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Film Room: Kahlil Saunders

(Photo: @Kahlil_Saunders)

(Photo: @Kahlil_Saunders)

Kentucky continues to add to their 2021 recruiting class and the most recent edition was the second recruiting win for inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall. UK headed into Huntsville, Alabama and secured a commitment from an interior defensive line prospect who is not ranked but has plenty of suitors.

Kahlil Saunders plays for Grissom High School and the Tigers compete in Alabama’s highest classification, but that still the defensive line prospect to come in under the radar. However, many schools have been involved with this recruitment. Saunders has a ton of offers from G5 programs throughout the south in addition to Indiana, Kansas, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he is absolutely a fit to play the 4 or 5-technique lined up against opposing offensive tackles each week. He has the needed mass, strength, hands and short area quickness to succeed at the next level. It’s now time to head into the KSR Film Room and breakdown his game.

The two-way player in high school was a force on the offensive line with an excellent punch and quality finishing ability. Those skills transfer well to the defensive side. In the trenches, we all get caught up the size and brute force of the athletes but most of the time individual battles come down to hand-to-hand combat. At the next level, Saunders will find constantly be isolated against offensive tackles bigger than him and he must win the battle from the jump.

Saunders shows some impressive takeoff from his three-point stance and the quick swim move creates a swing and miss by the offensive tackle. The defensive line prospect is able to take away the opposing player’s right hand and that is going to help you win a lot of battles at the line. Calvin Taylor Jr. excelled at knocking away hands and then hitting a swim move. This combination was a big reason he collected 8.5 sacks as a senior. You could see Saunders developing a similar mode of attack.

In a 3-4 front, you obviously want to take on blocks and keep your inside linebackers and force safety free so they can play downhill and make a lot of tackles. However, you do have to be able to make some plays on your own. In the run game this means disengaging from blocks.

Kahlil Saunders bullies the blocker and recognizes the run out of the read option look. He sees ball and hits ball by getting off the block and making a very nice non-sack tackle for loss. This was a big win for his team inside a goal-to-go situation as they look to produce a key red zone stop. At the next level, defenders that can do this consistently go on to have very, very productive careers.

One prerequisite that all defensive line players need to have is energy. You have to have some juice to play this position because you need the size to take on big boys at the point attack, but you also must run down and chase fast ballcarriers. That’s where effort comes to play.

Kahlil Saunders fights off two blocks including leaping through the final one to make a tackle. You must play with a motor on the defensive line and he has one in the tank.

Kentucky is long past the point of needing to convert athletes into offensive line players, but it’s easy to envision some of Khalil Saunders’ skills translating very well to offensive tackle. Just something to keep in mind.

Khalil Saunders is now the fifth member of UK’s 2021 recruiting haul and it’s safe to say that he is a developmental project, but that is not a bad thing. Kentucky’s depth on the defensive line is in a very good spot and new position coach Anwar Stewart will have the opportunity to bring everyone else along very slowly.

Saunders checks a lot of boxes when it comes to size, strength, hand utilization, and short area quickness. He’s a player that needs to be molded, but T.J. Carter came to Lexington with a similar skill set and was able to succeed. In a pinch, he could also be switched to the offensive side and would have a good chance to succeed at tackle.

Get used to seeing Jon Sumrall win the Wildcats some recruiting battles in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

2 Comments for Film Room: Kahlil Saunders



  1. 859bornandraised
    4:10 pm May 2, 2020 Permalink

    Welcome to the family….GO CATS!!!



  2. JASUN74
    8:52 pm May 2, 2020 Permalink

    Nice write up Adam. Thanks. I love these kids who are underrated and will play with a chip on their shoulder. He definitely has the size, strength and quickness to become a very good player in the SEC and even beyond if he puts in the extra work.