An elite edge rusher can take a defense to the next level. Two years ago, Tennessee had Derek Barnett at defensive end. He had the ability to change games, and he ended up being a first-round draft pick after he set the Vols’ career sack record in just three years. Last year, the Vols lacked a dominant force on the edge — among other things — and the defense suffered because of it.
Every top tier defense in college football has an elite level talent on the edge. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his staff will need to find guys that can become that piece on defenses for the future. They’ve hit the recruiting trail hard this cycle, and now one of the best strong-side defensive ends in the entire 2019 class has the Volunteers in his top five.
Justin Eboigbe, a four-star defensive end out of Forest Park, GA, tweeted out a graphic featuring his top 5 schools as his recruitment begins to wind down. Alongside the Power T, the logos of Georgia, Alabama, Clemson and Auburn were all present.
— Justin Eboigbe (@JustinEboigbe) April 30, 2018
Eboigbe is an elite talent. He is a composite four-star, and and the 247Sports Composite rankings has him as a top-150 overall player in the country. He is the 7th-best player at his position and the 12th-best player in Georgia, and he may even be underrated due to his relative inexperience playing defensive line. He just recently began playing the position. Forest Park also doesn’t have a great reputation of producing talent, as they haven’t had a good college player since Hines Ward. But make no mistake; Eboigbe is a good football player.
The first thing that stands out about Eboigbe is his size. At 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, he is a big man. Pairing that size with his motor is what really takes him to the next level, though. He gets off the ball very quickly, and he keeps that same tempo through the echo of the whistle. His strength is on display all throughout his highlights, as he occasionally slings offensive lineman out of the way with ease. He is good both against the run and the pass, and he can close down space very well in pursuit. He isn’t afraid to get his head in there and play physical and is a pretty sure tackler.
Nobody is flawless though. Eboigbe is still a raw player and has some technically unsound characteristics. His pad level is consistently way too high. Defensive lineman can’t expose their numbers like he does, because a good offensive lineman can easily get their hands inside and have leverage. He also tends to get to chesty sometimes defending the run. Rather than getting leverage and separating, he tries to dip the shoulder and slide by, and that will never work in the SEC. His footwork isn’t always that crisp either; sometimes he appears to step inside of himself.
All these issues, however, are extremely fixable and will likely go away as he matures as a player. Some of the positive characteristics he does already posses aren’t coachable, and those separate him from the pack.
Tennessee was one of the first schools to offer Eboigbe back in January, and they have remained at the top of his list since. He visited in February and seemed to really like campus. Georgia is the clear favorite, followed by Auburn. If the Vols could steal him away, however, he would have an impact from day one.