Varsity Football

#VK17FB Life on the edge: The Top 10 defensive linemen for 2017

Correspondent

Other Top 10 lists: QB | RB | WR | OL

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Fred Solis Correspondent

1. Brendan Webb (senior end) and Braden Rose (senior end), Buhler

  • 6-foot-5, 200 pounds | 6-foot-1, 225 pounds
  • All-4A I selection | Honorable mention 4A I pick in 2016

How can you mention one without the other? Buhler will have one of the most terrorizing defenses in Class 4A I this season and it begins with its pair of disruptive ends in Webb and Rose. Webb is an athletic freak with a 37-inch vertical and 4.6 forty-yard dash to go along with his 6-5, 200 frame. If teams focus too much on blocking Webb, then that will allow Rose, an all-state caliber player in his own right, to run rampant on the other side. The pair will cause a lot of headaches this season for opposing offenses and should make Buhler the favorite to return to the title game out of the western bracket.

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Jaime Green

2. Dalen Williams, Heights senior end

  • 6-foot-3, 215 pounds
  • All-5A selection in 2016

Heights had a dominant defense last season and it started with Williams on the line, as he finished with 63 tackles, 10 sacks, and 18 tackles for loss in a breakout season. Williams is already attracting Division I interest with his production and should be in store for another big season with as much talent returning to the Heights defense. He has slimmed down for his senior season and is even more explosive, which should make even tougher to stay in front of for offensive linemen. The Falcons will have an even better line in 2017 with the return of Williams and Austin McCartney, as well as the arrival of senior transfer Hagen Henderson.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

3. Marcus Hicks, Northwest junior end

  • 6-foot-5, 245 pounds
  • Honorable mention All-City pick in 2016

Wichita’s next great football recruit has yet to record a sack in a game. Hicks has attracted the interest of some of the top Division I programs in the nation, but they are now keeping an eye on what kind of production Hicks can put up in the high school season. His measurables are off the charts for a 16-year-old and there’s no doubt he has the raw talent to have a breakthrough season, but he still has to prove it at the high school level after earning honorable mention all-league honors last season. Northwest coach Steve Martin believes the team’s defense will be much improved in 2017 and it starts up front with Hicks, Garrett Bridwell, and Eric Solis all returning to the line.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

4. Matthew Lange, Conway Springs senior tackle

  • 6-foot-1, 240 pounds
  • Honorable mention 3A pick in 2016

Lange is the only player on the list that also made the Top 10 list for the offensive line. Lange will be a two-way force for a Conway Springs team that has very high expectations this season with 14 starters returning from a 7-2 season. Lange demanded a double team as a junior, yet still produced eight tackles for loss, four sacks, and 12 quarterback hurries. He has bulked up in the offseason and has retained his explosion off the line, which should make Lange in store for an even bigger senior season.

5. Wyatt Seidl, McPherson senior end

  • 6-foot-3, 220 pounds
  • Honorable mention 4A I pick in 2016

After seeing the field as a sophomore, Seidl delivered a breakthrough year for the Bullpups last season with 65 tackles and eight sacks. Seidl is armed with the explosive first step needed to get past tackles, as well as the strength to move them backward as well. His athleticism will make him one of McPherson’s top defenders this season, as the Bullpups return eight starters and have plans of making an even longer postseason run this season. If that turns out to be true, then it will start up front with how much pressure Seidl is able to apply from his defensive end spot on McPherson’s line.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

6. John Moses, Maize South senior end

  • 5-foot-10, 190 pounds
  • Honorable mention 4A I pick in 2016

Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer is ecstatic about a defensive line that returns Moses, Bryce Wiedemann, and Korban Trapp from last season. Moses is the strongest force returning this season after recording 52 tackles, seven sacks, and two interceptions. Moses doesn’t have the size, at 5-10 and 190, that a lot of the other linemen on this list possess, but he makes up for it with a high-end motor and tremendous athleticism. Maize South routinely puts out one of the best defensive products in Class 4A I and that won’t change this season with the Mavericks returning seven starters from a team that made a semifinal run in the state playoffs.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

7. Antonio Espinoza, Maize senior

  • 6-foot-3, 205 pounds
  • Honorable mention 5A pick in 2016

Espinoza will be a three-year starter for Maize at defensive end, as he had a breakthrough season as a junior and recorded 77 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Espinoza’s size and speed allowed him to consistently reach the backfield and disrupt plays and with another year of experience and another year in the weight room, Espinoza is poised for his finest season to date. Maize returns seven starters from its defense and expects to make significant strides on that side of the ball this season.

8. Dylan Jensen, Hutchinson senior tackle

  • 6-foot-0, 215 pounds
  • Honorable mention 6A pick in 2016

Jensen is undersized for the traditional nose guard on the defensive line, but he more than makes up for it with his intensity. Hutchinson coach Ryan Cornelsen rarely plays players on both sides of the ball, but Jensen has become an exception because of his skill. He came up with 45 tackles from the middle of the line and even produced two sacks for the Salthawks, as he earned all-league honors on the offensive and defensive line last season. Armed with another year in the weight room and another year of experience, Jensen is poised to be a disruptive force for Hutchinson in the middle of the field.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

9. Kendall Davis, Augusta senior tackle

  • 6-foot-4, 290 pounds
  • Honorable mention 4A I pick in 2016

Davis has the size to be a dominant force from his defensive tackle spot on Augusta’s line. He not only clogs the middle of the field and allows Augusta’s linebackers to roam free, but he also has the athleticism to get into the backfield and wreck havoc. Last season Davis came up with 46 tackles and six tackles for loss with one forced fumble. Along with seniors Ryan Rogers and Jonny Clausing, the trio combined for 19 tackles for loss last season. With all three returning, Augusta should have one of the best defensive lines in Class 4A I this season with Davis leading the way.

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Fernando Salazar The Wichita Eagle

10. Isaiah Carter, Bishop Carroll senior end

  • 6-foot-2, 220 pounds
  • Second team All-City League pick in 2016

Although Carroll’s defense took a step back last season, Carter had a breakthrough season on the defensive line. As a junior, Carter led the team in tackles with 69, came through with 13 tackles for loss, and finished with six sacks. Carroll returns seven starters from last season and should be much better defensively this season, especially with Carter leading the way on the defensive line. He has the motor to make offenses always account for him and coach Dusty Trail believes he is in store for an even bigger year as a senior.

NEXT FIVE: Mac Copeland, Collegiate senior tackle; Mason Fairchild, Andale junior tackle; Patrick Gillen, Valley Center senior end; Jacob Mondragon, Goddard senior tackle; Jordan Rios, West senior.

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