Skip to main content

Vote now: Who was the best high school defender in the country in 2022?

We want to hear from you: Who was the best of the best?

State championship games still await in several states, but we've seen enough to get a jump on honoring some of the best high school football players in the country this season.

The top defensive players across the nation this season have made invaluable impacts on some of the country's best high school football teams this fall, and this week we gave a shout-out to the best of the best.

Now we're giving fans a chance to choose the defender who has impressed them the most in 2022.

The top three vote-getters in the poll below will advance to the MVP round, where fans can choose the top player in the country this season regardless of position.

Voting for the top defender will conclude Saturday, Dec. 10, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time.

Write-ups on each player are below the poll.

(Matayo Uiagalelei photo by Connor Morrissette)

Tausili Akana, EDGE, Skyridge (Utah)

The top-ranked prospect in Utah, per the 247Sports composite rankings, Akana was a nightmare for opposing offensive lines. The 6-foot-4 senior recorded 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, leading Skyridge to its first state championship in program history.

Rueben Bain, DL, Miami Central (Florida)

Bain is a force in the trenches for the No. 5 team in the SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25. The No. 9 defensive lineman in the class of 2023 has tallied 26 sacks and 34 tackles for loss on the year.

Robert Billings, S, Milton (Georgia)

Billings is one of the leading tacklers (93) for a Milton squad playing in the GHSA Class 7A semifinals for the second year in a row. The Clemson commit has also posted four interceptions, two fumble recoveries, a blocked punt and a blocked field goal.

Drayk Bowen, LB, Andrean (Indiana)

One of the top 100 seniors in the country, Bowen has a knack for getting to the football. The Notre Dame commit ended the season with 144 tackles, five sacks, 19 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Dominique Dixon, LB, East St. Louis (Illinois)

Dixon treated opponents like tackling dummies for the top-ranked team in the SBLive Illinois Power 25 rankings. The 6-foot-tall junior racked up 144 tackles and 11 sacks, both of which were team-highs for the IHSA Class 6A state champions.

Caleb Downs, S, Mill Creek (Georgia)

The top-ranked safety and No. 11 overall prospect in the senior class, per the 247Sports composite rankings, Downs lived up to the hype in 2022. The Alabama commit led No. 20 Mill Creek with five interceptions and was the team's second-leading tackler (66).

Read More

Deejay Holmes Jr., EDGE, Pahokee (Florida)

Holmes made our midseason watch list after coming up with 19 sacks in the first half of the season, and he didn’t slow down as the year went on. The three-star senior finished with 32.5 sacks, one of the highest marks in the nation, and led Pahokee with 117 tackles.

Kelze Howard, DL, Spring Valley (Nevada)

One of the highest-ranked commits in Oregon State history, Howard had a senior year to remember. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound lineman had 12 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and 64 total tackles on the season.

Jeremiah Hughes, CB, Bishop Gorman (Nevada)

Hughes was a leader on defense for the No. 3-ranked team in the nation in the final SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 of the regular season. The LSU commit finished the year with seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns, as Bishop Gorman claimed its 12th state championship in the past 13 years.

Ja'Keem Jackson, CB, Osceola (Florida)

Entering the FHSAA Class 4S semifinals against Lakeland, the Florida Gators commit has five interceptions to his name, including a pick-six, and has averaged 3.6 tackles per game.

Jermaine Matthews, CB, Winton Woods (Ohio)

Matthews was a turnover machine all season long. The Ohio State commit racked up six interceptions, three of which he took back for touchdowns, in addition to forcing four fumbles and recovering three.

Kayden McDonald, DL, North Gwinnett (Georgia)

McDonald lived in the backfield in 2022, registering 13 sacks and 40 tackles for loss. This is a defensive-minded post, but it’s worth noting the 310-pound Ohio State commit also rushed for 409 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Wyatt Milkovic, LB, Basha (Arizona)

Milkovic is the leading tackler for a Basha team which finished the regular season ranked No. 21 in the nation. Entering the Bears' rematch with No. 22 Chandler in the AIA Open Division semifinals, the Boise State commit has totaled 144 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss.

Jabrae Shaw, S, Mills University (Arkansas)

Shaw took home the most votes for SBLive’s midseason defensive player of the year, and he finished strong in the second half. The Central Arkansas commit intercepted 12 passes, two of which he returned for touchdowns, and made 81 tackles.

Isaac Smith, S, Itawamba Agricultural (Mississippi)

Smith was a ballhawk for the Indians, coming up with 10 interceptions, two of which were returned for scores. The No. 3-ranked senior in Mississippi holds offers from LSU, Florida State, Texas A&M and more.

Teitum Tuioti, EDGE, Sheldon (Oregon)

Tuioti was a nightmare for quarterbacks, posting 13 sacks in 13 games. The second-ranked prospect in Oregon plans to stay home and play college football for the Ducks.

Matayo Uiagalelei, EDGE, St. John Bosco (California)

A five-star senior, Uiagalelei is one of the top uncommitted prospects in the country. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher has totaled 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss for St. John Bosco, who took down No. 1 Mater Dei in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship last weekend at the Rose Bowl.

A’mauri Washington, DL, Chandler (Arizona)

Washington has been a stalwart on the defensive line for the No. 22 team in the final SBLive/Sports Illustrated Power 25 rankings of the regular season. The future Oregon Duck tallied five sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Dylan Williams, LB, Long Beach Poly (California)

Williams was all over the field in 2022, accounting for 79 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception, one blocked field goal and two blocked punts. Once a USC commit, the four-star junior decommitted from the Trojans in October.

Nasir Wyatt, EDGE, Mater Dei (California)

A 6-foot-2 sophomore with five-star status, Wyatt led the top-ranked team in the nation with 13 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss.