Posted On: 03/24/21 3:00 PM
Welcome back for our final installation of identifying players that I believe are going to breakout this spring and receive the recruiting attention that they deserve. Today, we are going to go through the entire defensive side of the ball and identify three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and three defensive backs that are poised for a breakout. All nine players are seniors, and they are still looking for their home for next fall. Just like with the offensive positions, I will provide a quick look into what the junior film tells us about each player and then provide a look into the current recruiting attention each player has already received. Let’s dive into these nine players that college coaches are going to want to keep an eye on!
DeAndre Wells DeAndre Wells 6'3" | DL Shorewood | 2021 State WI , DL- Shorewood/Messmer
The 6’3″ 240 lbs prospect is a disruptive force at the DE position. DeAndre does a consistently good job of getting penetration through the line of scrimmage thanks to his combination of strength, hand usage, and first step quickness. His vision to find the ball once he gets to the backfield multiplies his disruptiveness. Stamina isn’t an issue with Wells either as he makes impact plays while playing on both sides of the ball during games. A team that can bring in DeAndre and work with him on combining his physical traits with more consistent technique is going to get a steal. D3 schools should have their eyes fixed on him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he catches the eyes of the D2 level this spring.
Offers/Interest: I went through DeAndre’s Twitter and he doesn’t have much activity overall on their and no posts showing any interest. Due to the lack of overall usage, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some interest already. If there isn’t any then Wells is looking like a steal.
The first step explosion and overall explosive quickness that Kaden shows in his 2019 film has me wondering how he is on this list. The 6’4″ 255 lbs DL looks the part and plays the part of a dominant interior defensive lineman. His has a collection of pass rush moves that he shows off in his film, such as his rip and swim moves. He has the strength to split double teams and then make the sack. Once he sheds the blocker and breaks through the line of scrimmage, Kaden has the play speed to pursue the QB and bring him down. Banks is a disruptive force in the middle of the Holmen defense and the next level needs to highlight, underline, and circle his name as someone they need to watch this spring.
Offers/Interest: I went through Kaden’s entire timeline and didn’t find any posts showing interest from the next level. I have no doubt that he is going to have a strong spring and that will change. He has a ton of tools to work with. College coaches, make sure you check in on him throughout this season.
Curtis Jaskulke Curtis Jaskulke 6'3" | DL Stoughton | 2021 State WI , DL/LB- Stoughton
Curtis has grown into a player I would label as a “My Guy”. A player that I would pound the table for and tell anybody who will listen that they should want this defender on their team. He is a bit of a tweener on the edge at 6’3″ 205 lbs, but if you give him the time to fill out he is going to be an impactful kid. Even at his current size, Curtis has the tape showing him making plays from the DE position and even the DT position. Of course he won’t play inside at the next level, but it shows off the quickness and strength that he already has. When he does rush from the DE position, he has the quick twitch and pass rush repertoire to quickly bend the edge and get after the QB. There is a lot of potential here, and based off all the camps we have seen him at over the past three months he has the drive to do what he needs to do to get to where he wants to be.
Offers/Interest: This is one of the largest splits between recruiting attention and talent that we have in Wisconsin. Curtis currently sits inside our Top 150 players, yet when I go through his account I can’t find any reports of interest or offers. If that is where he is still at then it is time for a D2 program to come in and make this steal. If you give Curtis the time to fill out, I believe he will reward you by becoming a consistent pass rush threat for your defense.
Mekhi Gullens Mekhi Gullens 6'0" | LB Sun Prairie | 2021 State WI , LB- Sun Prairie
I am a huge fan of the range and play speed that Mekhi possesses in the middle of the Sun Prairie defense. That athleticism paired with his ability to drop into a zone and read and react to the QB makes him a viable option in a sub package, third down role right away at the next level. Gullens has the potential to be a complete three down LB as his career goes on. If he can hold his agility as he continues to fill out and gain strength then he will be able to continue to pick through the trash at the second level to make plays against the run as well as be able to consistently shed the blocks of offensive linemen leading to him making plays in the backfield. The current traits are very strong with Mekhi and the potential he has should make him a top target this spring. I believe his play will ensure he gets that attention.
Offers/Interest: This is an interesting review of Mekhi’s offers and interests. Based off his Twitter, he doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of interest. However, the current offer he does hold is from the D2 level in Upper Iowa. I believe that is the correct level of play for him, but if that is his only option currently then the D3 level needs to push to add him to their roster. With a strong spring I could see many more of the D2 level getting involved.
Cole Yanke Cole Yanke 6'0" | LB Middleton | 2021 State WI , LB- Middleton
Cole is an intriguing LB prospect coming in at 6’ 210 lbs. He is at his best while making plays at the first and second level of the defense as a run defender. He has the necessary lateral movement skills to pick through the trash that is at the second level when the offense is running the ball as well as the range to make tackles from his position at ILB to the sideline. He also has the strength to play at the line of scrimmage where he needs to be able to shed the blocks of offensive linemen. It isn’t just strength that helps him win in the trenches. When he blitzes, he shows off a nice first step quickness to shoot through his gap before the offensive lineman can get much of a shot on him. I do believe that Cole also has the ability to drop into zone coverage and read and react to a QB, but there is no doubt that he is at his best when he can play and attack downhill.
Offers/Interest: Cole comes into this article with the most reported offers of any athlete in this list. He currently holds one D2 offer from Southwest Minnesota State, and two D3 offers from Carroll University, and St. Norbert’s College. If he can show further development from his junior season then those three schools might not be alone in the pursuit of his abilities.
Wilson Zuck Wilson Zuck 5'11" | LB Appleton North | 2021 State WI , LB- Appleton North
Wilson is an explosive athlete at the ILB position for Appleton North. He checks in at 5’11″ 190 lbs. With that size you hope to see a defender with the range and play speed to be able to play in space as a third down, sub package LB. That is what Zuck has to offer. He has that speed and range to be able to drop into coverage and make plays from sideline to sideline. His closing speed paired with a surprising amount of strength allows him to pack a serious punch when he makes tackles. He is definitely the hammer when he comes up to make the tackle. His play speed comes with a good first step that allows him to be a consistently effective blitzer. Offensive linemen can’t even lay a hand on him at times. It would be interesting to see what a defensive coordinator at the next level could do with him. He is a little undersized, but he has all the athletic traits you could want and a tone setting mentality when he tackles.
Offers/Interest: While going through his Twitter, it was quickly apparent that not only is Wilson a talented football player, but he is also a talented baseball player as well. He will be a player that might be able to play two sports at the next level if he wanted to. Otherwise he is going to be one to watch and see which sport he chooses. As far as football goes, it doesn’t look like Zuck has any offers. As for interest, he received multiple D2 Junior Day invites last spring. Hopefully his play this spring will bump that interest up into an offer or two.
Any team still in he need of a cornerback make sure you take a look at the Whitnall product. He currently plays at 5’11″ 175 lbs and he has the traits to play at the next level. You can see in his film that he has the football intelligence to be able to anticipate and diagnose plays before they happen resulting in him being in really good position to make a play. His ability to read the QB while he is in zone coverage is another example of his football IQ. Play after play in his film you see him figure out what is going on and get to where he needs to be to make a play. He also has all the physical traits you need at the position. He has the speed to turn and run with receivers and the reactive athleticism to match movements in man coverage. Add in the ball skills to turn that ability of being in the right place at the right time into turnovers for his team and you get one of the top CBs still available in Wisconsin. Keep an eye on him this spring.
Offers/Interest: So far, it doesn’t look like Elliott has any reported offers, but he does have interest from several D2 programs. While going through his account I noticed interest from Upper Iowa, SMSU, MNSU- Mankato, and Northern State. If he develops more from where he was as a junior I know that interest will turn into offers. He has too many key traits to pass up.
Alex Boyko Alex Boyko 6'1" | DB Greenfield | 2021 State WI , DB- Greenfield
You could probably label the 6’1″ 190 lbs First Team All Conference Safety and RB an ATH, but I really like his play at the safety position. So, I included him in here at that position. The first thing I noticed while watching his film is that he has a nose for the football while lining up as a deep safety. His effort and play speed allow him to have that ability. Whether off a tip pass or he read the QB perfectly, Alex always is around the ball. His instincts are a huge help for that too. He can see the play developing and get one step ahead. Alex has a well rounded game too. He isn’t just a deep cover safety. He can come downhill and make effective tackles against the run game as well as the quick passing game. There is no doubt that he is at his best, though, when he can play deep and use his instincts to make plays.
Offers/Interest: This is another big gap between talent and recruiting attention. Based off his Twitter, Alex currently holds one offer from Culver- Stockton. Besides that it seems to be really quiet. This spring is going to be a coming out party for him. Teams will have to take notice of him, and they should.
Kenan Rollins Kenan Rollins 6'2" | DB Appleton East | 2021 State WI , DB- Appleton East
My final breakout candidate is the 6’2″ 200 lbs safety from Appleton East. I really enjoyed his film. It shows off so many different effective parts of his game. The main takeaway is that he has the skills to be an effective three level player. He has the instincts to play a deep half where he can see the play develop and get to the spot the ball will be and then create turnovers. He also has the ability to step down into the box and be a sound tackler and run defender. His play strength and toughness allow him to be almost like an extra LB down near the goal line. He completes that three level player by being able to step down and play a slot receiver or TE in tight man to man coverage. Between the size and the skill, Rollins is an intriguing prospect and is going to catch the eye of talent evaluators at the next level.
Offers/Interest: I can’t wait until he does catch more eyes from the next level. His play deserves it. As of now, Kenan holds an offer from St. Norbert’s College. I think that is the correct level of play for him, but I believe there are going to be several other schools trying to gain his abilities once we wrap up this spring.