South Mississippi will enter the 2017 season with a versatile group on the defensive line.
Some of the defensive standouts bring overpowering size to the line, while others get it done with finesse. Still, there’s a special breed of defensive linemen on the Coast who combine the two.
Here are five defensive linemen to know heading into the 2017 season.
2016 defensive stats: 72 tackles, 8 sacks
The breakdown: Kendall Arrington is among the Coast’s top returning sack artists and deserves his fair share of credit for helping get Stone High over the hump in John Feaster’s first season. An instinctual interior lineman, the 6-foot-1, 263-pound Arrington excelled at making plays in the middle of the field, as well as following the play outside of the hash marks. One observation from watching Arrington in person and on film: Once he got his hands on the ball carrier, he wasn’t getting free.
2016 defensive stats: 82 tackles, 24 TFLs, 5 sacks
The breakdown: Jackson Byrd is an iron man for the Eagles. In addition to anchoring the offensive line, the 6-foot, 280-pound Byrd will also be a disruptor on the defensive front. Resurrection’s coaches laud his work ethic and determination. Although he plays in the middle of the line, Byrd was among Resurrection’s leading tacklers a year ago with 82. He also paced the team with 24 tackles for loss and added five sacks. According to MaxPreps.com, Byrd has 207 total tackles and 12 sacks in his prep career. The RCS senior claims an offer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
School: George County
2016 defensive stats: 60 tackles, 30 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 15 QB hurries
The breakdown: How does a sophomore make a watch list? Easy when he looks like McKinnley Jackson and then backs it up on the field. I was at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s satellite camp last preseason when Jackson quite literally turned heads of college coaches — or snapped them to be more accurate. When he sprinted past the finish line after running his 40-yard dash, the coaches couldn’t get his name fast enough. All Jackson ended up doing as a freshman was record 60 tackles and 30 TFLs. THIRTY. The word is now out on Jackson, but don’t expect the 6-foot-3, 290 pound nose guard to slow down. He already has his pick of schools after him, including Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn and Mississippi State.
2016 defensive stats: 80 tackles, 5.5 sacks
The breakdown: At 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, Ginarous Johnson isn’t the largest defensive lineman to make the list but he has a high motor and is constantly either pushing offensive linemen backwards or twisting past them into the offensive backfield. Johnson was among Gulfport’s leaders last year, with 80 tackles and posted a team-high 5.5 sacks. Coach Eddie Pierce is expecting Johnson to set the tone and be one of the leaders on an experienced defensive front.
School: St. Stanislaus
2016 defensive stats: 97 tackles, 14 TFLs, 6.5 sacks
The breakdown: Defensive lineman Joe Reeder will be a focal point of the St. Stanislaus defense under new coach Jeff Jordan. The 6-foot-1, 235-pound lineman will be an asset as an experienced Rockachaw defense looks to set the tone in 2017. Like his older brother, Tommy, Joe is particularly strong at the point of attack. He’s also athletic enough to make plays all over the field. Watch for Reeder to have another high-end season with SSC.
But wait, there’s more
Here are a few more names to remember: Pascagoula’s Jaeden Ridgeway, Ocean Springs’ Evan Hill, Picayune’s Jacob Brumley, D’Iberville’s Jacob Quave, Gulfport’s Jeremiah Braziel, Harrison Central’s Charvis Gandy, Pass Christian’s Travon Frost, Pearl River Central’s Orlando Malley and Biloxi’s Noah Griffith.