The Opening 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 2, 2014

The Opening 2014: Ranking the Top 25 Recruits in Attendance

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    Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat
    Virginia defensive end Josh SweatCredit: 247Sports

    If you enjoy elite athletes going toe-to-toe on the football field, you're going to love "The Opening." Nike's annual showcase in Beaverton, Oregon, takes center stage during the second week of July, offering competitors a chance to test their skills against fellow high school standouts.

    The 2015 class will be well represented in Beaverton, as more than 150 players received invitations to attend. Most of these prospects rank among the most elite recruits in this cycle, so the spotlight will shine brightly with bragging rights on the line.

    We examined the event roster, ranking participants based on past performances and collegiate potential. Here's a look at the top 25 players, who can count on plenty of competition from those left off the list.

25. 5-Star DT Kahlil McKenzie (Concord, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie plans to commit at The Opening. He's narrowed his choices down to Arizona and Tennessee.

    His father, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, played for the Volunteers.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    McKenzie comes from a football-rich family and provides a disruptive presence along the defensive front. The 6'4", 330-pound prospect never takes his eyes of the backfield, discarding offensive linemen with an array of moves and sheer power.

    His quickness is apparent in his pursuit of passers. McKenzie recorded 12 sacks last season, tallying 74 tackles.

24. 4-Star QB Brady White (Santa Clarita, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Arizona State

    Hart High School quarterback Brady White visited the Sun Devils twice before making a final decision on his collegiate destination in May. He chose the Sun Devils over Pac-12 rivals Cal and Oregon, while Penn State also made a push for him.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    White made a major leap as a prospect during his second season as a starter at Hart. He posted career highs across the board as junior, posting 4,500 passing yards and 50 total touchdowns.

    His throwing style doesn't require much refinement, and there's plenty of touch on long-distance throws. White can make plays happen with his legs as well, displaying mobility and creativity when forced outside of the pocket.

23. 5-Star DT Tim Settle (Manassas, Virginia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Tim Settle tweeted last month that Clemson is his leader after successful visits with the Tigers. Still, there's plenty of company in this race.

    Penn State and West Virginia hosted him in June, while Virginia, Virginia Tech and Tennessee are still contenders.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Settle can serve as the lynchpin of a defensive front, firing off the ball with fury. He clogs up rushing lanes and eviscerates offensive game plans by penetrating the backfield.

    The 6'3", 318-pound Stonewall Jackson High School standout piled up 92 tackles in 2013. He secured 37 of them for a loss of yardage, per Phil Kornblut of GoGamecocks.com.

22. 5-Star CB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Jersey City, N.J.)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Alabama

    The Crimson Tide picked up a pledge from Minkah Fitzpatrick during spring game activities in April. The St. Peter's Prep defensive back chose Alabama over Miami, Georgia, Florida State and several other schools.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Fitzpatrick impressed at Nike's New Jersey camp less than two weeks after his commitment to the Tide. He looked dominant in one-on-one coverage, unrelenting from start to finish while challenging some of the region's top receivers.

    The 6'1", 198-pound prospect is physical enough to play safety and shows off serious speed, running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds, per 247Sports. His confidence while defending on an island is encouraging when it comes to his mental approach, and he's an impressive tackler in the open field.

21. 5-Star OT Maea Teuhema (Keller, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to LSU

    Maea Teuhema initially pledged to Texas but changed his plans this past signing day. The Keller High School lineman switched his commitment to LSU, along with older brother Sione Teuhema, a defensive end in the 2014 class.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Teuhema is relentless in the trenches, plowing anything that stands in his path as a run-blocker. He features an explosive first step and finishes off plays with elite upper-body strength.

    The third-team all-state selection is capable of playing guard or tackle at the next level. He's a polished 6'4.5", 340-pound prospect with a mean streak during matchups. He's the kind of guy that coaches covet.

20. 5-Star DT Daron Payne (Birmingham, Alabama)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Daron Payne is widely expected to wind up at Alabama, and a commitment could arrive for Nick Saban at some point this season. Payne plans to use an official visit at Texas, per Wesley Sinor of AL.com.

