I don’t know whether any of you remember a player who played for the Chiefs for six years and then was traded to the St. Louis Rams in 2007, out of Texas A&M, named Dante Hall. You might know him as The Human Joystick, his nickname, but he is considered, by some, one of the top kick-returners in NFL history. In fact, NFL Network listed him as one of the 10 greatest return specialists in the game’s history. Now, you may be wondering (and I wouldn’t blame you if you were) why I would be discussing a special teams’ ace in an article about defensive linemen? I am doing this to firmly support a central and key point about football and the defensive linemen we will take up in these next two articles. The point, as eloquently stated by one of the game’s greatest special teams’ players is that Defensive and Offensive linemen control the game and true sports fans know that… That is such a prevailing and widely accepted truism in the game of football that it is even being cited by players who have never played in any proximity to the line of scrimmage. We scoured the Commonwealth of Kentucky to find the very best freshman defensive linemen in the Class of 2021. As this is a position group we can’t feature together with the Class of 2020, like the offensive linemen, because of the size of the position group. We will feature the Class of 2021 first, in keeping with what we have before done in this series of articles, and then we will feature the Class of 2020. The selection committee, the Aspirations Fitness Institution and Kentucky Prep Gridiron proudly submits the following four players as our AFI/KPG Freshman All-State Defensive Linemen…
Class of 2021
Darian Dearinger, 6’3″ 225, Anderson County High School
Back on June 28, 2017, I featured Darian in an article entitled Darion Dearinger, Class of 2021, All-American DE. Darion as a middle school player was a two-time Team Kentucky FBU member, a two-time Kentucky Future Star, and is a Nationally Rated member of his class according to Rivals.com. Dearinger was also selected an FBU All-American. I also noted in the article in June of 2017 that Dearinger, who had a registered 4.9 40 time as an 8th grader, [has] excellent feet,…[and]...excellent wind, which he will need because he will be playing Iron Man football at Anderson County, if not next year, then sometime. Emphasis not in original. Looking back now, as of the date of the publication of this article, those predictions have sure come to fruition. Darian carries a 4.0 GPA and is heavily involved in both School and Church activities while playing for a Class 5A, District 6 Anderson County team which went 8-4 before narrowing losing 14-11, in the 2nd round, to the Madison Southern team who will play Covington Catholic this week-end for the State Championship. As we expected, though not necessarily as a freshman, Dearinger did play Iron Man football for Anderson County. At TE, Dearinger only caught 2 passes for 17 yards but, as before discussed, a TE has responsibility beyond catching passes, and Dearinger’s Hudl film, highlighting his work at TE, in the running game, was freaking awesome. Had we selected a TE on the freshman team, it might have been him. Dearinger’s work at DE, in 10 games, was otherworldly, particularly for a freshman. Darian recorded 48 tackles with 35 of them being solo, many of which were tackles behind the line of scrimmage. That is a lot of tackles coming from a down-four player, with his hand in the dirt, even where a senior, much less a freshman. The committee felt Darian’s work at DE was even more outstanding than his run blocking, which we really liked. Darian is a kid with really good size and really long arms which he uses well either bending around the end to rush the passer or to shed blockers as he scrapes down the line and makes plays. Darian has registered a pro-agility shuttle (5-10-5) time of 4.6, has a 26 inch vertical leap, bench presses 225, and back squats 365, all of which are strong numbers for a freshman defensive lineman. As he continues to get stronger and mature, and all of those numbers increase, you are going to have a real problem in the future trying to run or throw the ball when playing Anderson County. The selection committee felt Dearinger was a no-doubt All-State DE and believe we will enjoy watching him play on Saturday, one day, maybe even Sunday.
Alton Jefferson, 6’2″ 220, Louisville Trinity High School
I wrote a series of articles entitled Plug-In Players and it was meant to highlight freshmen either starting, day one, on the Varsity Football team or who would surely be starting on the football team before the year was through. A parent whose son played on the Trinity Football Freshman team contacted me and felt the criteria unfairly prejudiced players at Kentucky’s benchmark, nationally ranked, football program, a.k.a. Louisville Trinity High School. His point was two fold, basically. First, Trinity’s freshman team, which he said was hands down the best in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, would beat 3/4 of the Varsity Football teams in Kentucky. Second, James Quick, Jason Hatcher, and the Brohms didn’t start at Trinity as freshmen. The test of a freshman football player’s skill and potential at Trinity is whether you are called up in October for the play-off run. Prior to this year, the highest number of freshman ever called up to dress for the play-offs was 8. This year, Coach Beatty called up 21 players from off a Freshman team which had beaten the freshman teams from Louisville Male, Carmel High School (Indiana), St. Francis DeSales, Louisville Saint Xavier (twice), and absolutely crushed Cincinnati (OH) Elder 49-6 before beating Fern Creek, 57-0 to finish 8-0. I decided to feature some of the freshman Shamrocks in my Plug-In series because I was sufficiently persuaded by a well made argument. One of those highlighted, in part 3 of the series, was freshman NG, Alton Jefferson. Alton is a 6’2″ 220 pound freshman either NG or inside technique player who is so quick, fast, and athletic he played RB on offense. Alton’s aggressive play, strength, and motor impressed everyone this summer as a member of the Kentucky Future Stars team, where he played an inside technique along the Kentucky Defensive front. Alton will dress, this week-end, as Trinity is favored to win yet another Class 6A State Championship over a St. X team it beat during the regular season 28-0 on September 29. This will be one the selection committee believes you will look back on in a few years and remark at our foresight and brilliance in including this player on our AFI/KPG Freshman All-State Football Team.
