Rivals Rankings Week: Who else should be viewed an elite DL?

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The updated 2023 rankings are coming out this week. Five-stars David Hicks and Jayden Wayne look like the cream of the crop on the defensive line but there are others that could join them in the elite class. The Rivals.com analyst team reveals who they like as the next best defensive lineman.

FRIEDMAN’S VIEW: Keon Keeley

“Hicks and Wayne are special but Keon Keeley could be right up there with them. The Notre Dame commit out of Florida is an impressive athletic specimen that presents mismatch issues for the offense wherever he lines up. Keeley is a big time pass rusher that can win with inside and outside moves and employs a variety of techniques that translate to the next level. He has the overall athleticism to play off the ball and flow to the ball carrier or drop into coverage when needed. Keeley is good against the run when the play is coming at him but this is where he’ll have the steepest learning curve at the next level.” – Adam Friedman, National Recruiting Analyst/Rankings Director

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GORNEY’S VIEW: Kelby Collins

“It is really hard to not have James Smith as my answer because he has really special qualities and moves so well for someone his size but I really like Collins’ speed off the snap and his athletic ability to run down anybody on the field. It looks like he’s shot out of a cannon coming off the edge, he has the power to beat offensive tackles by running right through them, he does a phenomenal job of blowing up the RPO game and then Collins has the speed to run after the ball carrier and get them on the ground. The best thing is that he’s been doing this at 250 pounds so he isn’t maxed out physically by a long shot. Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Clemson are just a few programs to watch in his recruitment.” – Adam Gorney, National Recruiting Director

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WRIGHT’S VIEW: James Smith

“As strongside defensive ends go, James Smith is in the discussion as one of the best in the nation. Tested against 6A Alabama offensive linemen, Smith loves to mix it up in the trenches. Because of his strength and size, the Wolverines can move Smith around using him as a standup end, with his hand in the ground and he can slide inside down to a 2-tech. With a quick get off, Smith is in the chest of offensive linemen before they think about taking the fight into the opposition’s backfield. The pieces that separate him are his strength, motor and tenacity. He never gives up and fights through double teams to influence plays. Smith’s recruiting process has been low-key on social media with very little shared since his June 2021 trip to College Station yet he remains one of the biggest targets in the 2023 class. ” – Ryan Wright, National Recruiting Analyst

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COSGROVE’S VIEW: Matayo Uiagalelei

“There are a number of players that I considered for this, but my final choice is Matayo Uiagalelei due to his incredible upside. At 6-foot-6, 270-pounds Uiagalelei has the frame of a three technique and the athleticism of an edge rusher. He can bend, is incredibly explosive off of the ball and strong at the point of attack. I do think he could be a little more dominant with his physical skill-set, but I attribute that to his rawness rather than a lack of elite level ability. In fact, that is probably what I like most about him and why I see his ceiling being as high as any defensive lineman in the class. Uiagalelei has a chance to be scary good when everything clicks and I believe he ends up being a dominant force on the defensive front at the next level. USC appears to be one of a few favorites in his recruitment.” – Clint Cosgrove, National Recruiting Analyst

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