    Auburn is also in pursuit but appears to be a clear No. 2 option in Payne's home state.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Payne packs a punch at the heart of a defense and is well suited for a career at nose tackle. He shoves linemen off him with ease, swarming to the ball with quick bursts.

    The 6'2", 330-pound Shades Valley High School star collapses the pocket and drives quarterbacks outside, where defensive ends can finish off the pursuit. He tallied 65 tackles and three sacks in 2013, according to AL.com.

19. 5-Star CB Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Speedy defensive back Kendall Sheffield has collected more than 20 scholarship offers during his recruitment, with several in-state squads leading the charge. Texas and Baylor are in the picture, but Texas A&M is viewed as a favorite among the group.

    Alabama and LSU would love to snatch him away from the Lone Star State.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Sheffield, a 5'11", 180-pound cornerback at Fort Bend Marshall High School, is easily one of the fastest prospects in America. He's a state champion hurdler and ranks among the nation's top track performers.

    However, his game is based on more than quickness, as he gets after receivers with excellent technique and smooth footwork. He is scrappy along the outside edge, effectively lending support against the run.

18. 5-Star DE Byron Cowart (Seffner, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Armwood High School defensive end Byron Cowart is arguably the most coveted uncommitted defender in talent-laden Florida. Naturally, in-state schools are attempting to secure his loyalty.

    Florida was the only one listed among his top four choices this spring. Alabama, Oregon and USC joined the Gators as favorites.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    The 6'4", 250-pound prospect can play with his hand in the dirt or from a stand-up position, presenting a variety of options for whichever team signs him. Cowart attacks the backfield by firing through interior gaps or beating the offensive tackle on his outside shoulder.

    He collected 13 sacks as a junior, demonstrating his prowess as a pass-rusher. Cowart finished the season with 72 total tackles.

17. 5-Star OT Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Georgia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to USC

    Peach State product Chuma Edoga opted to take his talents to the West Coast, committing to the Trojans over Georgia, Alabama and Clemson, among others. He pledged to USC in April, less than three weeks after visiting the campus.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    There are signs Edoga will require some patience and refinement at the next level, particularly when it comes to his lateral quickness. The 6'4", 276-pound McEachern High School prospect pounds opponents with a powerful initial punch and quickly takes control with leverage.

    He's likely to line up at offensive tackle when he first arrives at USC but could eventually slide inside at guard if that's what roster needs dictate. His short-area quickness is impressive, and he's a road-paver on pull assignments.

16. 5-Star RB Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Damien Harris decommitted from Michigan during the winter. He quickly received interest from a variety of suitors, including Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn and Florida State.

    Kentucky has heavily recruited him since the earliest stages, aiming to keep the Madison Southern High School star in his home state.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Harris is the most balanced running back in a recruiting class that's not quite up to par at the position compared to recent years. That increases his value and puts him in the crosshairs for programs across the country.

    The 5'11", 205-pound prospect can shoulder the load as a workhorse back and figures to be in the mix for substantial carries as a college freshman. He rushed for 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns in 2013.

15. 5-Star WR Preston Williams (Hampton, Georgia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Tennessee

    Preston Williams pledged to Tennessee last September, adding to a collection of impressive pickups for Volunteers head coach Butch Jones. The 6'5", 200-pound pass-catcher picked Tennessee early, but several squads are still giving chase.

    Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida are a few SEC foes hoping for a flip.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    You can't find a receiver like Williams in every recruiting class. His long frame and smooth route-running combine to create a dynamic downfield threat.

    Defensive backs are charged with the task of contending for high passes against a tall target, while Williams is also adept at plucking the ball away in traffic and can rack up yards after the reception. He caught 59 passes for 1,388 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.

14. 5-Star LB Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati, Ohio)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Ohio State

    Linebacker Justin Hilliard joined forces with defensive end Jashon Cornell on July 2, as the two committed to Ohio State together within a matter of minutes. The St. Xavier High School star decided to stay on his home turf after testing the waters elsewhere.

