2022 Prospects: Six Edge Defenders to Watch


Tampa Bay, FL – From Clearwater to Lakeland, the class of 2022 has several exciting edge defenders that have college recruiters excited.

College coaches flock to Florida for recruits, especially defensive recruits. Today is a look at some of the best that the class of 2022 has to offer on the ‘edge’ of the defense. 

Keyon Clark, DE, 6-3, 230, Tampa Bay Tech

Not many truly knew about Clark prior to the 2020 season, yours truly included. After seeing Clark record numerous tackles behind the line of scrimmage, it was important to know this young man’s name. He’s a versatile player, too.

Sometimes the Tech coaching staff lines Clark up at linebacker and blitzes him. Other plays find Clark screaming off the edge and finishing off the quarterback with a big hit. Amongst his many skills, two stand out.

Speed is first. This young man gets going in a hurry. Clark’s first step is explosive and it allows him to make plays by simply going by blockers. Second, instinct. If there’s a crease within the offensive line, a blitzing Clark will exploit said weakness. 

Overall, Clark is a relentless defender that can be moved around at the college level. He’s a special player for Tech, for now, but he will soon don a college football helmet. Offers from Marshall, Toledo and Buffalo are in, and that’s just the beginning for Clark’s offer list that’s bound to grow.

Mario Eugenio, DE, 6-3, 235, Gaither

With over 30 sacks during the past two seasons, Eugenio is no stranger to finding the quarterback. A product of the Trench Academy program here in Tampa, Eugenio has advanced block-destruction skills that allow him to use several different pass rush moves. 

Speed rush, Stab, slap-rip, and even a spin move are all a part of Eugenio’s repertoire. Also important, this young man put in the time in the weight room. He went from 190-pounds to 235-pounds in less than a year and a half, and it’s a good weight.

Eugenio is picking up recruiting steam. Some of his offers include West Virginia, Cincinnati, Boston College, Georgia Tech, USF, Indiana and Rutgers.

CJ Hawkins, DE/TE, 6-7, 220, Berkeley Prep

There may not be a Florida 2022 recruit expanding his offer list faster than Hawkins. The converted basketball player recently picked up offers from Florida State, Tennessee, UConn, USF, Arizona State, Michigan State, South Carolina, and even Yale just to name a few from late January forward. There is a good reason why.

Rare to find such a long and powerful frame with a penchant for playing physical while still being a true athlete. Hawkins is a basketball player, and those hardwood skills translated well to his first year on the gridiron this past fall. Yes, his first season.

Hawkins could certainly end up at tight end at the college level, but his frame and power would make for an excellent strong side defensive end. College coaches love length at defensive end. Hawkins fits the bill. 

Melvin Jordan, OLB, 6-0, 210, Clearwater Central Catholic

The bottom line about Jordan is his ability to move around and impact a game from different positions and angles. Yes, he’s a great fit as an outside linebacker. More importantly, he’s capable of dominating in a myriad of ways.

Blitzing off the edge, check. Shooting the B gap during an outside zone play to drag down the running back for a loss, absolutely. Dropping into the flat to take away the curl route from the slot receiver, you bet. This all-around linebacker creates problems for offenses.

Jordan is a highly recruited player and holds offers from the likes of Florida, Florida State, Miami, Indiana, USF, UCF, Arizona State, Cincinnati, and Arkansas.

Amari Niblack, DE/TE, 6-3, 215, Lakewood

Another hybrid player, Niblack is the definition of limitless possibilities. College coaches need to find different ways to introduce speed to the defensive side of the football. Niblack’s skill set allows him to play the hybrid linebacker position (part safety part linebacker lined up in the slot) and also be a traditional edge defender. This is all in theory mind you.

Niblack came up as a big wide receiver with uncanny quickness for his size. Why play defense? It’s just because he can play whatever he likes. Niblack is a great athlete first and foremost. There is no question that he can play out wide, move to H-Back, or play tight end. 

Defensively is still intriguing where his athleticism could be used over and over during each play. Niblack might be the most versatile player on this list, and that’s an accomplishment. Florida, Georgia, Florida State, Boston College, Georgia Tech and LSU are but some of Niblack’s current offers.

Keahnist Thompson, DE, 6-4, 245, Lakeland 

If you want a true defensive end that can definitely stop the power run game while also being twitchy enough to bend off the edge and speed rush an offensive tackle, Thompson would be a great selection. 

Incredible hustle represents the Thompson brand; he brings the wood when he lays into a ball carrier. A talented technician to boot, Thompson is happy to club-rip past an offensive lineman and plow into the signal caller or simply shoot a gap with his quickness and make the sack.

Regardless of how he does it during any one given play, Thompson is likely the best all-around defensive end from the greater Clearwater to Lakeland area for 2022. He has several talented edge rushers on his heels, but this young man is a great prospect.

As for recruiting, Thompson holds offers from a bevy of programs including Florida, Alabama, Florida State, South Carolina, Auburn and Miami to name just but a few. 

If college coaches seek edge defenders, come to the greater Clearwater to Lakeland area. The I-4 corridor is loaded with the playmakers you seek.