Photo: Prep Redzone

Posted On: 03/16/21 4:49 PM

We’re three weeks into the season so we have a large enough sample size to notice a few players that are raising their stock, both with us at Prep Redzone and with recruiters.

Our rankings up to this point have been based solely on performance nearly 18 months ago and the few camps we’ve been able to cover. Now that we have live games again, we’re getting a better idea of which players are moving their way up the rankings.

In the first installment of this series, I’ll look at a few 2022 defenders that have impressed me so far this season.

Christian Nicholson, 6’1 235, DL/LB- Hunt

Nicholson wasn’t really on my radar until I saw his stat line in Week 1, a 4.5-sack performance that landed him on my Players of the Week List. Since then, he’s been just as impressive. I think I’m most impressed with the versatility he’s shown this year. After player almost exclusively as a 3-technique defensive tackle in Week 1, Nicholson transitioned to middle linebacker against Beddingfield in Week 2 and again to outside linebacker in Week 3, though he did take some snaps at nose tackle.

Nicholson is explosive and powerful, but he also has great quickness. I rarely see a prospect that looks like a natural defensive lineman when his hand is in the dirt, and a natural sideline-to-sideline linebacker when he’s off the ball, but that’s the feeling I get when I watch Nicholson. Regardless of how the rest of the season goes, he will be ranked in our postseason rankings update.


Brodrick Gooch Brodrick Gooch 6'1" | DB Heritage | 2022 State NC , 6’1 195, DB- Heritage

In our original 2022 rankings, we ranked Gooch as a receiver. After hearing that several colleges are looking at him on the defensive side of the ball, we re-ranked him as a defensive back. This season, he’s been fantastic at the back end, showing impressive skills as a safety and corner.

Of course, he’s still performing at a high level as a wide receiver, but his future is on the defensive side of the ball and it’s easy to see why. He’s instinctive and a lot of his tackles and pass breakups come on players that are not his primary assignment. He uses his speed to make plays and as he continues to learnt he intricacies of the position, he’s going to be a hot commodity on the recruiting trail.


Donovan Spellman Donovan Spellman 6'4" | DL Clayton | 2022 State NC , 6’4 205, Edge- Clayton

Power Five. I could stop right there if I needed to, but that’s just a bare bones evaluation of Spellman who has been one of the best players in the state this year, regardless of class or position. His recruitment has not yet taken off to the extent that it should in the coming weeks.

The linked highlights aren’t career or season highlights, they are from the first three games of this year. Spellman is explosive, powerful and has violent hands coming off the edge. This season he’s winning a lot more with technique and bend around the edge than what we’ve seen in the past.


Devin Reed Devin Reed 6'2" | DL Marvin Ridge | 2022 State NC , 6’2 305, DT- Marvin Ridge

Reed has been on my radar for a long time and the only question was how his body would develop. He played in the 260s as a sophomore all along the defensive line before putting on 50 pounds and shifting inside full-time. He has quick feet, moving with agility rare for a player his size.

Reed has violent hands and a relentless motor, often making tackles 10 yards down the field. As he continues to hone his craft as a pass-rusher, he should soon begin to see his recruitment heat up.


Christopher Allen Christopher Allen 6'5" | DL Wake Forest | 2022 NC , 6’4 260, DL- Wake Forest

Allen has taken the momentum he built in the offseason into the year and looks every bit the player we thought he could be. He’s gone from being a solid player to a guy that can absolutely take over a game. He plays all along the offensive line, and can win with speed, power or pass rush moves and shows all three on tape.