Mobile (Ala.) Vigor High School's Justin Thornton is a consensus 4-star recruit, according to every major recruiting service. He even runs a terrifyingly fast 4.8 40, as a defensive end.
The rating is somewhat unanimous, but there is some disagreement on what that means for him as an actual player -- he has been slotted anywhere between the seventh and 15th best defensive end in the 2014 class. When it comes to where he stands as a player, he has been slotted anywhere between the 126th and 152nd best player in the 2014 class. As a result, Thornton falls just outside the nation's top 100 recruits, according to the 247sports composite.
There is still immense interest in him, though. The 6'6, 220-pound Thornton still holds offers from basically every major program in the Southeast, both in the SEC and outside of it. Auburn, Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia are among his 20 reported offers.
Bud Elliott, National Recruiting Analyst: Justin Thornton is what a school looks for a in a pass rusher. Thornton has excellent length at 6'6. And he can eventually play at 250 pounds.
Thornton has solid first-step quickness, and he uses that, with his length, to convert speed to power, getting opposing defensive linemen on their heels before making moves. Thornton flashes a nice arm-over inside move, that he uses to counter tackles setting too wide, anticipating his quickness off the football. And when he gets to the quarterback, he really finishes. He shows an excellent ability to bend around the edge.
But at 225 pounds, Thomas has a ways to go when playing against the run, and that is something that will likely keep him from being an instant-impact player at the next level. He will need a solid year in the weight room and work on his play against the run before he can be an every-down defensive end.