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OCVarsity rankings: O.C.'s top 10 defensive linemen
With the start of the high school season quickly approaching, the Register has put together its lists of the top 10 players in the county at each position.
These lists are based on the observations of the Register’s reporters, the input of football coaches around the county and the amount of interest shown by college scouts.
Here is a look at the top defensive linemen going into the season:
1. Chris Yaghi, Foothill, Sr.
Yaghi has the on-field and recruiting resume deserving of this spot. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound nose guard committed to Cal in July. He picked Cal over Oregon among others. Yaghi also is the reigning Crestview League defensive player of the year. This fall, the Knights will return to a 3-4 defensive front, in part, because of Yaghi’s ability. “I expect Chris to take another step,” Foothill coach Doug Case said. “He’s a special young man.” Yaghi moves so well for his size, don’t be surprised if he gets a few carries at fullback.
2. Liam Jimmons, Huntington Beach, Sr.
At 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, Jimmons will give opposing quarterbacks plenty to ponder. The USC commit combines his size with enough athleticism that allows him to also play tight end. “I expect him to be a dominant defensive end,” Oilers coach Eric Lo said. “With his athleticism and size, we can be pretty multiple on offense.” Jimmons finished with nine sacks last season and was selected first-team All-Sunset League.
3. Carter Hartmann, Mission Viejo, Sr.
The 6-foot-3, 265-pounder projects to start inside with Neff Haleakala in the Diablos’ 4-3 defensive front. Hartmann emerged last season as a force, using a strong push and pursuit skills to make plays. BYU and San Jose State have offered and there is high interest from the Ivy League. “He’s very strong,” Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson said of Hartmann. “He’ll have a great year.” In a tribute to Hartmann’s value to the reigning CIF West Valley champion, he also could play offensive guard.
4. Alex Bale, Capistrano Valley, Sr.
The 6-foot-1, 250-pound defensive tackle is one of Orange County’s under-the-radar talents. He was a major reason the Cougars reached the CIF semifinals last season for the first time since 1990. The first-team All-Sea View League selection racked up 9.5 sacks and 62 total tackles. He also is a standout in the weight room (395-pound bench) and runs well. “Alex is a Division I football player,” Capistrano Valley coach Ernie Bucher said. “He’s playing sideline-to-sideline and can get into the backfield.”
5. Keiti Iakopo, Fountain Valley, Sr.
Iakopo (6-0, 300) emerged as a force at nose guard last season. He earned first-team All-Sunset League honors and, despite playing in only five games, built a highlight film full of jarring hits. Iakopo was among the county recruits at the Nike camp in Redondo Beach in March. He has been offered by Southern Utah. “I think he’s going to have a breakout season,” Fountain Valley coach Ray Fenton said.
6. Cedric Dashiell II, Buena Park, Jr.
What Dashiell (6-1, 212) lacks in prototypical, defensive end-size, he makes up with production, speed and aggression. As a sophomore end, he had 18.5 sacks and a team-high 152 total tackles. He also was selected the Freeway League’s defensive MVP. Dashiell’s college position might be at outside linebacker, but his pursuit skills make him elite now. “He will lead our team and program this year along with Zach Taylor,” Buena Park coach Anthony White said.
7. Scean Mustin, Orange Lutheran, Sr.
Add Mustin to the list of defensive tackles to watch. He is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds and combines power with quick feet. He also used his long arms to make tackles in the backfield last season in the Trinity League. Sacramento State has already noticed, but Mustin could attract more attention this fall. “He has grown tremendously in the past year,” Orange Lutheran coach Chuck Petersen said. “Loads of potential.”
8. Sosefo Mailangi, Edison, Sr.
Mailangi is another under-the-radar defensive lineman expected to make an impact. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder was academically ineligible last season but practiced with the Chargers after his transfer from Marina. Edison coach Dave White said Mailangi has impressed in offseason linemen competitions. “He’s real good,” White said. Mailangi also is expected to start at offensive tackle.
9. Austin Fine, Trabuco Hills, Sr.
Fine (5-10, 223) displayed hustle and grit while he helped the Mustangs capture the CIF Southwest Division title last season. The undersized lineman used a nonstop motor and quickness to collect 55 total tackles and five sacks. Fine was especially effective in the Mustangs’ final two playoff victories with a combined 14 total tackles. “Tremendous motor,” Trabuco Hills coach Joe Silvey said of the first-team All-Sea View League pick. “Not the biggest guy out there, but not too many people can block him.”
10. Nathan Garcia, Garden Grove, Sr.
Garcia (5-11, 246) was a big reason the Argonauts’ defense dominated the Southern Division last season. The All-CIF pick led the Southern Division champion in 2014 with 14 tackles for losses and added five sacks. “Strong, athletic, good bull rush,” Garden Grove coach Ricardo Cepeda said. “Garcia is legit.” Garcia also is a punishing blocker at fullback.
Others to watch: Jordan Ammann, Esperanza, Sr.; Marwin Alapati, Tustin, Jr.; Nate Atkins, San Clemente, Sr.; Shane Darsow, Villa Park, Jr.; Chris Evagues, Tesoro, Sr.; Matthew Gonzales, La Habra, Sr.; Ector Loayza, Katella, Sr.; Joey Noble, Los Alamitos, Jr.; Drew Platt, Los Alamitos, Jr.; Russell Townsen, Trabuco Hills, Jr.; Trevor Yates, Orange Lutheran, Jr.;
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