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Defensive football players to watch in the 2014 season

Jordan Adams

Franklin, cornerback, senior

A two-way standout, the 6-foot-1, 160-pound 3-star Rivals.com prospect had seven interceptions and 10 pass deflections as an All-Metro second-team corner, helping the Class 3A state champions hold opponents to 12.9 points per game. Committed to West Virginia along with his twin brother, Jacquez, Jordan Adams also caught 50 passes for 763 yards.

Indians Coach Anthony Burgos: "This year, it's just about having confidence and being more of a guy who understands that he has to be the leader. He has to be the guy that we can rely on for everything. Defensively, he's gotten a lot better because he's gone to all these camps and he understands what it's going to take for him. He's playing at a Big 12 major university next year, so he has to be a major player and I think he's accepted that role."

More about Adams: Already a strong defensive player, Adams emerged as a big offensive threat last year, a prime target for his brother, who threw for more than 2,800 yards. Rated the No. 10 recruit in Maryland in the Class of 2015 by Rivals.com, Adams committed to West Virginia in February over Virginia Tech and Wisconsin, among other offers. He and his brother, one of the area's top quarterbacks, wanted to play college football together. Over the summer, Adams went to local Nike and Rivals camps as well as to the West Virginia camp.

Dionte Austin

Calvert Hall, cornerback, senior

The 6-foot, 170-pound cornerback played only six games last fall because of injury, so he's ready for a big year before heading off to Wake Forest. The 3-star Rivals.com prospect has been timed at 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash. With that speed and great ball skills, he's a stellar cover corner.

Cardinals coach Donald Davis: "He's a complete defensive back. He's a tremendous cover guy, changes directions well and he's got an offensive player's ball skills. That's why I'm using him on offense, too. I think most of his growth has really come in just maturity, taking that leadership role. He has developed into a guy that kids can count on."

More about Austin: He committed to Wake Forest this summer over 13 other offers, including those from Purdue, Boston College, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. Rated the No. 14 player in the Class of 2015 in Maryland by Rivals.com, he can also play safety. In addition, he will see time at wide receiver. Austin is also a sprinter and jumper on the Calvert Hall track team.

Eric Burrell

McDonogh, safety, junior

A 4-star ESPN prospect, Burrell is rated the top player in Baltimore and the No. 5 safety overall in ESPN's Junior 300. He has great coverage skills and is already a leader in the secondary. The 6-foot, 175-pound free safety is also a great tackler and can play the box on run-stopping plays.

Eagles Coach Dom Damico: "Eric has offers but he's going to get a lot more. He's just a complete football player. He has great instincts. He's got great athleticism. He's got great size and range. I think the thing that separates him at the high school level is he's smart. He understands the schemes. We have some complex coverages that he has to get people lined up right, so he's like the quarterback of the secondary and he does a great job with that."

More about Burrell: He has started every game since his freshman year at McDonogh and is rated No. 80 overall in ESPN's Jr. 300. Burrell, who doubles as a wide receiver, has offers to play safety from Virginia Tech, Virginia and Old Dominion. This summer, he went to a one-day camp at Maryland, but otherwise worked on his game with the Eagles. He also runs track for McDonogh.

Ron'Dell Carter

Long Reach, defensive end, senior

At 6 feet 4, 240 pounds, Carter has emerged as a dynamic player on both sides of the ball. Last season, he had seven sacks and 42 tackles, including five for a loss. He also had 11 catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns as a tight end. Carter committed to Rutgers as a defensive end.

Lightning coach Jamie Willis: "Last year, he weighed about 250 and he dedicated himself to the weight room and lost a bunch of weight during basketball season, got down to about 230 and just built his body up to where he's 240 now and much stronger. He's way more explosive than he was last year — and he was explosive last year, so to see him look even better is just amazing."

