Pearl River Defensive Preview

Pearl River S Brandon Burns

Last year, one of the most talented JC teams in the entire country was Pearl River who had no less than 10 players sign D-1 letters of intent. The 2007 season should prove much the same for the Wildcats as they feature a roster loaded with talented players. JCFootball.com spoke recently with defensive coordinator William Jones III about what players to keep an eye on this summer and fall.

Joining Jones on the defensive coaching staff is former Wildcat and NFL player Larry Wiggum who will coach the defensive backs.

"He was a Pro Bowler on special teams," Jones said. "He's a really good coach. He can teach the fundamentals and he's got the credibility of a pro career to back that up. We're excited to have him with us."

Last year's recruiting class, a class that Jones termed "the best we've ever gotten here at Pearl River" will come of age this fall and many will be available to four-year programs in December as the academics staff has helped to keep many of the top prospects on pace to graduate early.

Jones listed his best players and since there are so many…we've decided to write-up a two-parter – one devoted to the defense and one devoted to the offense.

DT Alex Ford "He played part time for us last year, but he started the National Championship game for us. He's big, he's mean and he's very athletic. He goes about 6-2, 300 and he runs a 4.9. He's just a physical specimen for us and we're counting on a big season from him.

"To give you an idea of how athletic he is, he played middle linebacker for his high school team and now he's playing defensive tackle for us. He's going to be very highly recruited."

DT Aaron Williams "He's our nose tackle and we use him to shade the center. He's pretty explosive and he's just stout and strong. He was the Mississippi state power-lifting champ and he's basically immovable once he decides he's going to hold his ground. He just eats up blockers so our linebackers can move around pretty free.

"He'll get a ton of strong offers."

DT Malcomb Keys "He's our third guy inside and he rotates with the other two. He's just like Williams. All three of them are brutally strong and Keys is more of a pass-rusher for us. He's not tall, but he's built really well and he just gets after it with guys."

LB Keon Williams "He's our SAM, but he could play the weakside too if we needed him over there. He's so fast and he's already got an offer from Ole Miss so that tells you how good he is. He's out of Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida and that's a school that has produced guys like Lito Sheppard and Brian Dawkins.

"He's just a great football player. He goes 6-2, 225 and he can fly. He runs a 4.5 and has great instincts. We love his abilities."

LB Brett Acker "He's our middle or Mike ‘backer and he started most of our games there. He's definitely a D-1 guy. He's strong and his size (6-3, 235) is really perfect for the middle. He's great against the run and we don't have a problem when he drops into coverage."

LB Hendrick Leverette "He transferred to us from Auburn because of some personal stuff. He redshirted there last year and came to us so he'll play a year here and then possibly move on. If he does that he'll have three years to play three, but he may have to stay another year. Whatever happens, we're happy to have him now."

S Brandon Burns "When you talk about great safeties, Burns has all the skills you want to compare to guys like (Ronnie) Lott and Sean Taylor and guys like that. He's big (6-4, 215) and he can fly for a guy his size. He came to us out of Shelby County in Alabama. Last year he had six interceptions and returned four of them for touchdowns.

"He's an enforcer, but he's great when the ball's in the air as well. He has incredible instincts and he reads quarterbacks really, really well. He played strong safety for us last year, but he could play free (safety) as well. He's that good.

"He'll play in the SEC – I have no doubt about that. He has the talent to go in there and make a name for himself."

CB Josh Wiley "With his size (6-1, 205) and speed (4.55), he's a perfect cover-two corner. He's not a great man-to-man guy, but with the defenses that teams are playing nowadays he'll fit in fine wherever he goes.

"He's real physical and he can shed blockers really well so he's good against the run as well.

"I've been here for six years and I can't remember a true freshman who's had the same kind of impact that Josh had for us last year. He's very responsible and mature in how he carries himself and he qualified out of high school. He's a December guy and he'll be a high D-1 player. SEC, ACC, Big 12…he could go anywhere he wants to go."

CB Jamie Hill "Hill is a top 300 intermediate hurdler. He's 5-9, 185 and he runs the 40 in 4.4. His brother started at Alabama for two years so you know he can play. He's a tough cover-corner for us."

Other defenders to keep an eye on: CB Terrance Handy, S Devin McNair, DE Anthony Shaw, DE Leslie Stirrups, LB Darius Hart and DT/DE Thomas Robinson

Check back for another article on Pearl River's offensive talent that will be up soon.

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