    His list of finalists featured Notre Dame, Michigan, Iowa and Alabama.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Hilliard, a fiery competitor who fights through the whistle, is a violent tackler. He dominates at the second level while eliminating rushing lanes with excellent anticipation.

    The 6'2", 230-pound prospect compiled 80 tackles and five sacks in seven games last season. He exhibits a high motor and strong initiative to make an impact from sideline to sideline.

    His pass-rushing skills should continue to improve, providing the defense with a disruptive presence in blitz packages.

13. 5-Star DT Rasheem Green (Gardena, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Plenty of Pac-12 teams have lined up to land Southern California lineman Rasheem Green. He holds offers from nearby USC and UCLA, along with Oregon, Arizona State and Stanford.

    His most recent offers include Oklahoma, Kentucky and Alabama.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Green may be the most versatile member of a deep defensive tackle class. The 6'5", 275-pound Junipero Serra High School prospect punishes opponents with raw power and is athletic enough to line up at defensive end or inside.

    His ideal landing spot appears to be at 3-technique, where he could inflict damage as a dangerous interior pass-rusher. He piled up 14 sacks last season.

    Green's grown-man strength will be tested in Beaverton. Expect him to accept the challenge and flash an array of skills against America's top offensive linemen.

12. 5-Star QB Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Texas A&M

    Kyler Murray strongly considered Oregon but ultimately pulled the trigger on a commitment to the Aggies in May. The Allen High School star follows in the footsteps of his father, Kevin Murray, a quarterback who led Texas A&M to a Cotton Bowl victory in the 1980s.

    He also warranted offers from the likes of Florida, Texas, Notre Dame and Clemson.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Those who doubt Murray typically point to his 5'11", 180-pound frame as the cause for concern. However, we're growing accustomed to watching undersized passers orchestrate offenses with proficiency, and he appears to have all the skills.

    Murray, a two-time state champion, is 27-0 as a high school starter. He's an accurate passer who improvises when things break down, an underrated aspect of the position.

    His numbers are prolific, through the air and on the ground. He has thrown for 5,600 yards, rushed for 2,600 yards and accounted for 107 total touchdowns during the past two seasons.

11. 5-Star OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Martez Ivey is a valued commodity in SEC country, but his decision could come down to a rivalry that transcends conference allegiance. Florida and Florida State are jockeying for position with the offensive tackle, who could quickly rise up the depth chart at either school.

    Auburn and Alabama are the teams most likely to contend beyond the Sunshine State. Ivey visited both schools in February.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    We're talking about an athletically gifted 6'6", 270-pound prospect who is just starting to scratch the surface as a fundamental football player. His physique is exactly what you look for at the tackle position, particularly the long reach and upper-body strength.

    Ivey has strides to make in terms of coordination, which will come with physical maturity. Once he puts the pieces together with a collegiate coaching staff to guide him, there's a strong chance he'll be among the nation's best bookends.

10. 5-Star LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Poteet High School standout Malik Jefferson is a top priority for several teams in the Lone Star State. Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech are each attempting to lure the 6'2", 225-pound outside linebacker to campus.

    He has plenty of opportunities beyond state borders, with Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma surfacing as top contenders.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Jefferson brings so many dimensions to the defensive attack. He's a legitimate three-down linebacker who could compete for reps as a true freshman depending on where he pledges.

    His speed presents nightmare matchups for offensive linemen who aren't expecting a blitz. Jefferson motors through the gap, has the power to bull-rush and finishes with ferocity once he reaches the quarterback. He had 19 sacks over the past two seasons.

    He lays the lumber in run coverage, displaying the instincts required to excel in college. Jefferson, who owns 188 tackles since 2012, also provides reliable support against the pass with fluid hips and exceptional awareness.