More about Carter: Although Rutgers recruited him as a defensive end, Carter so impressed the coaches at a 7-on-7 camp on campus this summer that they might switch him to athlete because he was so good as a tight end, Willis said. Carter also went to 7-on-7 camps at Youngstown State and Akron with his Long Reach teammates and both schools offered him scholarships. He also had offers from Boston College and Villanova, among others. Carter also plays basketball and throws the shot and discus for the Lightning.

Wyatt Cook

McDonogh, linebacker, senior

Last fall's All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year and the only returning Baltimore-area player named to last season's consensus All-State team, Cook set a roadblock for anyone trying to run up the middle as the No. 1 Eagles allowed just 85 points all season. At 6 feet 2, 230 pounds, he had 86 tackles. Cook has committed to Purdue.

Eagles Coach Dom Damico: "He's a typical Big 10 linebacker. That's what he looks like and the way he acts. He's got a switch. He's a very, very aggressive downhill run stopper on defense. He's a very good offensive lineman where at the point of attack, he will just crush you. Over the past few years he's gotten a lot better in space, in coverage skills and drop zone drop skills but I think just aggression, just an aggressive downhill, punishing tackler."

More about Cook: Also a champion wrestler, he won the 285-pound MIAA title last winter and his victory in the final match of the day at the Maryland Independent Schools Wrestling Tournament gave the Eagles the team title. Damico said Cook returned to practice this month with 10 extra pounds of muscle and so fit the coaches can't tire him out. He also doubles as an offensive guard, a position where wrestling opponents up to 50 pounds heavier than he is aids his effectiveness. A team leader and student of the game, Cook breaks down video like a coach, Damico said.

Noah Fitzgerald

Old Mill, linebacker, senior

An aggressive, physical athlete who can play many positions, Fitzgerald excelled last season with his ability to play inside or outside. The 6-foot, 193-pound Fitzgerald, who also doubles as a wide receiver and can play tight end, has committed to Fordham.

Patriots coach Chad McCormick: "He can play just about everywhere. He's a very skilled athlete and he's a real tough, physical kid. He's very intelligent as far as he sees things very well on the defensive side and then he's an aggressive kid and with his understanding of the game of football, through assignment, he's always in a good spot."

More about Fitzgerald: As a sophomore, he was the Patriots' backup quarterback. He helped set the tone for the Patriots 10-0 run through Anne Arundel County when he had an interception and a fumble recovery in the 30-20 regular-season win over Meade in week three. Over the summer, he went to camps at Fordham and Towson. In addition to being able to make big catches on offense, he was also a key blocker on the wing.

Ellison Jordan

Gilman, defensive tackle, junior

A third-year starter and an All-Metro first-team selection last season, the 6-foot, 250-pound defensive tackle handles bigger players with quickness, athleticism and leverage. He had 50 tackles and 11 sacks last season. Jordan is rated a 4-star player, No. 9 at his position nationally in ESPN's Junior 300.

Gilman coach Biff Poggi: "He's very disruptive. He plays the full play and you have to account for where he is on the field. When we play against our defense in scrimmage, we have to account for where he is, because if we don't, we can't run the play.

More about Jordan: He's ranked the No. 112 player overall in the ESPN Junior 300. Rivals.com rates him the No. 11 prospect in Maryland in the Class of 2016. Opponents need to double-team Jordan to contain him against the passing game or the running game and Poggi said he can still make plays. He has offers from Maryland, Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, among others.

Dominic Maggio

Boys' Latin, punter, junior

Last season's All-Metro punter, Maggio grossed an average of 44.7 yards on 30 punts with a 36.5-yard net. He put 11 punts inside the 20-yard line and sometimes outkicked the Lakers' coverage. In one game, he averaged 51 yards per punt. Also a place-kicker, Maggio has committed to Wake Forest.

Lakers coach Ritchie Schell: "I think he's going to kick in the NFL. He's that good. He handles pressure, he's athletic, he's smart, he's got wonderful technique. Now you can really hear the bang off his foot on the kickoffs, because he's put on 20 pounds since last year. He consistently kicks the ball in the back of the end zone."

