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2017 Football Preview: Top 10 defensive players

Terrance Taylor (42) scampers into the end zone for a touchdown last season against Loyola. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The annual preseason Top 10 lists kick off with the best defensive players in the area. Lists of the best receivers, running backs and quarterbacks will follow.

1. Devin O’Rourke, Lincoln-Way East, Sr., DE (6-6, 230): A Northwestern recruit who might have the most upside of any athlete in the area, O’Rourke has quick hands and a long reach. He has been a game-changer for the Griffins, who reached the Class 8A quarterfinals last season.

2. Jack Sanborn, Lake Zurich, Sr., LB (6-2, 210): Sanborn, who has committed to Wisconsin, uses his speed and power to get into the backfield. His football IQ and field vision are major assets.

3. Noah Shannon, Oswego, Sr., DT (6-2, 285): Shannon, an Iowa recruit, is powerful and mean off the line. Last season, he showed an ability to power through opponents and get into the backfield. He’s one of the highest-rated defensive recruits in Illinois.

4. Tyrik Henderson, Glenbard North, Sr., DB (5-10, 170): Henderson, a Minnesota recruit, is staunch in the defensive backfield but is a true threat on either side of the ball. He isn’t a big body, but he plays like one. He’s leading what likely will be the best defensive backfield in the area.

5. Elijah Teague, Marist, Sr., DT (6-3, 295): Teague, a Minnesota recruit, is the reigning defensive MVP in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. He had 56 tackles, nine tackles for loss and seven sacks last season. He’s explosive and powers through his plays.

6. Cortez Hogans, Palatine, Sr., LB (6-3, 190): Hogans’ speed is evident when the ball is snapped. He made a name for himself at middle linebacker last season and anchors what might be the best defense in the area this season.

7. Dashaun Mallory, Bolingbrook, Sr., DT (6-3, 275): Speed is Mallory’s standout quality, and he has good ball awareness. He proved to be a tough athlete to block as a junior and should be a difference-maker for a Raiders team trying to reload.

8. Terrance Taylor, Phillips, Sr., DE (6-4, 215): Taylor transferred from Mount Carmel in the offseason. He had a good junior year, but his potential and athleticism should set him apart as a senior. Long-limbed and quick, he’s capable of playing outside linebacker or defensive end.

9. Will McCabe, Fremd, Sr., DL (6-4, 277): McCabe, a Western Michigan recruit, is the reigning Mid-Suburban League defensive player of the year after recording 110 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and five sacks. He closes well to the ball.

10. Antwain Walker, Oswego East, Sr., DB (6-1, 170): Walker, who has committed to Illinois, has good size and is a jack-of-all-trades. He can defend a long field or plug up the middle. He focused on improving his mobility and strength during the offseason.

This is the second story in the Sun-Times 2017 Football Countdown series. Here’s what you can expect over the next couple weeks:

Aug. 14: No. 5 Lyons

Aug. 15: Top 10 defensive players

Aug. 16: No. 4 Waubonsie Valley

Aug. 17: Top 10 receivers

Aug. 18: No. 3 Loyola

Aug. 19: Top 10 running backs

Aug. 20: No. 2 Maine South

Aug. 21: Top 10 quarterbacks

Aug. 22: No. 1 Prairie Ridge

Aug. 23: Week 1’s top games

Aug. 24: A capsule look at the Super 25, Top 50 players