The list of the area’s top 10 defensive players features a little bit of everything: Illinois’ only five-star senior, some juniors who already own dozens of Power Five offers, multiple consensus top-100 players nationally and a two-sport star who might be even better on the wrestling mat.
Here’s a closer look:
1. Justin Scott, St. Ignatius
Few players have risen so far so fast. Scott didn’t come to football till he was a freshman and played just one varsity game before last season. But the 6-4, 310-pounder’s strength and athleticism quickly caught recruiters’ attention. The Ohio State commit had 42 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season. The No. 14 senior nationally in the 247Sports.com rankings also started at left guard for an offense that averaged 327 yards rushing and 33 points a game last season.
2. Marquise Lightfoot, Kenwood
The 6-5, 220-pound edge rusher is committed to one of college football’s iconic programs — Miami, which rarely ventures to Illinois to recruit. He has around 40 offers and is the No. 62 senior nationally.
3. Nathaniel Marshall, Fenwick
An athletic 6-5, 270-pound lineman who also plays basketball, Marshall is the consensus No. 99 junior nationally. His offers include a who’s who of college blue bloods, including Alabama, Notre Dame, Michigan, Tennessee, Oregon and Wisconsin.
4. Chris Burgess, Simeon
Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame are among the big-name programs who have offered the 6-4, 240-pound junior lineman. Like Scott, he came late to football, having played AAU basketball before switching sports.
5. Jaylen Wlliams, Palatine
Still another talented junior lineman, Williams owns offers from Michigan, Oregon, Florida State and Tennessee among others. The 6-6, 260-pounder is a two-sport athlete who throws the shot put and discus in the spring.
6. Gabe Kaminski, Nazareth
Notre Dame, Tennessee and USC are among the schools who have offered the 6-3, 215-pound edge rusher.
7. Cole Ostendorf, York
The heart and soul of the Dukes’ defense put up some eye-popping numbers for last year’s Class 8A semifinalist. The 5-11, 180-pound linebacker had 97 tackles, 27 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He’s also a star in the classroom, posting a 4.6 GPA.
8. Eddie Tuerk, Lyons
A two-way starter who’s been a fixture in the Lions’ lineup since his freshman season, the 6-4, 280-pound senior is committed to Illinois.
9. Christian Pierce, Brother Rice
Ohio State and Michigan are two of the seven Big Ten schools to have offered Pierce, a 6-foot, 210-pound junior linebacker.
10. Dillan Johnson, Joliet Catholic
Arguably the most dominant athlete in the state, Johnson is committed to Wisconsin as a lineman. The 6-2, 287-pounder also is a two-time IHSA wrestling champ with a 104-0 career record (the state finals were canceled his freshman year because of COVID).