Posted On: 04/6/21 3:10 PM

This week’s top defenders have a lot to offer the next level and their highlights from Week Two put that on full display. We have two way impact players, three way impact players, tackling machines, kids that can get after the QB, players for every level of college competition, and almost every single athlete in this article still has their recruitment open. So, college coaches, make sure you check out the hudl links that I have included. There is something for everyone in this week’s top defensive performers article! Let’s dive into the tape!

Jayden Montgomery Jayden Montgomery 5'11" | LB Bay Port | 2022 State WI , 2022 LB- Bay Port

Stat Line: 17 Total Tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 Sacks, 2 QB Pressures Jayden’s Week Two Highlights

Jayden has had a great week. Not only did he ball out in Week Two, he also landed a big time offer from perennial FCS powerhouse, North Dakota State University. It doesn’t take long to see why this offer was so well deserved for the 5’11″ 210 lbs LB. Jayden is a wrecking ball at the ILB position. He has the range to make plays from sideline to sideline and he has exceptional closing speed. His ability to also run his feet through contact makes him one of the hardest hitting tacklers in the state. The combination of his instincts/recognition abilities paired with the way he can pick through all the trash that is around the second level and the line of scrimmage make him very hard to get a hat on in the running game. Jayden’s highlights from Week Two also give us a little glimpse into his ability to cover the middle of the field against the pass. Overall, Jayden was able to show off his 3 down impact this week and why he is considered one of the most talented LBs in Wisconsin.

Hunter Hess, 2022 LB- La Crosse Central

Stat Line: 8 Total Tackles 

This is my first time getting to watch Hunter’s film and he is a fun player. The 5’9″ 180 lbs LB primarily plays at ILB, but also plays some as a stand up edge defender. Hunter has a nose for the football and there are two traits that are the lead to his for the football. They are his ability to navigate through the trash and ability to shed blocks. He easily picks through the mess around him as he mirrors backs in the backfield and then meets them in the gap to make the tackle. Hunter also has the ability to slip right off of block attempts thanks to his lateral agility that keeps linemen from getting to hit him square. La Crosse Central has quickly become a team to check out on the recruiting trail.

Zack Bothun Zack Bothun 6'0" | LB Milton | 2022 State WI , 2022 LB- Milton

Stat Line: Multiple Tackles, 1 Pick Six, 1 Safety, 1 Blocked Punt Zack’s Week Two Highlights

It doesn’t take long into Zack’s week two highlights to see him check off the third down ability/ ability to defend the pass. He takes the TE in man coverage, undercuts the route perfectly, and make the interception that he returns for 6 points. On the next play of the film he flies into the backfield untouched for the sack and safety. The 6’ 195 lbs off ball LB looks the part and has the play speed to be able to continue this type of play making at the next level. This week’s film also gives multiple examples of Bothun making tackles out in space instead of in the crowded tackle box. For a lot of LBs that is an difficult task, but Zack looks comfortable in space. I believe Zack easily has the talent to play D2 ball and his Twitter even has a couple posts showing interest from higher levels than that. Not surprising after watching this week’s film.

Ethan Shepard, 2022 LB- La Crosse Central

Stat Line: 19 Total Tackles, 2 Forced Fumbles, 2 Fumble Recoveries, 2 Sacks Ethan’s Week Two Highlights

We have our second member of the La Crosse Central LB corp. Based off the stats it looks like any play Hess didn’t make Ethan was right there to make it and then some. The very first thing that caught my eye was the speed that the 5’10″ 200 lbs LB plays with. He flies downhill against the inside run and he has the range to pursue from his ILB spot to the sideline. He also shows off some nice initial burst when he blitzes. Even when he shows it he is so quick that linemen can’t get a hand on him as he easily get through the gap. Even when they do get a hit on him, Ethan does a good job of disengaging and still making the play for minimal to no gain. This is a kid that could be a hidden gem for the D3 level. Check him out!

Ross Rivord Ross Rivord 6'3" | LB Superior | 2022 State WI , 2022 DL/OLB- Superior

Stat Line: 6 Total Tackles, 2 QB Knockdowns. Bonus: 4 Rec. 69 Yds Receiving, 1 TD Ross’ Week Two Highlights

Superior has started the season red hot and one of the key players for them has been TE/DE Ross Rivord Ross Rivord 6'3" | LB Superior | 2022 State WI . This week Ross could have made it into either the offensive or defensive top performers. I wanted to focus on his defensive work this week. Ross has the prototypical build and length for an up and coming DE at 6’3″ 215 lbs. He is athletic too, which isn’t surprising as he is also an effective receiving threat at the TE position. That athleticism shows up in his first step get off, and his range at the DE position too. Rivord is also a strong edge setter against the outside run where he uses his strength to hold his position, length to shed the block, and then athleticism to make the tackle in space. Whichever side of the ball he plays at the next level I am confident it will be at the D2 level.

Deven Magli Deven Magli 6'1" | DB DeForest | 2022 State WI , 2022 DB- DeForest

Stat Line: 3 Total Tackles, 1 Pick Six. Bonus: 1 Punt Return TD, 2 Rec. 50 Yds Receiving, 17 Yds Rushing Deven’s Week Two Highlights

I have come to accept the fact that Deven is going to have an interception every single week. So far he has actually had a pick six every week this season. I have never seen a kid generate turnovers this consistently. Especially as a corner; a position that is usually easy to avoid targeting. Yet here we are, the 2019 state leader in picks added another pick six to his total. It was the perfect baiting of a heavily pressured QB too. The QB had nowhere else to go so Magli gave him just enough cushion to think he could force it in and then Deven jumped it and took it to the house. Deven continued to show off how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands by returning a punt for a TD as well as hauling in a few receptions this week too. He was a legitimate threat in all three phases of the game this week. Magli is so smooth in coverage too. It looks effortless as he stays right in the receiver’s pocket throughout the route. You won’t find a better cornerback in Wisconsin’s class of 2022.

Jackson Funderburg Jackson Funderburg 6'4" | DL Big Foot | 2022 State WI , 2022 DL/OLB- Big Foot

Stat Line: 7 Total Tackles Jackson’s Week Two Highlights

I love what I’m seeing from Jackson this week. If you didn’t see last week’s article, Jackson was making his debut at a new position as an OLB and you could see he was a little tentative. This week he looks so much more comfortable already and is doing a lot more reacting than he is thinking. He is starting to let his natural gifts take over his play, and he has a lot of gifts to work with. The 6’4″ 225 defender has all the length you could want and he uses it to quickly get separation from blockers and then uses his hands to disengage and shed the block. His ability to shed blocks shows up on every snap of this week’s film and was easily what stood out the most. Jackson is a kid that needs to be on the radar of a lot of schools at the next level. I think he could play at a high level. At least D2. Check him out!

Avery Johnson Avery Johnson 6'3" | DL Lomira | 2021 State WI , 2021 DL- Lomira

Stat Line: 11 Total Tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 Fumble Recovery Avery’s Week Two Highlights

We end today’s article of the best Week Two defensive performances with the only member of this list currently committed to the next level. Avery is committed to Southwest Minnesota State University and it’s safe to say they are getting a legitimate trench monster. The 6’3″ 250 IDL shows off his excellent initial burst off the line as he consistently was able to knife right between linemen with ease on his way to causing tons of disruption all over the backfield all game long. Avery also showed off his freaky athleticism as he pursued several plays from behind. This week’s film showed that it is a bold strategy to pull a guard away from him because he is going to get right on his tail and make the play behind him. The strength and speed that Avery plays with at the high school level doesn’t look fair. He will be a dude I keep a close eye on at the next level.