9. 5-Star CB Kevin Toliver (Jacksonville, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to LSU

    Les Miles landed rangy defensive back Kevin Toliver as a sophomore in 2012. He visited Miami and UCF earlier this year but remains committed to the Tigers.

    Ohio State, UCLA and Auburn are among his other suitors.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Toliver wasn't targeted frequently during a state title run with Trinity Christian Academy, but he still managed to pop on game tape. The 6'2", 185-pound cornerback provides a physical presence on the perimeter as soon as the ball is snapped, jamming receivers at the line.

    His ball skills are outstanding, and a long wingspan allows him to bat away pass attempts at the last second. Toliver has great recovery speed and doesn't get burned, even when he takes chances early in coverage.

    He finished the 2013 season with 36 tackles and two interceptions. It should be fun to watch him blossom as a ball hawk during his college career.

8. 5-Star ATH Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Torrance Gibson continues to trim down his list of possible destinations, most recently announcing a top seven. Auburn and Tennessee once sat atop the group as co-leaders, but that dynamic changed following his latest trip to Knoxville.

    "After the visit I would still have to say that Tennessee is the leader for me right now," he wrote on his USA Today blog in late June.

    LSU, Oklahoma, UCF, Ohio State and Miami also remain in the mix.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    The jury is still out on whether Gibson can handle quarterback duties at the next level, but his progression as a senior will give us a glimpse of what may lie ahead for the 6'4", 200-pound playmaker.

    It isn't hard to imagine him developing into a dominant receiver down the line. Few prospects in this class can compare to his change-of-direction speed, and his height is clearly an advantage.

    His college career will begin behind center, where he'll have a chance to prove himself as an underclassman. Gibson, who tallied more than 2,800 total yards and 29 touchdowns last season, led American Heritage to a state title in 2013.

7. 5-Star DT Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Texas A&M

    Daylon Mack helped kick off a strong recruiting cycle in College Station, pledging to the Aggies last fall. The 6'2", 310-pound Gladewater High School star could ultimately consider taking official visits elsewhere and spent time at Auburn earlier this year.

    His latest offers include Ohio State, Stanford and USC.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Mack is among the very elite in a defensive tackle class that rivals any of this decade. His athleticism is stunning when you consider how much weight he's carrying into the backfield.

    A freight train comes to mind when you watch him attack the offensive interior, bullying his way toward daylight. Believe it or not, he spends his time on offense taking handoffs at running back.

    He piled up impressive statistics during his junior season with 97 tackles, including 36 for loss. He also collected six sacks.

6. 5-Star QB Ricky Town (Ventura, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to USC

    Ricky Town initially committed to Alabama last summer. He spent five months as the Crimson Tide's quarterback of the future before flipping to USC in late January, instantly becoming the cornerstone of Steve Sarkisian's 2015 class.

    Florida State, Texas, UCLA and Tennessee also extended offers along the way.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    While some believe Town belongs ahead of fellow 5-star California quarterback Josh Rosen (who you'll see on this list shortly), he isn't quite as accurate from all distances as his top contemporary. Town, a 6'4", 205-pound St. Bonaventure High School product, possesses an explosive arm and can really work the sidelines.

    He moves well in the pocket, adjusting as pressure arrives and stepping up to buy time. Town consistently surveys the field while going through his progressions and throws darts on the run.

    His size gives him an advantage in short-yardage situations, and he can be a true rushing threat at the goal line. Town threw for 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013.

5. 5-Star S Derwin James (Auburndale, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Florida State

    The Seminoles claimed a commitment from safety Derwin James during his freshman year, and he remains entrenched as a leader of the 2015 class. Florida State is still fending off teams for his signature, seven months shy of national signing day.

    Florida, Auburn, Ohio State and LSU are alternative options.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    James, a first-team all-state selection in 2013, patrols the secondary with authority at Haines City Senior High School. The 6'2", 201-pound defender is equally impressive against the run and pass.

    He drops the hammer in coverage when receivers don't keep their heads on a swivel, making them think twice before their next route crosses his path. He is smooth in coverage and doesn't necessarily rely on his physicality to get the job done.

