By Jordan Burton (@thejordanburton)
Who are some of the top defensive football players to watch heading into this season? Find our top nine below. We have watch lists for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and linemen. A player who plays multiple positions may be on another list.
This list also appears in the O-Zone Fall Preview Magazine featuring more names. The magazine is available at all area Casey’s General Stores. CLICK HERE FOR A FULL LIST OF ADVERTISER LOCATIONS WHERE THE MAGAZINE IS AVAILABLE.
*This list is in alphabetical order.
Logan Ayers, Nixa, Senior
Watching his tape his extremely intriguing because you can see every ounce of potential he has. Ayers projects as a linebacker or 3-4 defensive end and his 6-foot-3 frame and insane athleticism make that a legitimate possibility at a high level. His versatility makes him an asset in a league full of great skill guys. Look for 2018 to be a monster season.
Travis Bailey, Lamar, Senior
There isn’t a better linebacker in the Ozarks than Travis Bailey. He’s led Lamar in tackles in each of the last two seasons. Watching him shed blocks and make plays is a thing of beauty, but he’s also part of this new-age linebacker that has no problem covering tight ends and slot receivers in space. He’ll have coaches coming through Lamar until Signing Day.
Will Boswell, Mt. Vernon, Senior
Tackles can be an overrated stat because they don’t always tell the full story. That’s not the case with Boswell; the kid is a monster. He earned Class 3 Defensive Player of the Year honors behind a ridiculous stat line (240.5 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 INT, 3 FF) and even blocked a kick. Boswell makes plays sideline-to-sideline, against the run or pass. If his 13.5-tackle, 4-TFL performance in the Class 3 title game is any indication of his senior intentions, give him an All-OZone certificate now.
Ahmed Boubacar, Rolla, Senior
He’s still raw, but Boubacar is a playmaker defensively. As a junior, he had 96 tackles and a pair of interceptions, one of which was a pick-6. He has a reputation so strong that many teams will try to avoid throwing to his side of the field. Boubacar also ripped and returned a fumble and blocked a kick. The 6-foot-2 senior is a problem at corner.
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Alex Gaskill, Webb City, Senior
Arguably the best two-way player in the Ozarks, Gaskill makes a strong case as not only the best defensive back (87 tackles, 6 INT) in the Ozarks, but also the best receiver (33 receptions, 647 yards). Gaskill has one of the highest football IQs you’ll see at the high school level and it shows in some of the plays he makes.
Landon Hardman, Lamar, Senior
He’s the best cover corner in the Ozarks. Last year, he recorded 46 tackles and three interceptions, but also broke up 12 passes. Like the other great corners before him, Hardman is typically manned up all over the field regardless of the matchup. He has excellent ball skills, too. Hardman also is a standout receiver and return man.
Lane Jett & Ian Ary, West Plains, Seniors
They’re like thunder and lightning. Ary is the old-school bruising linebacker who slides and fills gaps as well as anyone you’ll see (134 tackles, 18 TFL in 2017). This will be his third year starting at linebacker. Jett is a fitting name because he plays 100 miles per hour at all times, and as a result, makes some ridiculous plays (134 tackles, 4 INT). These are two of the best to ever do it for West Plains.
Ben Moler, Reeds Spring, Senior
Any physical limitations he may have are instantly made up for by the fact that few kids recognize and diagnose plays quicker than Moler. Football is just in his genetics. He was an all-stater last year, serving up 121 tackles and three interceptions. Don’t expect any decline in production.