Best players by position: 3 top defensive line prospects wearing championship rings

State championships and good defensive line play seem to go together. Three of GHSF Daily’s Power 100 defensive linemen played on reigning champions Buford, Warner Robins or Cedar Grove last season, and another played at runner-up Carver of Columbus.

This is another in a series of feature articles that recognize the state’s best players by position. They are chosen primarily on high school production, though college potential also is considered. These players are the members of GHSF Daily’s Georgia Power 100.

*Vic Burley, Warner Robins: Burley, the reigning Class 5A Defensive Player of the Year, had 43 tackles, five sacks and 14 tackles for loss for the Class 5A champion in 2021. He plays multiple positions along the line. Burley (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) is Warner Robins’ highest-rated prospect this century. He committed to Clemson in June.

*Adonijah Green, Cedar Grove: Green had 16.5 of Cedar Grove’s 44 sacks and led a team that also featured major D-I signees Carlton Madden and Christen Miller on the defensive line. Green (6-5, 205), who was first-team GACA all-state in 2021, committed to Louisville in December.

*Stephiylan Green, Rome: Green, double-teamed on almost every down, had more than 50 solo tackles in the middle of Rome’s line last season on an 8-3 team and made first-team all-state. Rome coach John Reid says Green has talent comparable to that of former Rome defenders Adam Anderson (Georgia) and Quon Griffin (Georgia Tech). Green (6-4, 265) committed to Clemson in June.

*Zavion Hardy, Tattnall Square: Hardy was first-team all-state in Class A Private last season, and he’s the only Georgia Power 100 member playing this season in the Georgia Independent School Association. Hardy (6-5, 260) is a consensus top-175 national recruit whose reported leaders are Florida and South Carolina.

*A.J. Hoffler, Woodward Academy: Hoffler, a first-team all-state player in 2021, had 47 tackles, nine sacks, six other tackles for loss and three forced fumbles for an 11-1 Class 5A team. He’s Woodward’s highest-rated prospect since Elijah Holyfield in 2015. Hoffler (6-4, 240) committed to Clemson in June.

*Eddrick Houston, Buford: A consensus five-star recruit among juniors, Houston is Buford’s top returning defensive player based on the points total tally board that Buford uses to evaluate defenders. He had 38 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 12 QB pressures and five sacks for a state-winning team that clears its bench early and doesn’t exaggerate statistics. He’s 6-3, 210, and valued mostly as a pass rusher. He’s Buford’s second-highest-rated recruit this century behind junior teammate K.J. Bolden.

*Kayden McDonald, North Gwinnett: McDonald was the Gwinnett County TD Club’s Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2021. He had 20 sacks and more than 60 tackles behind the line for a 6-6 team. He made first-team Class 7A all-state. He had seven sacks in a first-round playoff game against South Forsyth. McDonald (6-3, 310) is a consensus top-300 national recruit and the best interior DL prospect in school history.

*Darron Reed, Carver (Columbus): Limited to four games in 2021, Reed had seven sacks – three in the state championship game against Benedictine – for the Class 4A runner-up. He’s Carver’s top interior DL prospect since former Auburn and NFL player Gabe Wright, but 2 inches taller (6-4) and about the same weight (270). Reed committed to LSU on July 4.

*Ka’Shawn Thomas, Brunswick: Thomas was the Region 2-6A Player of the Year and first-team all-state player on an 11-1 team in 2021. He had 39 solo tackles and eight tackles for loss against double teams in the interior of the line. A consensus three-star recruit, Thomas (6-2, 315) committed to Wake Forest in March.

*T.J. Searcy, Upson-Lee: Searcy (6-5, 250) is from the same school as another defensive lineman, NFL No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker. Searcy is a three-year starter with 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks for his career. He scored seven touchdowns as a short-yardage back last season. Searcy committed to Florida on July 4. Searcy could miss some early games because of finger surgery from a spring injury.

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