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Sports in Kansas: 25 Defensive Lineman to Watch for 2019

Cody Stufflebean is looking for a huge year for McPherson. (photo: Kendall Shaw)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 26, 2019

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Several defensive lineman return after having big seasons in 2018. Check out who to watch in 2019. This lists main purpose is to represent the entire state from nearly every class. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we will do this position by position. Chet Kuplen, CEO/Founder of Sports in Kansas, evaluates players every year based on performance from prior year, our all-state lists from last year and events (camps/combines) he sees players across the state with input from several coaches and media members. This is not a recruiting list or prospect list and players are not ranked or in any special order.This list is powered by Rack Performance, Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement and Kansas Turf. Be on the lookout for our postseason honors after the 2019 season on who will be the Top 100 seniors in Kansas and who will make the Sports in Kansas All Non-Senior Team. While its impossible for us to check out every player in the state, we have a pretty good track record at going into detail like no other outlet in the state. If you ever have a player that you think we should take a look at be sure to DM @sportsinkansas or sportsinkansas@gmail.com as tips coming in can always help out on who we should check out! If you are interested in a player evaluation contact Chet Kuplen by TEXT at 620-719-0283 or email sportsinkansas@gmail.com. Several player evaluations landed major offers over the last eight football seasons. 

25 Defensive Lineman (DE, DT, NG) To Watch for 2019


Nate Matlack, Olathe East, 6-4 220 Sr.

Matlack is a freak athlete on the edge that has committed to play for the Kansas State Wildcats. He has great size with a 41-inch vertical. Look for him to be one of the top playmakers in Kansas this fall

Brayden White, Louisburg, 6-3 275 Sr. , Cole Sample, Tonganoxie, 6-3 270 Sr., Clayton Essex, Paola, Sr., Javier Castillo, Paola, Sr., Sloan Hayden, Eudora, Sr., Kade Kehl, Baldwin, Sr.

All of these players played in the same league a year ago and had huge years. White, also an all-state lineman for Louisburg last season, is looking for a huge 2019 season. Although hit heavy by graduation, the Wildcats will still be a team worth looking out for in 4A. White has several Division II offers and could emerge as an FCS prospect with a big year. Sample, who also doubles as the states #1 ranked shot put thrower with a toss over 61-feet last season, is one of the top two-way lineman in the state. Expect a big year out of the senior in 2019. Essex and Castillo each earned first team All-Frontier League honors in 2018 as juniors as Paola returns just about everyone off their team from last season. Hayden is a transfer from Ulysses that has committed to Division I FCS program Missouri State. Although more known as a TE, he should be one of the better defensive ends in the KC area for 2019. He has great size at 6’5” and 230 pounds.Kade Kehl of Baldwin has the frame to add some weight and break out as a prospect this fall with 6'5" and 190-pound size. He also holds an offer from Northwest Missouri State. 

Damien Ilalio, Manhattan, Jr.; Darius O’Connell, Manhattan, Jr; Riley Wagner, Emporia, Sr.; Drayton Foster, Seaman, Sr., E’monte Neal, Topeka, Sr.; Kort Mattison, Washburn Rural, Sr., Andrew Schmidtelin, Topeka Hayden, Sr.

This league is known for producing very solid lineman. With David Hernandez gone from last year at Manhattan we should expect some new names to emerge across the league. Ilalio was a second team all league pick at Manhattan last year while O’Connell could be a player to look at with size of 6’2” 295 pounds. He showed his explosiveness in the shot put last season as a sophomore going over 54-feet. Wagner is a returning first team all-league pick for the Spartans. While Iowa State commit Hayden Pauls will lead the offensive line, expect Wagner to lead the defense. While Foster may be a better tight end than defender we still expect him to have a big year for Seaman defensively. He is a 6’5” and 210 pounds on the edge and has picked up some division II offers. Neal is one of the bigger lineman in the state at 6’4” and 345 pounds. He will need to have a huge year plugging up the middle for the Topeka High Trojans if they are going to be a 6A contender. Mattison is a 6’3” 225 pound defensive end that also doubles as one of the leagues best offensive lineman for Washburn Rural. Schmidtlein is a returning all league and all 3A pick for the Hayden Wildcats and while he may not be tall (5’9”) he is 235-pounds. He’s also one of the top returning baseball players in the state.

Quinton Stewart, Salina Central, 6-4 235 Sr.; Talus Price, Salina Central, 5-11 240 Sr.

