rated ends have little to prove to the coaching staff.

One rising senior to watch is Anree Saint-Amour, a three-star weak-side defensive end from Georgia. Saint-Amour has a top grouping of Georgia Tech, Iowa, Michigan State, Missouri and Ohio State. While he lists an offer from the Buckeyes, he might have to prove to the staff that he is worth taking with such few scholarships remaining. If the Buckeyes put on the full court press, they'd be right there in contention for his eventual commitment.

Cass Tech (Mich.) product Joshua Alabi is an intriguing prospect, but the Buckeyes face long odds in his recruitment. Although he lists Ohio State among his top schools, Michigan State and Tennessee have separated themselves from the field.

Among underclassmen, Cass Tech's Michael Onwenu will likely be one of the camp's top performers. Ohio State will pull hard to extract the four-star prospect out of Michigan.

Two prime candidates to earn offers on the defensive line are Ohio native Jonathon Cooper and Indiana native Auston Robertson. Both prospects check in as four-stars. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Robertson was offered by Notre Dame shortly after camping last month. Cooper, a frequent visitor to Columbus, has offers from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. He stood out on the camp circuit this summer, so an offer from Ohio State is a real possibility.

2016 strong side defensive end Kyree Campbell already holds an offer from Ohio State and other schools like Florida State. The crystal ball for the nation's 13th-ranked end reads all Buckeyes, so this visit could help put OSU even further out front.


Besides the Buckeyes' two linebacker commitments for 2015 – Nick Conner and Justin Hilliard – not many top senior linebackers are expected to be in attendance.

Two of Ohio's top junior linebackers, Brendan Ferns and Zach Sandwisch, are expected to be in attendance. Ferns, who will be arriving back from Florida, does not plan to work out at the event. The Buckeyes are in the mix for the nation's 60th best prospect, who might be Ohio's top linebacker in next year's class.

Sandwisch, an Elmore (Ohio) native, is a prospect that the coaching staff will track after he missed last season with a knee injury. The four-star prospect is another one of the many OSU-caliber linebacker prospects in-state. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound prospect likely won't receive an offer today, but he could put himself on everyone's radar with a strong performance.

Defensive Backs

Commitments Jamel Dean, Tyler Green and Denzel Ward are all expected to attend, although it's not clear if they plan to work out.

Not only will Jordan Whitehead be one of the top defensive backs in attendance, he'll be one of the top overall prospects attending FNL. The Pennsylvania prospect, who has a decision date set for October 3, is down to Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The Buckeyes are still a contender for his commitment, and getting the four-star corner on campus is a good sign.

When recent South Carolina commit Damon Arnette pledged to the Gamecocks over the Buckeyes, many speculated that he didn't have a committable offer. Whatever the circumstances, Arnette will have the chance to impress the Ohio State coaching in person.

2016 four-star Jared Mayden is making the long trip from Texas to camp at FNL. It's going to be tough to pull him away from in-state Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M. Malek Young will be similarly difficult to pull away from Florida State, but he should be one of the top performers in the secondary.

Akron St. Vincent St. Mary safety Tyrece Speaight will look to catch the staff's eye. One of Ohio's top juniors, Speaight has already drawn interest from the likes of Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.

Looking even further to the future, 2017 prospects will also be in attendance. One of the top sophomores to watch is Westerville South's Marcus Williamson. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound corner has already received an offer from Toledo. He'll be on Ohio State's radar going forward.

For live Friday Night Lights coverage, be sure to follow John Brandon, Patrick Maks, Kyle Rowland and yours truly. FNL is scheduled to begin around 6:30 p.m.

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