Defensive Ends Analysis
By Dave Te Thomas
The defensive line is the deepest talent pool in the draft. At end, it is a no-brainer that one of the best players is - Julius Peppers, a natural pass rush talent with outstanding athletic ability. Many feel that Peppers will not last past Carolina's pick in the first round. If there was ever a complete player, Peppers is certainly the case. With many teams looking to copy the success that Miami had with Jason Taylor, edge rushers seem to be getting additional attention this year. Dwight Freeney ran a scorching 4.38 in recent workouts, while Bryan Thomas was equally impressive with his 4.44 clocking. Still, teams get a little cautious about investing a first round pick in a player that will generally give up 50-75 pounds to the larger offensive linemen. The workouts by this tandem will hopefully dispel that fear.
After those five athletes, the second tier has some pretty decent quality, but there are flaws in their game. Ryan Denney came on strong as a senior, but some question his toughness, especially after the brutal beating (literally) that he was handed by Utah offensive tackle Doug Kaufusi (Kaufusi was suspended because of it). Will Overstreet is a great pass rusher, when he's not blocked. Blessed with keen instincts, he must rely on his speed moves, as linemen simply engulf him, thanks to his lack of bulk. One of the best gambles out there could be Anton Palepoi, who would have garnered second round consideration, if not for a knee injury that forced him to miss half of his senior season.
Alex Brown may have had a fine senior season, but scouts walked away totally unimpressed after a recent poor workout. This is one guy whose stock is doing the Harry Belafonte Limbo Trick (how low can you go). Another player whose stock has dropped a bit is Akin Adoyele, whose lack of brute power makes him more of an outside line- backer, but his suspect pass coverage ability could negate any chance of him succeeding at that position, also. Kenyon Coleman had a fine senior campaign, erasing any doubts teams had, after he was forced to miss the 2000 campaign with a serious knee injury. Junior Dennis Johnson was one of the top prep players in the country and came to the collegiate ranks with more hype than any other defensive player. Despite some decent performances at Kentucky, he greatly disappointed the pros with his lack of power, which became evident on film, as he struggled mightily vs. combo blocks.
While not as productive as their draft stock indicates, players like John Stamper, Derrius Monroe, Michael Josiah and Brett Keisel are drawing mid-round consideration, but that is based strictly on potential, rather what they have done (or actually, haven't done) on the football field. Cat-quick Rocky Bernard is being considered as both a defensive end and at his college position, defensive tackle. His excellent foot speed is the reason some teams are looking at the possibility of moving him outside. Greg Scott did not get a Combine invite, but he still appears to have good value as a mid-round pick, based on what he showed in post-season action.
Jarvis Green, a mere afterthought before the Combines, had teams scrambling to find any redeeming qualities on film, after he put on a very impressive show at the Combines. Raheem Brock would be considered one of the early round potentials here, but like most ends, he lacks the bulk to face up to the huge offensive linemen on a steady basis. Greg White, Carlos Hall, Josh Mallard, Michael Josiah and Connor Stephens are others that fall into the same mold as Brock. Injuries wiped out what was a promising college career for Grant Irons, but late in the draft, someone can get a steal with him, if he continues to recover from his medical woes. Sean Guthrie is a tough-as-nails type with impressive power, but needs to bulk up a bit to be effective at the next level.
Some interesting free agent types could emerge from a group that features Akbar-Ghaja Biamila, Joey Evans, Lonnie Ford, T.J. Bingham, Andre Arnold, Corey Smith amd Terrell Washington.
MAKING THE GRADE…A…If you are looking for edge rushers, this is the year with Dwight Freeney, Bryan Thomas and Kalimba Edwards, but the most complete prospect here and the best athlete in the draft is certainly Julius Peppers. As good as the talent level is here, wait until you see the defensive tackles!
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Muscular athlete with a thick frame with a well-defined upper torso…High energy athlete who is very quick off the snap, easily slipping by blockers on stunts… Shows good arm power as he consistently out-muscles blockers in one-on-one situations…Very effective knifing through traffic, feeling pressure to react well while shedding blocks downfield…Chases hard to the opposite side of the field, determined to punish ball carriers with his forceful tackles…Shows a sharp short area burst and is very comfortable making plays on the move…Displays the foot speed to get into the gaps, using his explosion to quickly flush the quarterback out of the pocket… Could shift inside to tackle at the pro level to take advantage of his agility and balance and punishing wrapup tackling ability, but his quickness may be best served coming off the edge at end, especially in a 3-4 defensive alignment.
Negatives: Gets too upright at times, leading to misdirection as he tries to move through the pile…More of a straight-line charger, lacking the power to redirect inside, where he would be bounced around due to multiple blocks…Struggles to keep balance when sliding outside to contain the run…Poor hand usage will frequently see him get locked up by the blockers, as he allows them to get their hands into his chest.
