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Vote: Who was the top defensive lineman in Texas high school football in 2023?

From Melissa's Nigel Smith II to Duncanville's Collins Simmons, which D-lineman rose above the rest last fall?

The 2023 Texas high school football season is in the rear view, and we're taking a look at the most impactful players across the Lone Star State last fall.

After unveiling our All-East Texas, All-West Texas, All-South Texas, All-North Texas, All-Southeast Texas and All-Central Texas teams and awards, we released our All-Texas high school football team, honoring the best of the best.

Now, we're taking a look at who rose above the rest at each position. After examining some of the best individual seasons at the quarterback, running back, wide receiversdefensive backs and linebacker positions, we're moving to the defensive line.

Who was the top defensive lineman in Texas this past fall?

We want to hear from you. 

Scroll down and reach up on 23 names to consider and cast your vote in the reader poll below. Voting ends on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 11:59 p.m. central time


Keylan Abram, DeSoto, jr.

He was a force up front for the state champions. He racked up 87 tackles, 21 TFL and 21 1/2 sacks. The edge rusher has committed to Purdue.

Jussiah Ali, San Antonio Roosevelt, sr.

Amassed 60 tackles — 20 of them for loss — and 10 sacks to help Roosevelt to a 6-4 record, and followed it up with a strong showing in the All-American Bowl on Saturday.

Kamryn Brown, Gilmer, sr.

A big-time playmaker for the Buckeyes, Brown logged 116 tackles (69 solo, 47 assists), including 17 for loss with 10 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries. After a 3-3 start to the season following a defensive scheme change, Gilmer won out for the program’s fourth state title. Brown is uncommitted.

Karmyne Castilleja, San Benito, sr.

Castilleja is undersized for his defensive tackle position, coming in at 5-foot-9, 225 pounds. Don’t let his smaller stature fool you, however, with the senior DT ranking among the best in South Texas. The District 32-6A Defensive Lineman of the Year has been a cornerstone in the Greyhounds defense for two years now, ending this season with 71 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

Jaylen Cottrell, Seminole, sr.

One of four players for the Indians with more than 100 tackles, Cottrell had 10 sacks and an interception in 13 games. He finished with 109 tackles (50 solo, 43 assists), including 26 for loss, for 11-2 Seminole. The Indians beat Pecos and Wichita Falls Hirschi in the playoffs. He is a unanimous All-District 2-4A Division II First-Team pick.

Jarrett Diggs, Canyon West Plains, sr.

Diggs made the most of his final season with the Wolves, racking up 77 tackles (23 solo, 54 assists) with 12 for loss, including five sacks. For his efforts, he earned District 2-4A Division II Most Valuable Player accolades. He has an offer from Division II Eastern New Mexico.

Kash Fletcher, Overton, sr.

Fletcher put up some fantastic numbers for the Mustangs, making 123 tackles (67 solo, 56 assists) with 19 for loss, including 10 sacks. Overton finished 10-2 with a bi-district win over Evadale. Fletcher, a First-Team All-District 11-2A Division II pick, is uncommitted.

Danny Garcia, PSJA North, sr.

PSJA North’s defense was among the most dominant in the state this season, allowing just 7.5 points and under 200 yards per game. Senior defensive end Danny Garcia was arguably the heart and soul of the defense. The UTRGV commit was a one-man wrecking crew despite constant double teams, recording 107 total tackles, 22 tackles for loss and 5 sacks.

Alex January, Duncanville, sr.

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Texas signee led one of the nation’s most dominant defenses, which posted four shutouts, held teams to 12 points per game and helped nationally ranked Duncanville race to a repeat UIL 6A Division I state championship. Logged 45 tackles — seven for loss — and four sacks. He was named 6A District 11 Defensive MVP in one of the country’s most talented districts. SBLive All-American first team selection.

Joseph Jonah-Ajonye, Conroe Oak Ridge, sr.

The five-star recruit is headed to reigning national champion Georgia with high school teammate Justin Williams. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end was ranked No. 7 in the country at the position.