Stewart, an Oklahoma State commit that is primed for a big season at tight end and defensive end, will be one of the top two-way players in the state. Price, a noseguard, is looking for a huge 2019 season after havinga  breakout year in 2018.

Reid Holthaus, Shawnee Heights, 6-5 245 Sr.

Holthaus would have been listed with the rest of the Topeka players but the school joined the United Kansas conference last season. He has the size and physicality to be one of the best two-way lineman in 5A this season.

Pene Saili, Jefferson West, 6-1 225 Sr., Kaul Saili, Jefferson West, 5-11 275 Sr.; Danny Saili, 6-3 330 Soph.

The Saili brothers will be one of the best combinations in high school football for 2019. Pene, a junior, is a returning all-state selection as a sophomore last fall at defensive end but could also see some time at linebacker. Kauli, a senior, is an experienced defensive lineman that also earned second team non-senior honors. Danny, a sophomore, might have the highest ceiling of them all with his 6’3” and 330-pound size. He features great quickness and was one of the most impressive lineman at the Sharp Performance Camp this summer. Look for all three to have all-state caliber seasons. Gavin Schwinn also has great size on both sides of the ball on the line at 6’4” and 285 pounds.

Lovette Epelle, Free State, 6-1 245 Sr.

Epelle was one of the top defenders in the Sunflower League a season ago. He was also a first team All-Non Senior Pick from Sports in Kansas in 2018.

Zeke Howell, Goddard, 6-0 220 Sr.

Howell led our SIK leaderboards last year with 18 sacks as a junior. Goddard played for a state title a year ago in 2018 and if they look to repeat that feat in 2019 Howell will need another huge year.  Howell has also put on close to 35 pounds from the start of his listed weight last season.

Kenny Fehrman, Wellington, Jr., Travese Love, Wellington, Sr., Hunter Greenlee, Wellington Sr., Cayden Winter, Andale, Jr.

This league has quite a few returning players that are very good on the defensive line. Fehrman, who doubles as one of the top offensive lineman returning in the state, will be one of the best lineman in 4A this season. Throw in Travese Love who earned all-league last season and returning starter Hunter Greenlee who earned all-league honors and you have one heck of a defensive line. Winter should be one of the top small school junior lineman in the state for 2019. As a sophomore in 2018, he earned first team all-league honors in a loaded league full of solid defenders. The league should be very solid on the defensive line once again with Winter and the trio of Wellington defenders listed above. Collegiate also has a solid cast of line type players on both sides of the ball in the league. Andale also returns Carson Fair on the edge for 2019 but will have to replace all-state pick Mason Fairchild who is now a freshman at Kansas.

Zach Saville, Maize South, 6-3 295 Sr.

Saville was an all-state pick as a sophomore two years ago and is a physical load on the defensive side of the ball for the Mavericks. He will look to be one of the best 5A interior defensive lineman for 2019.

Tyler Dorsey, Derby, 6-2 265 Sr.

Dorsey will look to lead the Panthers to back-to-back titles in 6A after having an all-state season as a junior in 2018.

Carson Williams, Jackson Heights, 6-2 230 Sr.

Williams will be one of the better small school lineman in the state for 2019. Jackson Heights will be a contender in 1A. Taylor Wamego and Riley Watkins also return for the Cobras to form one of the better lines in 1A.

Shay Mahnken, Pittsburg, 5-9 190 Sr.; Aaron Woods, Pittsburg 6-4 220 Sr; Sam Herring, Pittsburg , 6-0 250 Sr.

Three weight room freaks here that should be one of the best 4A lines in the state. Mahnken is a state power lifting champ that features a 370 bench and 4.6 40. Woods has a 340 bench with 4.6 40 speed. Herring, who doubles as an all-area offensive lineman, has 4.85 speed with a 365 bench. All three also clean over 300 pounds with Mahnken featuring a 325 clean. He also squats 485 pounds. Pittsburg was hit heavy by graduation but these guys form a solid foundation for the Purple Dragons in 2019.

Caleb Haggard, Labette County, 6-2 235 Sr.

Haggard is a swiss-army knife defender for the Grizzlies playing every level of defense over the last three seasons including defensive back, linebacker, and lineman. He has one of the quickest first steps in high school football of Kansas and has been amongst the leaders in sacks in the state since his freshman year. Expect a big year out of the Southeast Kansas League player in 2019.

Connor Hall, Andover, 6-6 215 Sr., R.J. Bethea, Andover Central, 5-11 200 Sr.

