Welcome to the 2nd half of my annual Eyes on article! This is a piece I do every summer to highlight some players on the verge of a breakout season or on the verge of raising their draft stock. My criteria is simple. I just look for talent and opportunity. Some teams like Alabama and Georgia are stacked with talent just waiting for their turn to shine, so guys who sat behind an NFL player or transferred for more playing time are definitely on the radar. The downside is I’m usually judging from a smaller sample size and projecting a bit more. But no challenge, no fun. So with that said, check out the defensive players who you need to get eyes on for the upcoming college football season.
EDGE Adisa Isaac PSU 6’4 254
Adisa lost his 2021 to a ruptured Achilles. In 2022 he bounced back with 36 total pressures 4 sacks and 8 QB hits. On the film, you see the play strength and quick get-off necessary to be an impact pass rusher. Against Maryland you can see him win against now Titans OT with a long arm, then use quickness to cross face for the sack. Along with teammate Chop Robinson, Isaac should be a problem coming off the edge in 2023.
EDGE Seth Coleman Illinois 6’5 245
“I’m not so sure Seth can’t play DB just by how athletic he is,”
-Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry
Seth Coleman racked up 45 tackles, 5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks last season playing as an OLB in an odd front defense. On film, Coleman shows great length, athleticism, and explosiveness to his game which should get him noticed by fans and scouts alike.
EDGE Patrick Payton FSU 6’5 239
Patrick Payton came into college at 210 pounds. Now he’s listed at 239 and still has the bend and flexibility that made him a 4-star prospect out of high school. In 2022 Payton played as a rotational edge defender and still managed 31 tackles, 5 sacks, 3 PBUs, and a forced fumble. In 2023 he will be asked to play a larger role and should be up for the challenge.
HM Jordan Burch Oregon
LB Tatum Bethune FSU 6’1 230
“What else I have been working on is using my hands to get off blocks,” “I watched film of myself and I caught myself a lot of times getting caught up in traffic that I didn’t need to be if I had used my hands.”
This is what Tatum Bethune said about himself coming off an 84 tackles and 9.5 TFL season. Bethune plays with good instincts as a stacked LB and the necessary speed and physicality as well. A player who is self-aware and puts the work in can always get better.
LB Trevin Wallace Kentucky 6’2 241
Trevin Wallace is an athletic specimen. He has the stopping power of a DT and the speed of a Safety. With a high school background as a state champion weightlifter and 4 years of track and field including 100 and 200-meter dash, 110 hurdle, high jump, long jump as well as shot put, it’s easy to see why Trevin Wallace is one of the college footballs top freak athletes. With the development in his read and react, we will see a difference-maker at LB in 2023.
DT McKinley Jackson TAMU 6’2 325
McKinley played in 2022 as one of the team captains and racked up 37 tackles with 7 TFLs and 2 sacks. On the film, you can see Jackson’s versatility where he could overpower Centers as a 0 tech and out quick OGs as a 3 tech or 4i. He should continue to push the pocket in 2023.
DT Mekhi Wingo LSU 6’1 295
Burst, Explosiveness, Quickness. Those are 3 words that come to mind the second you lay eyes on Mekhi Garner. In his first season at LSU Garner managed 46 total tackles with 6 TFLs and 3 sacks. In an extremely talented LSU front 7, Garner will continue to wreak havoc on blocking schemes forced to pick their poison.
CB Terrion Arnold Alabama 6’0 196
Terrion Arnold came out of high school as a 2 sport 5 star athlete. He redshirted in 2021 making the transition from Safety to CB. In his first action as a CB, Terrion won a starting job and had 7 PBUs along with 35 tackles and an interception. Now in his 2nd year at CB Arnold is refining his technique and cross-training at Alabama’s STAR position. Sky’s the limit for Terrion Arnold.
CB Quinyon Mitchell Toledo 6’0 196
Quick feet, long speed, and scheme versatility are what I saw when watching Quinyon Mitchell. Mitchell finished with 13 PBUs, 5 interceptions and a 92.7 coverage per PFF. 4 of those INTs came in a dominant performance against Northern Illinois. Expect more of the same in 2023.
HM – Decamerion Richardson Mississippi State, Ro Torrence Arizona State, Kris Abrams Draine Missouri, Dwight McGlothern Arkansas, Duce Chestnut LSU
S Billy Bowman Oklahoma 5’10 194
Billy Bowman came out of high school as an All-American WR and top 100 national recruit. He came to Oklahoma and made the transition to the defensive side of the ball. In 2022 Bowman bounced all around the defensive secondary, but finally found his home at Safety. There Bowman showed the ball skills of a WR and the speed and range of a CB. Now more comfortable and confident in his position, Bowman will show his natural talents even more.
S Jaylin Simpson Auburn 6’1 178
I think he’s an elite player. … If he holds onto everything that goes in football off the field, he can be a Sunday player. Just seeing his range, his athleticism, his ability to play man-to-man in the slot, the things that he can do, he can tackle well. So, his upside at that position is through the roof if he embraces it and studies the game like he should.”
– Auburn Safety coach Wesley McGriff
Jaylin Simpson started the 2022 season as a CB. After the injury bug hit the Auburn secondary, Simpson was moved to Safety where he took off. Now firmly entrenched as a starter at Safety, Simpson looks to show his progress.
HM – Sage Ryan LSU, Ja’Had Carter Ohio State