Phenomenal two-sport standout at Carolina who elected to return to campus for another football season in 2001…Named the nation's top two-sport athlete by The Sporting News, who state that he could be an early professional draft pick in either the NFL or NBA… Regarded as the most dominating defensive player to perform for the Tar Heels since the Lawrence Taylor era (1977-80), and certainly the school's most decorated athlete since the basketball heydays of Michael Jordan…Recorded 167 tackles (128 solos) with 30.5 sacks for minus 209 yards and 53 stops behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 267 yards during his three-year career…Only Greg Ellis (32.5, 1994-97) had more sacks in a career at North Carolina.
REMINDS YOU OF… Julius Peppers. As they say in the television show, The Highlander- there can be only one. Peppers is actually a cross between the cat-quickness of Jevon Kearse and the pass rush skills of Kevin Carter, before Carter's back surgery two years ago.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… With a defensive line more ragged than Raggedy Ann and Andy and a defensive coordinator (John Fox) now taking over as head coach, it's a no-brainer that Carolina keeps this Tar Heel product in their state.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Well-proportioned athlete with a thick upper body and torso…Has superb open field quickness and acceleration coming off the snap…Gets instant penetration as a pass rusher, showing proper hand technique, combined with an array of rip-&-swim moves to explosively close on the quarterback…Shows excellent hand delivery and punch coming off the ball, guarding his legs very well vs. the chop block while maintaining speed as he flows to the ball…Instinctively recognizes the plays and quickly gains leverage from the outside…Relentless in his straight-ahead charge to the ball…Highly aggressive player whose motor never quits…Has that rare speed to catch plays from behind…Locks out well, delivering a powerful hand swipe to get blockers off-balance…Lacks of size and his impressive speed may be better suited for inside linebacker, rather than defensive end or outside linebacker at the pro level.
Negatives: Very thin in the leg department and does not have much room on his frame to add needed bulk…Situational pass rusher who struggles to disengage from the larger blockers in run support…Not really a true linebacker, as he has problems changing direction and looks sluggish dropping off in space…Has had problems in the past going to an "up" position from the "down" lineman's stance (reason he won't be used as a line- backer)…Plays with good functional strength, but relies on his speed too much…Lacks the size to gain leverage vs. the run…Gets covered up too much by the tight ends and offensive tackles defending the run, as he generally will lose containment…Lacks the leg drive to split or play off the combo blocks, needing to add more strength to be effective in this area…Will get to the ball carrier, but has to show better wrapup tackling ability upfield, as he tends to lead with his shoulder before making the hit, rather than extending and securing with his arms…Does not have the power to stack at the point of attack…Has never been a problem for the coaches, but he tends to worry too much and while he is a great character, he is considered high maintainance.
One of the most decorated defensive players in school history, college's premier pass rusher ranks second on the school's career-record list with 34 quarterback sacks, topped only by Tim Green (45.5, 1982-85)…The holder of the NCAA season-record for fumbles forced and recovered in a season (11, eight forced, three recoveries, 2001), he put together a very impressive string of seventeen consecutive games with at least one sack before being shut out in the 2001 Miami contest…The two-year starter made a remarkable recovery from a spleen disorder that cost him the final four games of the 2000 season… Finished his career with 104 tackles (68 solos), 14 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 51 stops behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 296 yards.
REMINDS YOU OF… Chris Doleman, ex-Viking. He's not as big as Jevon Kearse, only much faster. You have to love this kid's work ethic.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If New England has their way, Freeney is still there at the end of the first round, but after clocking 4.38 recently, the Pats may have to move up a bit to grab him, as Oakland is also showing strong interest.
Positives: Jason Taylor (Miami Dolphins) type wit a high-cut, tight, overall muscular physique… Has explosive leg drive, shooting inside the gaps to make plays in the back- field…Has the arm strength to control the larger blockers at the point of attack…Uses his hands effective to hold up and control the tight ends through their routes…Moves swiftly to the edge, making low tackles along the perimeter…Gets excellent leverage and power behind his pass rush burst…Good play book digester who spends the time needed to improve in the weight and film rooms…Shows good hip snap sliding laterally across the line…Gets his hands up quick to obstruct the quarter-back's view…Closes in an instant, generating a crunching force crashing into the quarterback… His double moves usually allow him to race past the blockers and works back to the inside with quickness…Stays low to the ground when stringing out the run plays.
Negatives: Defeats the offensive linemen with quickness, but lacks the counter moves needed to shed quickly…Slow to react and locate the ball at the opposite end of the field… Will wrap tackle, but ducks his head at times, causing backs to slip past his hits…Has the short area quickness, but is generally removed in passing situations…Does not have the natural hands to get a piece of the ball in the zone…Bites too much on the quarterback's pumps and fakes…Needs to get his hands more active, as he will lean into the blockers rather than try to push off…Has to improve his leg base, as teams know they can rock him back by running directly at him…Takes himself out of plays upfield, as he lacks field awareness…Lack of size could see him shift to outside linebacker.
A four-year starter, he is regarded as one of the premier pass rushers in the country…Set school and Conference USA career-records with 35 quarterback sacks, good for minus 270 yards…Also recorded 148 tackles (78 solos) with 56 stops for losses of 320 yards, two fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, 12 pass deflections and 46 quarterback pressures.
