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May 29, 2011

Oklahoma's Best Young Defenders

The Sooner Hot 11 is a SoonerScoop.com ranking, compiled by editor Josh McCuistion. Generally it's a ranking of the top players from each Oklahoma Saturday but this time we're putting a different spin on things and having a look at the best defensive performers of the 2011 tour of Oklahoma just completed by McCuistion and SoonerScoop.com staff writer Eddie Radosevich. We countdown from eleven the top performers we saw, now mind you it's just a day by day opinion on players going through their team practices and looking comfortable doing so and isn't so much a ranking of prospect as performance.
11. Jevonte Cross, Linebacker - 2012
Analysis: Cross is a big linebacker and not surprisingly he doesn't get enough credit for his lateral movement but what truly seems to separate is how well he sees the game and reacts quickly to what he sees. This may seem obvious but every year people talk about players 'not trusting what their eyes see'. Cross reads a play and then quickly forces himself right into the fray.

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10. Kimmie Carson, Linebacker - 2013
Analysis: Carson is a very interesting linebacker to keep an eye on as he has kind of emerged from nowhere as a very real prospect at the outside linebacker position. He moves incredibly well in space though he is still figuring out the game and his role within East Central's defense. He isn't the biggest linebacker at roughly 6-foot-2, and 210-pounds but certainly has room for growth.

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9. Demarious Littles, Defensive Back- 2012
Analysis: Littles first emerged for many last year when he had a really strong performance at wide receiver in the state semi-finals against Tulsa Union. Since then the Wolverines have moved him to cornerback and although his offensive coordinator might miss not like him having to take some breaks on offense there is little doubt he has already emerged as a potential division-one cornerback. He is long and lean and somewhat reminiscent of former Sooner Andre Woolfolk physically.

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8. Michael Thomas, Defensive Back - 2012
Analysis: Thomas is one of the most unusual bodytypes that SoonerScoop.com can remember seeing at the defensive back position, particularly at the high school age. While most defensive backs are lean-legged and you wonder how they'll ever carry the weight needed to play at the college level. In the case of Thomas it's more of a question of will he turn into a linebacker as he is as powerfully built as any defensive back in recent memory. Honestly it might be easy to say he is thicker than Corey Nelson was at the same point.

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7. Kevin Peterson, Cornerback - 2012
Analysis: Peterson is such a quality player that it's sometimes too easy to take him for granted. Peterson is a top shelf athlete and nowhere was that more clear than watching him win the 4A crown in both the 100 and 200-meter events. Like many sprinters Peterson still has to work on his t-turn and just loosening himself up through the hips but at the end of the day when he is done turning he can run with some of the state's fastest receivers.

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6. Novis Cullom, Defensive Tackle - 2013
Analysis: Quietly this one of the most impressive prospects that we saw through the course of the week. Cullom is also one of the most raw prospects we saw through the course of an entire week of workouts as he still has to learn to play more than one snap out of three and once he figures out proper hand-battling he can really be something. However, a quick first step, solid frame and a lot of natural power make him very intriguing as a defensive tackle.

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5. Joniko Thomas, Cornerback- 2012
Analysis: Thomas fought through injuries as a junior and as such was kind of overlooked but has already caught the eye of several college coaches. It's an obvious comparison but physically his frame isn't that dissimilar to former Union star, and current Atlanta Falcon, Dominique Franks. Thomas has a long way to go before he is ready to be that caliber of player but he has a lot of natural tools that could see him jump up many rankings for the class of 2012.

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4. Damian Gibson. Defensive End - 2012
Analysis: Gibson isn't the type of defensive end that college coaches automatically fall in love with 10-sack potential but he is the kind that a lot of college coaches can win with. Gibson says he is nearing clearing up some grade risks that have had several coaches holding back their offers but as a big run-stuffing type of defensive end that can be a real nuisance thanks to a good motor and a willingness to mix it up he can really emerge with better academics.

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3. Dalton Rodriguez, Defensive End - 2013
Analysis: Rodriguez was one of the real pleasant surprises of the trip. Rodriguez is a fundamentally sound defensive end that while talented makes the most of a great motor that sees to it that Rodriguez goes hard from whistle to whistle. Not surprisingly for Union he has a great understanding of moves and is particularly adept and push and pull maneuvers and figures to be a defensive end that just drives offensive tackles crazy with his tenacity.

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2. D.J. Ward, Defensive End - 2013
Analysis: The scariest thing about Ward climbing this high up the list is that he has been fighting off some serious allergies and apparently some sort of stomach bug. On the day Ward could have easily taken plays off, or just skipped the entire practice, however that's not what the state's most coveted junior chose to do. He went hard, fought through double teams, and simply was the most undeniable nuisance in a Lawton front seven that is extremely talented and athletic.

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1. Trevan Smith, Cornerback - 2013
Analysis: At roughly 5-foot-8 Smith may have to work for the attention a bit more than some of the other players on this list however his workout at the NUC Tulsa event was nothing short of amazing. With an older brother in the NFL it came as no surprise that Smith was a bit more advanced in coverage technique than some of his peers but what was surprising is how different the younger Smith's game was from his brother. He is a press corner that can turn and run with even the fastest receivers and if one leaping grab was any indication his size may not hurt him on the boundary nearly so much as some would expect.

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