Hall registered over 70 tackles last season with 31 tackles for loss. He has a great frame and could be a breakout player once again in 2019. Bethea will also look for a big year in the city of Andover for the Central Jaguars. He was a second team all-league pick last season in a league full of defenders.

Judson Wiltfong, Norton, 6-5 220 Sr., Noah VanKooten, Phillipsburg, 6-5 260 Sr., Joel Montgomery, Smith Center, Sr.

These picks come from the same leaague. Wiltfong, also an accomplished wrestler, will look for a big season on both sides of the line for Norton. He could develop into a prospect with another huge season that saw over 60 tackles last season. Norton has some size with Christian Hawks back at 6’5” 255 and weight room beast Dante Smith at 6’1” 280. VanKooten was a huge part of the state championship last year for the Panthers. He will look to be one of the better lineman in the state this season. Joel Montgomery is back for Smith Center and had over 100 tackles last season with four sacks. Major production will be expected with the graduation of two SIK POY’s in Logan Zabel and Austin Hobelmann.

Cody Stufflebean, McPherson, 6-4 235 Sr.

Stufflebean, a Kansas State commit, is one of the top two-way players in the state of Kansas. He has great speed and athleticism for his size. McPherson lost a lot of key pieces last year at skill spots but Stufflebean on both sides back forms a solid foundation for the Pups to build off of.

Kyle Haas, Maize, 6-1 215 Jr.

Haas may not be a very big defensive tackle but you can guarantee he is one of the nastiest out there. He is also one of the best wrestlers in Kansas. The junior earned all-league honors as a sophomore last fall for the Eagles who reached the state semifinals. Gone are several key pieces but Haas will look to be the leader of the defense for 2019. Haas has won two national titles in wrestling over the last two seasons as well.

Jonah Weber, Hanover, 6-4 250 Sr.

Weber is likely the top returning 8-man small school lineman in the state. He has great size and had over 60 tackles last season for the back-to-back-to-back state champion Wildcats. Hanover has won 38 games in a row entering 2019.

Hadley Panzer, Lakin, 6-3.5 290 Sr.; Trey Nuzum, Garden City, 6-3.5 280 Jr., Aaron Kurth, Colby, 6-7 280 Sr., Trey Adams, Hays, 6-6 240 Sr.

Western Kansas is no joke with some of the talent it has for 2019. The Kansas State commit is one of the state’s top two-way lineman. Although going to the Wildcats as an offensive lineman, Panzer really shines on the defensive side of the ball for Lakin. The state wrestling champ, that is likely the top heavyweight wrestler in Kansas, is primed to make his third all-state season in 2019 on either side of the ball. Nuzum is one of the rising juniors in Kansas. He will team up on the offense with the state’s strongest player, Refujio Chairez, to form one of the better line duos in the state. Nuzum has great size and speed. Nuzum is one of the most explosive juniors in the state. Kurth is one of the top returning two-way lineman in the state and burst onto the recruiting scene late last spring and holds a KU offer. Adams could emerge as a breakout player and recruit this season for the Hays High Indians and has great size at 6’6” and 240-pounds.

Mason Richman, Blue Valley, 6-5 255 Sr., Clayton Power, Blue Valley, 6-2 305 Jr.; Sterling Smithson, 6-3 305 Sr. Ike Summerlin, BV West, 6-3 230 Sr. Peyton Reeves, Aquinas, 6-2 285 Sr., Max VanMeter, Bishop Miege, 6-4 245 Sr.; Mason Weber, Bishop Miege, 6-3 240 Sr.; Ethan Kremer, Mill Valley, 5-11 240 Jr. Reid Spachman, BV North, 6-3 210 Sr.

This league (EKL) is loaded as always. Richman, an Iowa commit, is one of the top two-way players in the state. He earned second team all-EKL honors last season as a junior. He will play line at Iowa but in high school, he is a defensive end and tight end. Power is expecting a breakout season and is a load in the middle at 305 pounds. Smithson is also another player that started last year for Blue Valley and has great size.  Summerlin is a freak athlete at the defensive end spot with a 36 plus inch vertical. Summerlin also plays in one of the best leagues in the state. Reeves, an SIU commit, is one of the top returnees for the 5A state champion Saints for 2019. He earned all-non senior honors from SIK last season. Miege goes for six in a row this season and VanMeter should be one of the best defensive lineman in 4A this season. Playing in the states top league (EKL) he had over 50 tackles and eight sacks last season. Weber is a returning honorable mention all-league player that is looking for a big 2019 season. He has great size along with VanMeter to form one of the better defensive line combos in the state for 2019, plus you can throw in sophomore to be Collin Williams that could really blow up with his 6'4" 230-pound size.. Kremer, who doubles as a state wrestling champion, was an all-league pick on both sides of the ball in the EKL as a sophomore. If you know anything about that league, then you know that’s a rare feat for any grade, let alone a sophomore. He is one of the toughest lineman in the state. Expect another big year for the junior. Spachman has been a part of a BV North program that has made it to the title game in each of the last two seasons, winning it all in 2017 and taking runner-up last season. He will look to be one of the better playmakers in the EKL for 2019.

