California is known for producing elite quarterbacks – Bryce Young and D.J. Uiagalelei to name two recent stars – but the state is also loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball.
From Mater Dei linebacker David Bailey to De La Salle defensive back Zeke Berry, here is a list of 15 Defensive Player of the Year candidates in California high school football. The statewide list was compiled by SBLive reporter Bodie DeSilva.
We want you to tell us who the DPOY will be. Read through the candidates and cast your vote below:
CALIFORNIA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR CANDIDATES
David Bailey – Mater Dei LB – Senior
Bailey leads a loaded linebacker group for the Monarchs. He collected four sacks and a forced fumble during only two games in the 2021 spring season. USC and Stanford are among the many schools competing for Bailey’s commitment.
Zeke Berry – De La Salle DB – Senior
Berry has shown he can make an impact on both sides of the ball for Northern California’s top team. Berry is one of the most physical defensive backs in the state, never afraid to make a tackle. He committed to Arizona over offers from 17 other schools.
Nate Burrell – St. John Bosco DL – Senior
Burrell has been a mainstay on the defensive line for the Braves, helping them to a 20-2 record over the past two-plus years. He’s collected 76 tackles, seven sacks, and an interception for Bosco during that time. Burrell committed to Cal in June.
Tre Edwards – Mater Dei Catholic LB – Junior
Edwards announced his presence with 103 tackles and four interceptions during his freshman season in 2019. Now in his third season, Edwards looks to lead the Crusaders to a San Diego Division 3 Championship as well as a run towards a state championship. Oregon, USC, and Notre Dame are among the offers that have come in for the linebacker.
Josh Hunter – Mater Dei CB – Senior
Hunter is no stranger to big games having played in 34 for the Monarchs before starting his senior season. He’s racked up 101 tackles and six interceptions patrolling the secondary for Mater Dei during his three seasons as a starter. He committed to San Diego State in August.
Mason Graham – Servite DL – Senior
Graham, who committed to Boise State in July, is an imposing defensive tackle at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds. He racked up five sacks in Servite’s season-opening win over Edison and recently received an offer from Michigan.
Hero Kanu – Santa Margarita DL – Senior
Born in Germany, Kanu has seen his recruitment explode since arriving at Santa Margarita in 2020. The defensive lineman (6-5, 293) is still only 16 years old and made his debut for the Eagles during the shortened spring season. Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Ohio State are among the finalists on his list.
Zeke Larry – Sierra Canyon DL – Senior
Larry was a dominant force for the Trailblazers during the spring season and has continued it into his senior year. In only eight games over the past two seasons, he’s totaled 40 tackles and eight sacks. Larry committed to Yale in late August over offers from Florida and Colorado.
Mathias Malaki-Donaldson – Oaks Christian DE – Senior
Malaki-Donaldson made his debut for the Lions in the spring season after transferring in from Lakewood. In the seven games he’s played for Oaks Christian over the past two seasons he’s totaled 28 tackles and three sacks. He announced his commitment to Oregon State last month after visiting the Beavers during the summer.
Jaden Mickey – Corona Centennial DB – Senior
Mickey jumped onto the scene with six interceptions during his sophomore campaign with the Huskies. Now a senior, Mickey takes on the leadership role for a younger Centennial team that has looked sharp early on. He committed to Notre Dame in March after gathering nearly 20 offers.
Jaxson Moi – Cathedral Catholic DL – Senior
Moi was the anchor up front for a Dons team that allowed less than three points per game during the spring season. He returns for San Diego’s top team after committing to Cal in the offseason.
Kamari Ramsey – Sierra Canyon S – Senior
Ramsey broke out during his sophomore season while helping the Trailblazers reach the CIF State Championship. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound safety finished the campaign with 80 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Ramsey is one of nine returning starters on defense this season for a very talented Sierra Canyon team. He committed to Stanford in the summer, choosing the Cardinal over USC and Ohio State.
Jalil Tucker – Lincoln DB – Senior
Tucker pairs up with fellow Oregon commit Jahlil Florence to form one of the country’s top cornerback duos. Tucker is one of San Diego’s top sprinters and showcases his speed in games as a playmaker on offense and special teams in addition to his defensive back duties. He chose the Ducks over a final list that included Florida State and Washington.
Niuafe Tuihalamaka – Bishop Alemany LB – Senior
Tuihalamaka made a name for himself during the 2018 season racking up 68 tackles, two interceptions, and a sack for the Warriors. The four-year starter packs a punch on defense and has the looks already of a collegiate linebacker. He committed to Notre Dame in June, choosing them over Texas.
Jalen Woods – St. John Bosco LB – Senior
Now in his third season, Woods has been a versatile defensive weapon for the Braves. He’s racked up 58 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception while consistently playing one of the toughest schedules in the country. He committed to UCLA in May.
Editor’s note: Mater Dei DB Domani Jackson would clearly be on the list if healthy. Jackson is injured and out for the remainder of the 2021 season.