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Among the county's top defensive linemen going into the 2016 season are, from upper left, Travis Yates (Orange Lutheran), Andrew Cohen (Tesoro), Joey Noble (Los Alamitos) and Josh Witherspoon (Orange Lutheran).

OCVarsity Rankings: O.C.'s top 10 defensive linemen

STAFF WRITER

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.

(Editor's note: This story was updated Monday afternoon.)

Here is a look at the top defensive linemen going into the season:

1. Travis Yates, Orange Lutheran, Sr.

The Montana State commit claims the top spot in an evenly matched group of players. When healthy, Yates (6-3, 265) played well last season against top-shelf competition, including nine tackles in an early-season game against Centennial of Corona. He also was offered by Hawaii and Central Florida. “He’s a tough kid,” Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports and Scout.com, said of Yates. “(He) plays hard.”

2. Joey Noble, Los Alamitos, Sr.

Noble’s stock is on the rise after leading the Griffins in tackles last season with 80 and finishing third in sacks with six. Noble (6-4, 268), a first-team, all-Sunset League pick in 2015, has been offered by New Mexico and Idaho. His pursuit skills could produce more high-profile offers during the season.

3. Mase Funa, Santa Margarita, So.

Funa (6-2, 225) is a touted transfer from Spanish Fork in Utah. He already holds offers from Utah and BYU. No other county defensive lineman holds a Pac-12 offer. “He’s unbelievable,” Eagles coach Rich Fisher said of Funa, who also could play tight end and linebacker. He will pair with Georgia transfer Malik McClain (6-3, 215) at defensive end.

4. Austin Faoliu, Mater Dei, Sr.

The Monarchs hope the JSerra transfer will help anchor their defensive line and free up other playmakers. The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Faoliu has been offered by Nevada. His brother, Andrew, also is a lineman at Mater Dei.

5. Andrew Cohen, Tesoro, Sr.

While Chris Evagues drew more attention last season, Cohen (6-3, 210) racked up 12.5 sacks. He finished just off Evagues’ team-leading total of 13, but he tied the first-team All-County selection with 10 tackles for loss. Cohen was selected third-team All-County last season.

6. Josh Witherspoon, Orange Lutheran, Sr.

Witherspoon (5-10, 275) is a physical interior lineman with a nose for the football. He has sharpened his technique training with former San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl center Jesse Sapolu’s lineman academy. He forms one of the best duos in the county with Travis Yates.

7. JJ Glass, San Juan Hills, Sr.

Stallions coach Aaron Flowers likes to say that Glass (6-0, 265) plays “in a phone booth” as a nose guard and center. His playing area might be small and rugged, but Glass is a big talent. He is quick off the ball and finishes tackles well. Glass recently made an unofficial visit to San Diego State.

8. Shane Darsow, Villa Park, Sr.

Darsow (6-2, 240) gives the Spartans a threat coming off the edge. He racked up 70 total tackles last season and added 16 quarterback hurries. Villa Park will count on him even more this fall.

9. Matthew Faupusa, Los Alamitos, Jr.

Faupusa is a 6-3, 315-pound transfer from St. John Bosco. He played offensive line for the Braves, but he moves to defensive tackle with the Griffins. Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton hopes Faupusa can develop into a defensive anchor similar to Keiti Iakopo, who starred for Fenton at Fountain Valley.

10. Nick Siatunu’u, Kennedy, Sr.

Siatunu’u (6-1, 275) earned strong reviews this offseason with his work at the Sapolu lineman academy. “He’s solid,” Sapolu said. “Great technician.” Kennedy coach Sean Clark said Siatunu’u will move to defensive tackle and center this season. “He had a great offseason,” Clark said in a text message. “He really anchors both lines for us.”

OTHERS TO WATCH

Ken Carmichael (Edison, Sr.); Dillon Keefe (El Modena, Sr.); Franky Gonzalez (Rancho Alamitos, Sr.); Nathan Logoleo (Mater Dei, Jr.); Sai Mikaio (Tustin, Sr.); Malik McClain (Santa Margarita, Jr.); Isaac Tanuvasa (Buena Park, Jr.); Derek Thomas (Huntington Beach, Sr.); Marcus Time (Calvary Chapel, Sr.).

Contact the writer: dalbano@scng.com

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OCVARSITY PRESEASON RANKINGS

TOP DEFENSIVE BACKS

TOP LINEBACKERS

TOP DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

TOP OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

TOP RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS


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