The annual preseason top-10 lists kick off with the best defensive players. Lists of the best receivers, running backs and quarterbacks will follow.
1. Micah Awodiran, Marist linebacker (6-1, 217 pounds) Awodiran, who has committed to Yale, began his high school career as a running back. But it was clear he would become an impact athlete when he made the transition to linebacker. He had 133 tackles as a junior and is going to be hard to stop this season.
2. Ian Swenson, Loyola defensive back (6-2, 190)
Swenson, who has committed to Connecticut, led Loyola to an undefeated season and a Class 8A state title in 2015. He’s a long-striding, hard-hitting defensive back who can make plays.
3. Jacub Panasiuk, Lake Park defensive lineman (6-3, 235)
Panasiuk, who has committed to Michigan State, is quick on his feet, has a good motor and has good explosiveness off the line. He is the younger brother Michigan State defensive lineman Mike Panasiuk, who also played at Lake Park.
4. John Mitchell, Crete-Monee defensive lineman (6-2, 270)
Mitchell has good strength, power and field vision, is disruptive and hits hard. He is uncommitted but has a handful of scholarship offers.
5. Erik Mueller, Wheaton North linebacker (6-2, 230)
Mueller, who is uncommitted, is big-bodied, versatile athlete who plays well up the middle. He’s expected to have a big season for the Falcons’ defense.
6. Robert Topps, Marist defensive back (6-2, 185)
Topps, who has committed to Kansas, had 56 tackles as a junior. He isn’t afraid to bring the heat from the outside and has good intuition to go with his speed.
7. Chris Elmore, Phillips defensive lineman (6-1, 270)
Elmore, who has committed to Western Michigan, had 146 tackles — including 22 for loss — last season to help Phillips win the Class 4A state title. He is one of the hardest hitters in the area.
8. Trey Telez, Lincoln Way West linebacker (6-1, 225)
Telez, who is uncommitted, is a hard-hitting, playmaking athlete on a team that is expected to make a run this season. He had 83 tackles, including 31 for loss, as a junior.
9. Christian Sampleton, Nazareth defensive lineman (6-3, 230)
The athletic Sampleton, a Yale recruit, is explosive and dangerous off the edge. He is part of a high-powered front four for the Roadrunners.
10. Luke Turner, Naperville Central defensive back (6-1, 200)
Turner, who is uncommitted, is an athletic safety who is good against the run and the pass. He will be a key cog in the Redhawks’ defense.