Carlon Jones, Bay City, sr.

The USC signee put up big numbers this fall for the Blackcats. He had 95 tackles, 30 TFL, 17 1/2 sacks, 23 quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery. He was the District 12-4 Division I MVP this season.

Lowote Jurkin, Pflugerville Weiss, sr.

The three-star defensive end wreaked havoc for opposing offenses all season. Jurkin racked up 10 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, 19 QB hurries, and three forced fumbles. He is committed to Stephen F. Austin.

Kmard Kimble, Sheldon C.E. King, sr.

The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder was a force on the line for the Panthers. He had 85 tackles, 38 TFL, 17 sacks, 24 quarterback hurries, forced two fumbles, recovered one and also added an interception. He’s headed to play at Stephen F. Austin.

Abraham Moreno, Canadian, sr.

Another massive talent on the Wildcats’ defensive line, Moreno registered 16 sacks in 15 games to help Canadian finish 14-1. The defensive tackle finished with 108 tackles (12 solo, 98 assists). He is uncommitted.

Keltyn Raymond, Glen Rose, jr.

Raymond terrorized opposing quarterbacks from his defensive tackle position with 13.5 sacks in 15 games for the Tigers. He tallied 127 tackles (73 solo, 53 assists) with 28 for loss. Glen Rose has made it to the state semifinals the last two seasons.

Steven Richardson, Corpus Christi Miller, jr.

Corpus Christi Miller’s offense isn’t the one unit on the team filled with playmakers. Junior DE Richardson is one example, stuffing the stat sheet during his second year as a starter. The District 14-5A DI Co-Defensive Linemen of the Year racked up 135 total tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 7 sacks in 14 game played.

Devin Robertson, Quitman, sr.

The Bulldogs struggled to a 4-6 record, but Robertson had an elite-level senior season with 127 tackles (81 solo, 46 assists), including 21 for loss with nine sacks. The First-Team All-District 9-3A Division II pick is uncommitted.

Cody Robledo, Calallen, sr.

Robledo wreaked havoc from his interior line position all season long for Calallen, serving as a force in the pass and running game. The 6-foot-2 lineman penetrated through opposing teams offensive lines en route to 19 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Robledo finished the year with 51 total tackles.

Xaryus Sheppard, Longview, sr.

Sheppard was a problem for opposing offenses all season long, recording 72 tackles (43 solo, 29 assists), with 18 for loss, including eight sacks for the Lobos. A First-Team All-District 7-5A Division I selection, Sheppard is uncommitted.

Collin Simmons, Duncanville, sr.

The No. 1-ranked edge rusher in the nation, Simmons seemingly went out of his way to back it up on the field. The Texas signee wreaked havoc on opposing offenses to the tune of 18 tackles for loss, 29 quarterback hurries and two pass deflections on the season, and was named state championship MVP for the second consecutive year after logging three sacks and a forced fumble in the Panthers’ 49-33 repeat state title win over nationally ranked North Shore in Texas’ biggest classification. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound edge rusher was named SBLive’s All-Texas Defensive Player of the Year. 

Edward Smith, Pearland Dawson, sr.

The edge rusher finished his senior season with 33 tackles, 12 TFL and 5 sacks and was a District 23-6A first-team pick the last two years. He signed to play at Texas Tech.

Nigel Smith II, Melissa, sr.

A four-star recruit, he announced his intention to play at Oklahoma on a Jumbotron at the Cardinals' new football stadium this year. The 6-foot-5 lineman was a force up front this fall for Melissa, a team ranked No. 1 throughout most of the season.

Hudson Woods, Smithson Valley, soph.

As just a sophomore, Woods burst onto the scene helping lead the Rangers to the state finals. On the season, the sophomore totaled 67 tackles with 14 sacks, 16 QB hurries, three forced fumbles, and 29 tackles for a loss.

-- SBLive Texas staff

Lead photo by Tommy Hays.