Mississippi Gridiron identifies the top ten high school defensive ends as we enter the 2011 season. This ranking is based on several factors and conversations with high school coaches and recruiting professionals, with consideration to a player’s potential but an emphasis on on-the-field production in high school. The list of great players in this state is a long one and some may be left off, but this will get the conversation started as we identify the best players in Mississippi.
This list is part of a series of positional rankings, which will be released daily over the next two weeks.
1. Channing Ward (6’4, 250, SR) Aberdeen
2010 Stats: had 119 tackles and 13 sacks last season…
Ward was a First Team All-State selection by the Clarion Ledger, and ranked as the nation’s 7th best defensive end prospect according to Scout.com. Ward was selected as the 3A Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches, and has led Aberdeen to back-to-back State Championship game appearances.
2. A. J. Jefferson (6’4, 240, SR) North Pike
2010 Stats: had 144 tackles and 19 sacks last season…also forced six fumbles.
A. J. Jefferson is the nation’s 43rd-ranked defensive end according to Scout.com. Jefferson helped lead North Pike to the 4A State Championship game last year. He was a First Team All-4A selection by the Mississippi coaches.
3. Temario Strong (6’3, 210, SR) South Panola
2010 Stats: finished with 79 tackles and 14.5 sacks.
Strong was a First Team All-6A selection last year by the coaches, and a Second Team All-State selection by the Clarion Ledger. He is committed to Ole Miss.
4. Nelson Adams (6’4, 255, SR) Brandon
2010 Stats: had 55 tackles and 14 sacks
Adams has the potential to play several positions in college, and does already for Bandon playing tight end, defensive end, and tackle. He posted 14 sacks a year ago and is ranked as the #86 defensive tackle by Scout.com. He is committed to Mississippi State.
5. Vernon Butler (6’3, 250, SR) North Pike
2010 Stats: had 98 tackles and four sacks
Vernon Butler teams with A. J. Jefferson to form one of the state’s top defensive end duos. Butler has the size to play on the interior, and will on occasion this year. He posted 98 tackles a year ago as North Pike reached the State Championship game.
6. Will Freeman (6’6, 225, SR) Northwest Rankin
2010 Stats: had 64 tackles and eight sacks last year.
Freeman is primed for a huge senior season after a solid season last year. Freeman totaled 64 tackles and eight sacks for the Cougars. He made major improvements from his sophomore to junior year, and a similar jump this year will move him up recruiting rankings.
7. Darius Coleman (6’1, 270, SR) Moss Point
2010 Stats: had 69 tackles and eight sacks last season
Coleman is one of the larger defensive ends in the state, and might play anywhere on the defensive line in college. He was an All-South Mississippi selection last year by the Biloxi Sun Herald. He is attracting attention from the in-state schools and Arkansas State.
8. Eric Rogers (6’3, 240, SR) Starkville
Starkville’s Eric Rogers had a solid season for Yellow Jackets, good enough to attract attention from Division I schools. Rogers recently received a scholarship offer from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and is also getting heavy interest from Southern Miss and UAB.
9. Martez Simpson (6’1, 215, SR) Madison Central
2010 Stats: 74 tackles and 8.5 sacks last season.
Martez Simpson isn’t one of the biggest or physically imposing defensive ends in Mississippi, but he was arguably the best defender for Madison Central last year on a defense that featured several Division I prospects. He posted 74 tackles and 8.5 sacks, and consistently gets high praise from high school coaches.
10. Dechey Williams (6’3, 250, SR) West Jones
2010 Stats: 51 tackles, three sacks and an interception last year.
Williams had a solid season a year ago as West Jones went 12-1 and will be an anchor for the Mustang defense this year. Williams was an area “Sweet Sixteen” selection by the Laurel Leader Call this summer and is receiving interest from most in-state schools.
Best of the Rest:
Tyler Gray (6’3, 240, SR) East Rankin Academy, Whitt Kendall (6’3, 220, SR) Jackson Prep, Malcolm Pickens (6’2, 250, SR) Okolona, Joseph Reeves (6’4, 240, SR) New Hope.
Keeyon Tyson (6’1, 195, SR) Lafayette
2010 Stats: 82 tackles and 14 sacks
Keeyon Tyson had a monster season last year for the State Champion Commodores. He is already a known among high school coaches, but could be a sleeper for college coaches, possibly at a different position. Tyson had one of the best statistical seasons for any defensive end in Mississippi last year, but did it as an undersized 190-pounder. Tyson’s sack total ranked 10th in the state and 5th among returning players.