    In an age when so many defensive backs struggle to secure tackles in the open field, James brings down ball-carriers with consistency. He's a major asset while lined up in the box on opponents' short-yardage conversion attempts.

4. 5-Star OT Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to Clemson

    Mitch Hyatt pledged to the Tigers in February following several campus visits. His uncle, Dan Benish, was a member of Clemson's 1981 national championship team.

    The 6'5.5", 271-pound North Gwinnett High School standout spurned offers from Auburn, Ohio State, Georgia, USC and Miami, among others.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Hyatt is further ahead from a technical standpoint than more physically imposing offensive linemen in this class. He's surgical with hand placement and uses a powerful base to drive opponents so far downfield they find themselves in the defensive secondary.

    His athleticism also stands out. He is a lineman who won't need to shed bad weight when he arrives on campus and actually has room to expand on his frame.

    He could line up as a bookend on either side of the line and is nimble enough to take on top-tier pass-rushers for four quarters.

3. 5-Star CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    California programs are clamoring for this in-state defensive back. UCLA, Stanford and USC are in pursuit of Long Beach Poly High School playmaker Iman Marshall. If his recruitment leads him beyond the West Coast—expect official visits elsewhere—LSU, Texas, Notre Dame and Michigan are among possible destinations.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Standing at 6'1", 190 pounds, Marshall has the size and speed to cover a diverse collection of receiver "types," from shifty slot players to tall possession guys. He is a stride-for-stride defender who blankets receivers without drawing penalties.

    Marshall didn't surrender a single pass completion during league matchups last fall, flashing instincts you can't teach. He's a serious threat to score when the ball is in his hands, so expect him to produce highlight returns in college.

    His presence in run support separates him from several standout cornerbacks who haven't yet embraced the art of tackling. He registered 64 tackles last season and isn't out of his element near the line of scrimmage.

2. 5-Star QB Josh Rosen (Bellflower, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Committed to UCLA

    Michigan made a late charge at the Southern California standout, welcoming him to Ann Arbor in March. The Wolverines created an interesting decision late, but Josh Rosen pledged to UCLA less than a week later.

    His expansive offer list includes Cal, Notre Dame, Florida State and Texas.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Rosen tops the list of California quarterbacks who dominate the upper echelon of prospects at the position in this class. He looked college-ready by the end of his junior season, which ended with a state championship for St. John Bosco High School.

    The 6'4", 205-pound passer is among the most polished quarterback prospects we've seen this decade, dedicated to honing his craft with polished footwork and impeccable mechanics. Everything came together for Rosen in 2013, when he threw for 3,200 yards and 39 touchdowns.

    He's elusive enough to buy time and has the most accurate deep ball you'll find on a high school field this fall. Jim Mora may quickly anoint him the Bruins starter if Heisman Trophy contender Brett Hundley heads to the NFL after his redshirt junior season.

     

1. 5-Star DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Recruitment Status: Uncommitted

    Our top-ranked prospect has kept his options open throughout the recruiting process. Josh Sweat is coveted by in-state schools Virginia Tech and Virginia. Former Oscar Smith High School teammate Andrew Brown signed with the Cavaliers as a 5-star defensive tackle in February.

    Sweat expanded his horizons in June, with visits to Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio State. Possible options out west include Oregon and Texas A&M, while Florida State is another strong contender.

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    The 6'5", 237-pound defender is a rare athlete with all the tools to become America's next premier pass-rusher. Sweat already features a powerful build that provides strength at the point of attack but doesn't slow him down, as evidenced by his 40-yard dash time of 4.50, per 247Sports.

    He was a menace throughout the 2013 season, compiling 94 tackles and 22 sacks. He is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback and establishes himself along the edge, shutting down the rushing attack when it reaches his perimeter.

    Simply put, he's a physical freak who plays under control and reads the backfield extremely well. Expect Sweat to spend plenty of snaps chasing plays as a true freshman.

     

    All recruit ratings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.