SBLive is taking a closer look at the best high school football players in California, position by position. Next up: defensive linemen.
From Santa Margarita’s Hero Kanu to Branham’s Mateo Poso, California is stocked with talented pass rushers and run stuffers.
The main criteria for SBLive’s Top 30 defensive lineman rankings are 2021 spring and fall statistics, film review, discussions with coaches and college interest. The rankings were compiled by SBLive reporter Connor Morrissette.
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SBLIVE’S TOP 30 DEFENSIVE LINEMEN IN CALIFORNIA
30. Mateo Poso – Branham – Junior
Poso has received a scholarship offer from Arizona State. In six games as a junior, he’s made eight tackles for loss.
29. Lucas Conti – Corona Centennial – Junior
Conti has received scholarship offers from Arizona State and Montana State. He’s logged 29 tackles and three sacks so far in 2021.
28. Sinn Brennan – Los Alamitos – Junior
Brennan has had a great junior season playing multiple positions. He lines up at full back and on the defensive line for Los Alamitos — clearly the junior just likes to hit people. He’s received a scholarship offer from San Jose State.
27. Caden Harman – Sierra Canyon – Senior
Harman is committed to Army. He’s logged ten tackles for loss and four sacks so far this year.
26. Mackavelli Malotumau – Oceanside El Camino – Senior
Malotumau plays on both sides of the ball for El Camino. He’s a great run stuffer and has received scholarship offers from Nevada, Eastern Washington, Idaho and Portland State.
25. Bobby Piland – Rocklin – Senior
Piland is one of the most physical players on this list and he plays for one of the state’s top teams in Rocklin. So far this season, he’s made 33 tackles with seven coming for loss. Piland also plays on the offensive line. He’s committed to Air Force.
24. Adam Tomczyk – Los Alamitos – Senior
Tomczyk is committed to Utah State. 247Sports analyst Greg Biggins had this to say about Tomczyk after watching him play twice this season:
“He’s a Power 5 level talent and after seeing him twice now, it’s shocking he didn’t get closer to double digit scholarship offers.”
23. Jahzon Jacks – Stockton St. Mary’s – Senior
Jacks is committed to Fresno State. He’s been in on 26 tackles so far this season.
22. Darren Hughes – Adelanto – Junior
Hughes has made 34 tackles with ten coming for loss this season. He’s managed to put up those numbers in only four games. Hughes has received offers from Nevada and San Jose State.
21. Grant Buckey – Liberty Bakersfield – Junior
Bucky has received scholarship offers from Stanford, Michigan and other top schools around the country. He’s made 26 tackles so far this season with two sacks.
20. Rashad McKenzie – Alemany – Senior
McKenzie has received scholarship offers from Arizona State, Oregon and USC. So far as a senior he’s made 19 tackles with five coming for loss.
19. Donovan “Poe” Yandall – Long Beach Poly – Senior
Yandall has a whopping 19 tackles for loss this season which include six sacks. He’s committed to Army.
“Donovan was our defensive MVP in the spring,” Poly head coach Stephen Barbee said. “His size and strength makes him a dominant force.”
18. Ta’ita’i Uiagalelei – Mater Dei – Senior
Uiagalelei is committed to Washington State and has had two sacks so far this season.
Here’s an added fun fact: Ta’ita’i is the cousin of St. John Bosco’s Matayo Uiagalelei, the No. 4 ranked defensive lineman on this list.
17. Jacob Rich Kongaika – Mater Dei – Senior
Kongaika has battled injuries this season, but he’s arguably the top defensive lineman for the Monarchs, the current best team in the country. Kongaika has received a few scholarship offers with the most notable one coming from UCLA.
16. Zach Rowell – Torrey Pines – Senior
Rowell is committed to Stanford. He’s made 18 tackles and had three sacks so far as a senior at Torrey Pines.
15. Miles Bailey – Benicia – Senior
Bailey is having a fantastic senior season so far. The Fresno State commit has been in on 27 tackles with 12 coming for loss. He also has seven sacks.
14. Ashton Sanders – Cathedral – Junior
Cathedral is 1-6, but Sanders has been a bright spot with 38 tackles and six tackles for loss. He’s received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame.
13. Ezekiel Larry – Sierra Canyon – Senior
Larry is committed to Yale. He was one of the state’s leaders in sacks in the spring with seven. So far this season, he’s made 32 tackles with eight coming for loss.
12. Jairus Satele – St. John Bosco – Senior
The film doesn’t lie. Satele has been one the top interior defensive linemen in California high school football this season. All he does is stuff runs and sack quarterbacks. Satele is committed to Navy.
11. Jaeden Moore – Central Valley Christian – Junior
Statistically, Moore is having the best season out of anyone on this list. He’s made 68 tackles with 11 coming for loss. Moore has received scholarship offers from Cal, Fresno State, Washington State and San Jose State.
10. Mathias Malaki-Donaldson – Oaks Christian – Senior
Malaki-Donaldson is committed to Oregon State. So far this season he’s made 22 tackles and had five sacks.
9. Kevonte Henry – Leuzinger – Senior
Henry is committed to Michigan. He has eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble so far this season.
8. Nathan Burrell – St. John Bosco – Senior
Burrell will forever be remembered for his heroics in the 2019 Southern Section championship game when he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble in a 39-34 St. John Bosco victory. Burrell is committed to Cal and has made 20 tackles this season with six coming for loss.
7. Damonic Williams – Alemany – Senior
After Mission Viejo beat Alemany 30-7 earlier this season, Diablos head coach Chad Johnson gave Williams a ringing endorsement even though he missed the game due to a targeting penalty the week before: “A big deal in this game and we all know it is that [Alemany’s] D-tackle didn’t play,” Johnson said. “That was a big deal for us being able to run the ball and to pass protect.”
Williams is committed to Cal. So far this season, he’s made 24 tackles with four coming for loss.
6. Jaxson Moi – Cathedral Catholic – Senior
Moi is committed to Cal. In a 52-0 win over Helix in September, Moi forced a fumble and picked off his second pass of the season.
5. Dejon Roney – Etiwanda – Senior
Roney has made nine tackles for loss for undefeated Etiwanda. He’s received double digit scholarship offers from some of the top schools in the country including Miami, Oregon and USC.
4. Matayo Uiagalelei – St. John Bosco – Junior
Uiagalelei is one of the top ranked players nationally in the 2023 recruiting class. He plays both tight end and defensive end at exceptionally high levels. So far as a junior, he’s logged 19 tackles with five coming for loss.
3. Mason Graham – Servite – Senior
Graham is committed to Michigan. He’s been dominant on both sides of the ball for Servite as a senior — he’s one of the state’s leaders in sacks with nine.
2. Gracen Halton – St. Augustine – Senior
Halton is committed to Oregon. He’s one of California’s leaders in tackles for loss with 19. On offense, he’s caught three touchdowns this year as well.
1. Hero Kanu – Santa Margarita – Senior
Kanu has the luxury of being able to choose any big time college football program he wants to when National Signing Day rolls around. So far as a senior, he’s logged 37 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and six sacks.