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Kentucky’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best defensive linemen

Who are the top defensive linemen in Kentucky prep football?

By Mitchell Forde

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Kentucky high school football. Our next list focuses on the defensive linemen.

There are hundreds of standout football players in Kentucky and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. Let us know about any other defensive linemen worthy of fans’ attention in 2022. 

Austin Alexander, 6-3, 220, sophomore, Cooper

Alexander introduced himself in a big way as a freshman with 61 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season. He has a long way to go in his recruitment, but he has already started to pique the interest of several FBS coaches. He received scholarship offers from Maryland, Akron and Liberty this summer. 

Leonard Banks, junior, Western

Banks made 54 tackles, including 13 for loss, in just nine games last season. The defensive tackle could be in for an even bigger season this fall.

Xavier Campbell, 6-0, 225, junior, Beechwood

Campbell was the best pass rusher on a dominant Beechwood defense as a sophomore. He tied for the most sacks in Class 2A with 12 and helped the Tigers hold opponents to 6.9 points per game en route to a perfect 15-0 state championship season.

Micah Carter, 6-5, 260, senior, St. Xavier

Carter missed most of St. X’s state championship run last season due to a knee injury suffered in the season opener last season. So, he should be hungry to prove that he’s one of the top defensive linemen in the state as a senior. Ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the state by the 247Sports Composite, Carter has committed to play his college football at Purdue. 

Saadiq Clements, 6-5, 260, senior, Henderson County

Clements earned second team all-state honors with his performance last season, and now he’s back for an encore as a senior. Clements drew scholarship offers from several Power Five college programs but ultimately committed to Purdue in June.

Layton Davis, 6-0, 265, senior, Paducah Tilghman

Davis played four seasons at Caldwell County but received an extra year of eligibility from the KHSAA and has relocated to Paducah Tilghman for his final high school season. He brings with him a track record of production after totaling 82 tackles, including 22 for loss, a year ago.

Oryend Fisher, 6-6, 195, senior, Great Crossing

Fisher showed how disruptive he could be last season when he racked up 84 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Since his junior campaign ended, Fisher has picked up a host of new scholarship offers, including from Kentucky, West Virginia and Vanderbilt.

Dahvon Frazier, 6-1, 195, junior, Bryan Station

One of two Frazier twins who starts on the Bryan Station defensive line, Dahvon made 25 tackles and four tackles for loss as a sophomore. He has picked up college interest from a number of area programs and received an offer from Southeast Missouri.

Jahvon Frazier, 6-1, 195, junior, Bryan Station

Jahvon was even more productive than his brother, racking up 48 tackles last season, including 14 for loss and five sacks. Like his brother, he has received a scholarship offer from Southeast Missouri. If he carries his production from last fall into his junior year, his recruiting stock will likely continue to rise.

Grant Garrison, 5-10, 220, senior, Woodford County

Garrison has averaged exactly a sack per game over the past two seasons, with 20 sacks in 20 contests. Last season, he logged 12.5 sacks. He also made 53 tackles, including 10 for loss.

Jeremiah Goodwin, 6-2, 200, senior, Owensboro

Goodwin led Owensboro in receiving as a tight end, but he was even better on the defensive side of the ball, where he earned second team all-state honors. Goodwin racked up 57 tackles, including 19 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season.

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Jamarrion Harkless, 6-4, 290, senior, Frederick Douglass

Harkless logged 30 tackles, including nine for loss and two sacks, from his spot on the interior of the defensive line. The three-star prospect committed to Illinois in June but recently backed off that pledge. He has also received scholarship offers from a long list of schools that includes Auburn, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU and Michigan.

Adam Hobbs, 6-3, 235, senior, Central Hardin

Hobbs, who also starts at tight end for the Bruins, racked up 62 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last fall. As a result, he was named the Class 6A, District 2 defensive player of the year.

Austin Johnson, 5-10, 220, junior, North Laurel

Johnson led the Jaguars with a whopping 121 tackles, including 21 sacks, last season. He led the state, regardless of classification, in sacks by 5.5. The performance earned him second team all-state honors.

Joshua Johnson, 6-0, 280, senior, DuPont Manual

Johnson earned all-District honors last season and should be asked to take on a larger role in what should be another strong Crimson defense as a senior after the graduation of defensive lineman Jason Burley and linebacker Ramont Townsend.

Chris Jones, 6-3, 250, junior, DuPont Manual

Another Manual defensive lineman who should have a chance to earn a larger role as a junior is Jones. The massive junior has already started to draw some recruiting interest from Power Five schools, including landing a scholarship offer from Vanderbilt.

Byron May, 6-3, 240, senior, Rowan County

May is back after an uber-productive junior campaign during which he racked up 74 tackles. That included 20.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks, tied for the second-most in the state.

Sam McCoun, senior, Christian Academy-Louisville

McCoun led CAL with four sacks and 16 tackles for loss last season, part of his 51 total stops. The Centurion defense should be strong again this season after holding opponents to 14.2 points per game in 2021.

Luke McCubbins, 6-1, 195, senior, Holy Cross

McCubbins led Class 1A with 14 sacks last season. He totaled 33 tackles in all.

Tahj Meadows, 6-3, 195, senior, Southern

Meadows totaled 43 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior. He has started to garner some college attention with offers coming from Union College, Thomas More College and Wilmington College.

Kyan Miller, 6-3, 230, senior, Henry Clay

Miller made 40 tackles, including 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, as a junior. He has committed to play his college football at Austin Peay.

Peyton Taylor, 6-1, 225, senior, Logan County

Taylor is one of several important pieces back this season for a Logan County team that reached the Class 4A state semifinals a season ago. Taylor led the team with seven sacks and totaled 44 tackles, including nine for loss.

Beni Tshita, 6-3, 243, senior, DuPont Manual

Another member of Manual’s dominant defense who is back this season is Tshita, who logged 45 tackles and 10 sacks a season ago. Tshita recently committed to Marshall for college.

Tyler Vance, 6-1, 240, senior, North Oldham

Vance racked up 59 tackles, including 15 for loss in 10 games last season. His seven sacks tied for first in Class 4A.

Darius Wiley, 6-6, 230, junior, North Hardin

Wiley hasn’t seen a ton of varsity action during his first two high school seasons, but that will likely change this fall. That 6-foot-6 specimen picked up offers from Kentucky and Western Kentucky thanks to his performances during offseason camps. He should man one of the defensive end spots in the Trojan defense.

Tommy Zeismer, 6-2, 220, senior, Boyle County

A force on both sides of the ball, Zeismer logged 61 tackles and 10 sacks from his defensive end position while helping lead the Rebels to a second consecutive Class 4A state title last season. That was good enough to earn him first team all-state honors. He has committed to play collegiately at Kentucky.