Defending our Selections: The Freshman Defensive Line…

This is an incredibly hard position to break into the Friday night lineup for a freshman. Still, the committee weighted heavily a freshman’s being on the field as the season wore on and when his team was playing for its collective lives. We looked for defensive linemen here who fired out, and not up, coming off the ball. We wanted guys with active hands who used them to shed blockers, swim, or rip through double teams, and stayed active through out the play. Guys with motors were favored. Davis, Morris, and Thornsbury had the most productive years at least as frosh, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily better players than the kids who had to wait around a minute to see Friday night action. Manning and Brown both played on the Class 6A, State Football Championship, Louisville Male squad which finished 14-1 and Maxwell’s Saint Xavier team has been known to play a little football and have a little talent on the roster too. The below detailed guys are our freshman, KPGFootball, All-State Defensive Line…

LeAndre Maxwell, 6-0, 200 pounds, Louisville St. Xavier…Maxwell finished up a storied and much ballyhooed middle school career fighting to get on the field on Friday night. Well, Maxwell played for Saint Xavier as the year wore on and what we saw from him is exactly why so many people in the Derby City are so high on the young prospect. Maxwell is 6-0 and weighs 200 pounds now; but figures to both lengthen and thicken. He is a hard charger coming off an end and has excellent bend and ability to dip under the tackle’s hands and be a real problem in the up-field, pass rush game. This kid, as he matures, will be a force with whom to reckon in the Class of 2022 and will show up on lots of top prospects’ lists.

Elijah Manning, 5-11, 225 pounds, Louisville Male…This kid got more and more use the farther Male advanced in the playoff. One of our selection committee members was at every single Male High School game and, he told us, Manning and Brown played in all five of Male’s playoff games, including the State Championship victory over Scott County. This young man is what we call serious business. Stare into his steely glare and what peers back at you is grown. He is only going to get stronger and more explosive as he lifts and trains. Manning uses his hands well, and violently, against opposing blockers. He is a guy quick enough to gap and solid enough to hold his gap.KPGFootball strongly recommends your writing this name down as one to remember going forward.

Digging Thornsbury out of the hole? Good luck! Photo: Credited on Image

Jacoby Thornsbury, 5-10, 300 pounds, Belfry…There was a fantastic video, or live stream, that the Director of Future Star’s football, Ricco Hughes, put on Facebook, last summer, leading up to the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic. In the video, two Kentucky linemen were working on doubling Jacoby, with one of the linemen charged with combo-ing up to the second level once Jacoby was overtaken by his partner. In such a drill, like in a game situation, a problem arises if the double can’t dig the target or first level threat out of the gap. Director Hughes kept saying on the video, No Sir, No Sir, Y’all ain’t moving Jacoby Thornsbury nowhere! Those words, like so many spoken by Ricco Hughes, Kentucky’s lead talent evaluator in all the Commonwealth, proved utterly prophetic.

KPGFootball, not bad at evaluating talent either, predicts this will be a recurring problem for opponents as this kid progresses throughout his high school career. Thornsbury played in 9 of Belfry’s 13 games, in a year during which the Pirates were 10-3, and registered 20 tackles from his nose guard spot. As the picture above denotes, this is a kid who tended, occasionally, to play too high, regarding his pad level. As this kid continues to work in the weight room, particularly on the squat rack where he is already showing marked improvement, he will develop the core strength necessary to win his leverage battles with linemen attempting to dig him out of holes. There’s plenty of lead in that back side so when he plays at the pad-level where he needs to live, Jacoby Thornsbury a’int going to be moving nowhere! This kid is one of the premier zero technique guys in his class.

Layton Davis, 5-11, 260 pounds, Caldwell County…Had we selected a Lineman of the Year among the Class of 2022, based from off of production, Davis would have been The Guy. KPGFootball personally saw this kid play twice this year and he was just terrific. For those of you who don’t know, Caldwell County is one of the more storied programs in Kentucky High School football. The fact it is a Class 3A high school isn’t going to get anyone any early playing time. As before detailed, in Kentucky, there are good teams which span all 6 Classifications and there are bad team which span all 6 Classifications. Caldwell County plays all comers and they are a tough opponent for any high school football team, regardless of Classification. The Tigers, from Princeton, may not be Boyle County, Corbin, Elizabethtown, or Louisville Central (Central and Boyle will be 4A in 2019) but they aren’t far off either. They are a yearly candidate to make the Regional Finals, and the Semis in most years. Davis, playing against some of the best offensive centers Western Kentucky has to offer, registered 64 tackles in Caldwell’s 12 games, with 4 TFLs, and a QB sack to his credit. Davis has the pedigree too, as his father played collegiately.

Tyler Morris, 6-2, 170 pounds, Lexington Christian…First of all, Lexington Christian had the best freshman class in Kentucky this past season. They and Johnson County were the best middle school teams in Kentucky in 2017 and the Lexington Christian kids got forced into the lineup early owing to huge losses to the previous year’s high school graduation. The young-guns responded by leading Lexington Christian to a 9-4 mark and narrowly lowing to Somerset in the Regional Championship Game. The game ended with LCA down 4 points, with the football at the Somerset one yard line, as the clock expired. Morris, like Braeden Babin in 2017, was undersized for the position where he was deployed. Also like Babin (CAL) no one cared less about that than Tyler Morris who used his lightening quickness, and non-stop motor, to terrorize opposing O-linemen over his 9 games of action. Tyler Morris, like Jacoby Thornsbury (both were NGs), played in 9 games. Morris had very similar production to Thornsbury. Morris registered 24 tackles, over the nine games of action, with 4 tackles in the backfield. As an example of the difference between the two Noses, one of whom is a gap-holder, the other a gap-tweener (Thornsbury has 130 pounds on Morris after-all), Morris, in his 9 games, registered 3 QB sacks in addition to his TFLs. One would expect a 170 pounder to get blown off the football inside. Instead, Morris used his quickness to register 4 tackles in the backfield and 3 QB sacks in 9 games of play. This kid is the Braeden Babin of his class. Babin was on this team last year, so this selection appeared easy to us.

Selah Brown, 6-4, 250 pounds, Louisville Male…Most knowledgeable people in Kentucky football circles recognize that Selah Brown is the premier Defensive End in Kentucky’s Class of 2022. This kid has it all…length, frame, bend, explosion, power, strength…if he were offered an FBS, Power 5, ride as early as the summer entering his sophomore season, KPGFootball wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Brown passes the eye-test, with flying colors. Like the other freshmen phenoms at Louisville Male, while it was hard to register much clock as a freshman on Friday night for a 14-1, State Champion, Class 6A football team, Brown was called upon to play during the 5 game mini-season at the end of the year called the KHSAA playoffs. Like we said, a team’s going to its freshman, with the season on the line, meant more to the committee than regular season play. Brown made the most of his opportunities when he got them registering numerous tackles down the stretch when it mattered most playing opposite offensive tackles trying to avoid either the end of their seasons or the end of their high school careers. This kid is a Freshman All-State Defensive End in our committee’s mind, all day long and twice on Sundays.

Well, that is the defense of our selections for the freshman defensive line representing Kentucky’s class of 2022. KPGFootball is quite sure that, while these may not be the best defensive linemen in the 2022 class; they are, definitely, among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. It will be fun to follow these guys as they continue to develop and play football next Fall. You will continue to hear plenty from these players in 2019 and beyond. 

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

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