Braeden Babin, 5’11” 187 Christian Academy of Louisville
On November 16, 2017, I wrote an article entitled My Goodness…there’s two of them…Brandt and Braeden Babin. Brandt Babin made this team at RB, and we featured him when we featured that position group. What has flown under the radar, everywhere but at Kentucky Prep Gridiron, Christian Academy of Louisville, and with the AFI/KPG selection committee is the play of the other Babin, Braeden. Braeden hasn’t been employing his skill set in as sexy of a position as RB. How do you judge a fullback whose main responsibility is to open the path for his brother’s glory? Well, in round two of the playoffs, the RB whose way he was clearing, gained 177 yards rushing with 3 rushing TDs. Says a lot about both the FB and the Offensive Line if you were to ask me. I tell you what you do, if you have any doubt about how much Braeden has contributed to CAL’s season, go on over to HUDL and play some of the film and watch Braeden knocking people silly all over the field in ways for which there is no statistic. Braeden, who sadly saw his team’s chances to repeat as Class 2A State Champions melt away in Mayfield, Kentucky during the State Semis, battered Centurion opponents whether on offense at FB, on special teams, or on Defense. Braeden played in 12 games as a freshman for one of the premier football programs in Kentucky regardless of Classification. Babin contributed to the team in his 12 games as a battering FB and lead blocker. A member of the selection committee regarded FB was akin to being the NG of an offensive backfield. Braeden also recorded 11 tackles 5 of which were solo, logging time at both MLB (kind of a stand-up NG) and at actual NG. Braeden’s play was aggressive, physical, and violent all over the field (which is what coaches hope to get from NGs) as he left opponents peering out their earholes, play after play. The selection committee really and genuinely felt the true measure of Braeden’s contributions to the Centurion Football team, this year, was way more significant and appreciated than what can be recorded statistically. The committee, watching his film and talking to coaches who had coached either with or against him, could easily see Babin maturing into one of those gapping, tilting, lightning quick NGs that bother Centers to the point it messes with the QB-Center exchange. The committee felt strongly Braeden Babin was just too good a football player to leave off the team, so we put him on the defense as one of our inside technique guys. He’s our glue guy, up front, and we are proud to include him on the AFI/KPG Freshman All-State Team.
Zack Russell, 6’3″ 200, Johnson Central High School
Coach Jim Matney has his Class 4A, District 8, Eagles from Johnson Central High School poised to go back-to-back as Class 4A State Football Champions provided they can get by Franklin-Simpson, the same team they beat last year, in this week-end’s game. Johnson Central went 12-2 this year, dropping consecutive games to Ashland-Blazer and Belfry but book-ending those two defeats with nothing but Ws. Two freshmen who have greatly contributed for Johnson Central’s Varsity High School football team, a program that plays freshman sparingly, if ever, were AFI/KPG Freshman All-State Guard, Cameron Willis and our last AFI/KPG Freshman All-State defensive lineman, Zack Russell. Zack played in 11 of Johnson Central’s 14 games this year and played both DE and TE for the Eagles. Zack, as a DE for Johnson Central during the year, had 10 tackles, 5 of which were solo. We realize that doesn’t sound like a lot of plays but he obviously fulfilled his assignment well or else why would he have logged playing time in 11 games for the premier program in Class 4A. Zack is a former Team Kentucky player, FBU and Future Stars, and as a Kentucky Future Star played in the Tennessee-Kentucky Future Stars Classic, in 7th and 8th grades, and was Offensive MVP as a 7th grader for his contributions at TE. Zack’s game, frame, and potential are very similar to that of our other All-State DE, Dearinger, and these two edge players are widely considered the best two DEs in Kentucky’s Class of 2021. What coaches love about Zack is his length, he’s 6’3″ with long arms, athleticism, and motor exhibited with his play at both DE and TE, and a frame which can hold quite a bit more thickness as he continues to mature and work in the Johnson Central strength and conditioning program. To accentuate the freshmen have to be special to play for the Eagles position, I, personally, love an O-line prospect at Johnson Central named Hunter (Gooch) Scott. Scott anchored the O-Line for the Kentucky Future Stars team this Summer, at 6’1″ 290, and he was benching close to 300 and squatting close to 400 before he even got enrolled in 9th grade. Gooch is a specimen. Gooch only played in 1 Varsity game his freshman year at Johnson Central and I am pretty sure Gooch starts at HHS, this year, and HHS is a Class 4A team which took a lead into the half-time of the State Quarters against the very team Johnson Central will play for the Class 4A title (Franklin-Simpson). Don’t know how Coach Matney kept Gooch off the field. Look for him to break out next year as a Sophomore. Anyway, the point I am making is you have to be a special talent to suit up and log game time as a freshman at Johnson Central. Zack Russell played in 11 of the 14 Varsity games, more games than any other freshman on the roster, Willis included. The committee felt strongly Zack Russell, and his counterpart on the other side (Dearinger), are the premier DEs in Kentucky’s Class of 2021 and deserving All-Staters by anyone’s estimation.
Well, these are the Class of 2021 Defensive Line for the AFI/KPG Freshman All-State Football Team and why they were selected. Next up, we highlight the Sophomore Defensive line selections, so keep checking the site. Until then, this is Fletcher Long, for Kentucky Prep Gridiron, reminding all those playing football at Kroger Field this next week-end to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE!