Football: Defensive players to watch in the Southland

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
4:44
PM PT
Jabari RuffinWeAreSC.comJabari Ruffin, who has committed to USC, is ranked the No. 4 prospect overall in California.

Defense, as the old adage states, wins championships. We've all heard it before.

If that's the case, the Southland appears to have more than enough talented players residing on the defensive side of the ball to make a decided difference for their respective teams.

With so many different individuals making crucial plays all over the field in the first two weeks of the season thus far, we figured that it might be a good idea to take an in-depth look at some of the premier prospects residing on the defensive side of the ball in the greater Los Angeles area.

That said, consider this as a who's who list of the more high-profile prospects around.

Defensive line: Monrovia's Ellis McCarthy. When it comes to the top recruits from these parts, few are better than the 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior. McCarthy is a force to be reckoned with every time he lines up. He's a run-stopping force. That's not to say the big man can't put pressure on the quarterback. McCarthy does it all, plain and simple. His top choices for college include USC, Cal, Florida, Washington and Oregon.

Defensive line: Westlake's Justin Solis. The top players in Ventura County typically do not receive nearly as much recognition as they deserve. Solis, however, is the exception to the rule. The 6-3, 285-pound senior was recruited by a handful of Pac-12 Conference programs. Ultimately, Colorado proved to be the best fit. Boise State, Georgia Tech and Iowa State also offered.

Defensive line: Irvine Woodbridge's Kyle Kelly. The 6-3, 225-plus pound senior is a pass-rushing specialist, a load to deal with from the edge. Kelly committed to Arizona despite having offers from Florida and Vanderbilt. Vista Murrieta's Jeremy Castro and Long Beach Poly's Alonzo Williams were also considered for this spot. In the end though, Kelly offers far too much upside.

Linebacker: Downey's Jabari Ruffin. ESPNU ranks him as one of Southern California's top recruits. Only San Clemente's Kyle Murphy is ahead of Ruffin. After watching the 6-3, 225-pound senior in action, it's blatantly obvious he is far more advanced than most of his peers. His game is tailor-made for the next level. USC landed a prized prospect when he committed in early March.

Linebacker: La Habra's Aaron Porter. Don't run the ball up the middle against this guy. And don't think your running back or tight end is going to break free in the middle of the defense when the 6-1, 230-pound senior is in uniform. Porter, heading to UCLA, is a jack-of-all trades. Opponents best know where he is on the field, at all times. Avoiding his general direction is recommended.

Linebacker: Norco's Scott Starr. This kid has a nasty streak about him, no doubt about it. Get him fired up and trouble is likely to follow. No sense in awakening the sleeping giant. The 6-2, 220-pound senior is essentially the quarterback on defense for the Cougars and they will go as far as Starr will take them this season. Beyond that, all signs point to him making a similar impact at USC.

Linebacker: Anaheim Servite's Butch Pauu. He was one of the Southland's top underclassmen a season ago. The 6-0, 215-pound senior bound for BYU is one of the best in the business at a position stock-piled with talent. North Torrance's Ryan McDaniel, Temecula Chaparral's C.J. Dozier and Los Angeles Dorsey's Jeremiah Allison are the others.

Cornerback: Westlake Village Oaks Christian's Ishmael Adams. When talking about some of the top lockdown defensive backs from out in this neck of the woods, Adams' name must be mentioned. The 5-10, 175-pound unsigned senior is as physical as they come in bump-and-run coverage at the line of scrimmage. He doesn't lack any burst in the recovery speed department either.

Cornerback: Compton's Brandon Beaver. What stands out with regard to the 6-1, 185-pound senior is his, often times, menacing presence. Opposing receivers rarely, if ever, are able to measure up to his overall size. In terms of intimidation, no one compares with Beaver. He has more than 10 offers on the table. A decision about his future, however, won't be made any time soon.

Safety: Arroyo Grande's Seth Jacobs. At 6-2, 205 pounds, he is suited to play linebacker at the prep level. Jacobs, mind you, has done so with success in the past. His versatility, without question, is one of the more intriguing parts of his skill set. Offensive coordinators tend to do a double-take when they see the uncommitted senior roaming free in the secondary, seemingly with bad intentions.

Safety: Mission Hills Alemany's Jerico Richardson. Plenty of options to choose from here. Richardson brings more than enough to the table though, thus the selection. The 6-0, 175-pound UCLA-bound senior has the speed and toughness necessary to make things difficult against anyone. West Covina's Chris Solomon and Orange Lutheran's Darien Washington are also worth mentioning.

Kick returner: Los Angeles Dorsey's Jaydon Mickens. By most standards, the 5-9, 160-pound senior is a bit undersized. Mickens, however, makes up for his perceived lack of stature with an unmatched explosiveness, especially on special teams. He does a number of other things well on the offensive side of the ball, as well. Moving forward, he figures to make make an impact at nearby USC.

Placekicker: Arroyo Grande's Garrett Owens. Haven't heard of him yet? Fear not, there are plenty of people in the same boat. The one thing worth knowing about the 5-9, 165-pound senior, an Air Force commit, is he booted a 57-yard field goal in Week 2. Enough said. Lakewood's Alex Boy, La Habra's Sean Wale and Lakewood Mayfair's Osborn Umeh were also given consideration.

Punter: Los Angeles Loyola's Conrad Ukropina. The 6-1, 175-pound senior is without peer when it comes to placing the ball inside the opponents 10-yard line, having done so plenty of times in the not so distant past. Best thing about him, perhaps, is Ukropina is also a capable placekicker. Suppose that best explains why he is being recruited by Notre Dame, UCLA and USC, among others.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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