Eyann Zimmerman, Republic County, 6-1 265 Sr.

Zimmerman is one of the more underrated lineman in the state. He could be one of the better two-way lineman in the state this season. He is also the 3-2-1A state runner-up in heavyweight wrestling.

Komesh Spoonhunter, Royal Valley, 6-4 285 Sr.

Spoonhunter is one of the bigger players in the smaller classes of Kansas. He should be one of the top two-way returning lineman this season in the very well respected Big 7 league that was hit heavy by graduation of multiple stars.

Riley Philbern, Hoisington, Sr.

Philbern, who is one of the top returning two-way lineman in 2A, could be primed for a big season with what the Cardinals return in 2019. They are on the short list of contenders for a 2A state title this fall as they also return Wyatt Pedigo who is one of the top two-way players in all-classes.

Two-Way lineman that could shine

These guys get a spot as well and could be depended upon heavily in 2019 on each side.Joshua Hull of Humboldt, Kel Stroud of Chapman, Rylann Miller of SM North, Refujio Chairez of Garden City and Dionte Brown of Aquinas are players that are returning all-state caliber players on the offensive line but could be asked to do big things defensively this year as well as others above on the list. 

Other Top Defensive Lineman to Watch from Sports in Kansas

Kirk Huser- Victoria, Kolby Tablot – Axtell, Calvin Benefiel – Maize South, , Clayton Essex – Paola, Kade Funston – Abilene, Evan Dean – Santa Fe Trail, Konner Tannahill – Holton, Dallas Higginbotham – Anderson County, Christien Hawks – Norton, Dane Whalen – Osage City, Beaku Baker – Lyndon, Chance Garriott – Olpe, Gage Cantrell – South Barber, Ucpich McDaniel – Wichita East, Adam Shipp – Wichita South, Leon Dixon – Wichita West, Keaton Robertson – Maize, Carson Fair – Andale, Michael Fair – Collegiate, Connor Allen – Collegiate, Silas Popplewell – Wellington, Jaxen Young – Mulvane, Mason Lane – Rose Hill,  Logan Broomfield – Nickerson, Brock Anderson – BV North, Sean Dunning – BV Northwest, Quincy Tillett – BV Northwest, Tommy Zimmerman – BV Southwest, Justin Sanders – Mill Valley, Sam Hecht – Mill Valley, Sean Urban – Perry Lecompton, Ethan McDonald – Halstead, Jonah Reynolds – De Soto, Mason Ericson – De Soto, Garrett Harding – Louisburg, Marques Cook – SM Northwest, Caleal Kennedy – Piper, Ricky Ellis – Parsons, Alan Miramontes – Great Bend, T.J. Michael – Topeka High, Dylan Fields – Galena, Kelly Amack – Topeka West, Kade Kehl – Baldwin, Brandon Pena – Olathe North, Luke Zegunis – Olathe West,  Parrish Bruce – SM South, JDom Bevilacqua – St. Mary’s Colgan, Creighton Johnson – Beloit, Hunter Renick – Cimarron, Dante Smith – Norton, Lee Marshall – SM East, Daniel Archer – Derby, Logan Hartzell – SM South, Xavier Person – St. James, Nathan Carter – Wichita Northwest, Kade Funston – Abilene, Jacob McDonald – Chanute, Noah Bolticoff – Rose Hill, Kel Stroud – Chapman, Hagan Booi – Colby, Collin McCartney – Frontenac, Rico Gordon – Galena, Brycen Detimore – Marysville, Dawson Snider – Pratt, Jarrett Bates – Pratt, Logan Broomfield – Nickerson, Kody Davoren – Rossville, Caden Cromer – Silver Lake, Charlie Timmons – Smith Center, Tra Barrientes – Sylvan-Lucas, Konnor Tannahill - Holton, Collin Williams - Miege

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