More about Maggio: He followed his father into kicking. Kirk Maggio, a Calvert Hall graduate, was an All-American kicker at UCLA. Last season, Dominic booted a 62-yard punt in the air against St. Paul's. Schell said the Lakers have had to adjust their coverage because his punts are so long. A stellar athlete, the 6-foot-2, 150-pound Maggio also pitches for the Lakers baseball team and plays guard for the junior varsity basketball team. Schell said he could also play quarterback. He's a 4.0 student.

Ali'I Niumatalolo

Broadneck, linebacker, junior

Niumatalolo, 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, had 16 solo tackles,19 assists and two interceptions for a unit that allowed just 13.2 points per game during the regular season. He also caused three fumbles and recovered one. The son of Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has offers from Nevada-Las Vegas, Hawaii and Boise State, among others.

Broadneck coach Rob Harris: "He's very physical. He's a very savvy football player. He understands the game. As a coach's son, he gets the game and he picks up stuff very quickly. He's a different guy on the field. He plays with a mean streak."

More about Niumatalolo: He runs a 4.69-second 40-yard dash. Harris said Niumatalolo put on more muscle this summer and came to camp stronger and showing more explosiveness. Last fall, he played a key role on a defense that allowed an average of 3 yards per carry and 4.5 yards per catch. Niumatalolo also doubles as an offensive guard.

Rahshaun Smith

St. Frances, defensive end, junior

Rated the No. 15 junior prospect in the nation and No. 1 in Maryland, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Smith is a 5-star Rivals.com prospect. He transferred from Calvert Hall after last season and will add tremendous athleticism to the Panthers' line. Smith has about 30 offers from Football Bowl Subdivision programs.

St. Frances coach Messay Hailemariam: "I'm not that surprised (at Smith's Rivals.com rankings), because you saw an upward trend with him. He has so much physical ability and now that I've been coaching him … you see the gift that he's been given and his work ethic exceeds his ability."

More about Smith: He was one of only 26 underclassmen invited to attend the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge at M&T; Bank Stadium in June. He's rated a 4-star prospect in ESPN's Junior 300 and No. 3 among Maryland junior prospects. Smith received his first three college scholarship offers before he played a down of high school football. He has received offers from Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Tennessee and West Virginia among those listed by Rivals.com.

OTHER NOTABLES

Brian Albrecht, North Harford

Zach Booker, Perry Hall

Robert Branch, Gilman

Ben Carroll, Century

Malik Christian, St. Frances

Andrew Comeau, Hammond

Montes Davis, Annapolis

Winston Delattiboudere III, Howard

Scott Eudy, South Carroll

Ben Evans, Loyola Blakefield

Terian Fort, Meade

Trey Hall, Patterson Mill

Malik Hicks, Old Mill

Jahee Jackson, Gilman

Charles Jennings Jr., Patterson

D.J. Johnson, St. Paul's

Craig Jones, Reservoir

Monte Jones, St. Mary's

Jon Kanda, River Hill

Brian Kirby, River Hill

Allan Koikoi, St. Paul's

Victor Mack, Arundel

David Martin, Milford Mill

Alonzo Mayo, Gilman

Juantez McCrae, Franklin

Jeremiah McCullough, Mount Saint Joseph

Cole McDonough, Bel Air

Julian Meares, John Carroll

Mark Meynisse, Aberdeen

Davon Monette, Douglass

Kareem Montgomery, McDonogh

Justin Mulbah, St. Vincent Pallotti

Andre Neal, New Town

Jake Nordhausen, Loyola Blakefield

Justice Pettus-Dixon, St. Frances

Plevon Pryor, Dunbar

Nate Randolph, Meade

Ian Rhodes, Winters Mill

Darren Seward, Loyola Blakefield

Diondre Wallace, Arundel

Preston Waters, Boys' Latin

Dareion White, Poly

Connor Young, McDonogh

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