REMINDS YOU OF… Jevon Kearse, Tennessee Titans. While Peppers and Freeney have some of Kearse's qualities, Thomas is as close as you will come to finding another "Freak."
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL…I am all but convince that if he's there at pick number 21, Thomas will be an Oakland Raider. This is Ted Hendricks all over again.
Positives: Well-built with thick thighs, long arms and good overall muscle definition… Dynamic pass rusher who keeps his feet active flashing through traffic…Swings his hips around effortlessly and works hard to the ball in pursuit…Has the agility to plant and burst…Quick enough to explode around the corner and agile enough to counter in-line blocking…Uses his hands aggressively, delivering a punishing initial jolt…Displays an assortment of rush moves and the spin ability to redirect inside…Attacks the outside hard and keeps his balance while holding his ground firmly vs. the power charge…Comes off the snap with explosion and keeps his feet moving when attacking…Has excellent acceleration off the snap…Very agile, slipping through blocks fluidly.
Negatives: Battles a little too high on occasion and sometimes stops his feet, rather than driving through, when making the tackle…Tends to stay on the ground when leveled, rather than getting up quickly to bounce back into the play…Has to get lower coming off the snap to prevent blockers from getting their hands on him… While he generates a nice surge off the snap, he needs to vary his speeds as he sometimes over-pursues the play… Rather than giving the initial thrust and then slipping off the block, he will stay stationary and try to manhandle the guy…Has very small hands (8-inches).
Junior college standout who is one of the most intense pass rushers in the game…Has excellent short area quickness and a knack for making plays at the opposite end of the field…One of the fastest down linemen in the country, Anton was hampered by a knee injury in 2001, but still managed to record 56 tackles (38 solos) with 12.5 sacks for minus 72 yards and 19 stops for losses of 87 yards in only seventeen games with the Rebels… Also caused three fumbles.
REMINDS YOU OF… Trace Armstrong, Oakland Raiders. Relentless pass rusher who is just starting to come into his own.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Most have Anton pegged as a second day steal. I have to think there is a smart general manager out there that will decide to take him earlier.
Positives: Has a wide frame with thick upper body and lower torso muscle definition… Comes off the ball in an instant, showing excellent lateral flexibility…Explosive hitter who penetrates the gaps in a flash…Generates a good push into the pocket, showing the quickness to consistently beat the blockers coming off the edge…Shows proper rip technique with his hands pushing off the snap…Very decisive locating the passer and has that quick burst needed to flush the quarterback out…Fluidly changes directions during the chase…Mentally alert, knowing his assignments…Uses his arms well to shed and stays low in his stance to keep outside containment…Has a knack for getting his hands on the tight end in press coverage…Despite his compact frame, he has enough power to prevent from being bumped wide
Negatives: Moody athlete who struggles to handle diversity…While very decisive as a pass rusher, he struggles to locate the ball on running plays…Hard worker, but will shut down his motor on plays away from him…Uses his hands well, but loses leverage vs. the larger blockers and is quickly covered up…Has problems maintaining position vs. the combo blocks…Moves well laterally, but is too inconsistent in his pursuit efforts…Lacks the motor to combat counter blocks… Hungry to register the sack, but gears down quickly when it is apparent he won't get to the quarterback after penetrating…Needs structure in order to stay with the off-season weight program.
A redshirt senior, Alex ranks among the nation's top defensive performers…A Lombardi Award semifinalist in 1999 and 2000 (finalist in 2001) and first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection three-straight years (1999-2001), he became only the third sophomore in school history to garner first-team All-American honors (1999)…In 46 regular season games, he started 31 times…Made 161 tackles (93 solos) with 47 total stops behind the line of scrimmage (sixth-best total in school history)…His 33 quarterback sacks broke the old school career-record of l27 by Alonzo Johnson (1981-85)…Also was a problem for opposing quarterback throwing the ball, as he tallied 15 pass deflections and three interceptions during his career.
REMINDS YOU OF… Erik Flowers, Buffalo Bills. Just another case of a player with more hype than potential.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Recent poor workouts see his stock continue to slide. Someone would be foolish to waste a second or third round pick on him, but in this league, you know someone will.
First Day Possibilities
Positives: Possesses an explosive initial burst…Has the quickness to string plays wide and uses his surge off the snap to easily gain leverage…Neutralizes double coverage by using his hands to hold an turn the play inside…Keeps his balance when combating low blocks…Very effective making plays from his backside pursuit…Constantly keeps his feet moving, showing aggression as he secures and wraps the ball carrier…Gets into an up-field angle sharply and knows how to use his arms (rip-&-swim) to get by the left tackle to flush the quarterback out of the pocket… Shows very good hand usage to keep blockers away from his chest and gains proper leverage with his fluid hip swerve and shoulder moves…Takes short paces in his burst into the backfield, twisting and turning to generate speed off the edge.
Negatives: Undersized with only adequate linear speed…Has not been as dedicated in the weight room as he should, needing to upgrade his strength in order to compensate for a lack of bulk…While instinctive in his pass rush, he takes a little longer than usual to react to the running game, lacking instinctiveness to react in an instant…Stands too upright coming off the ball and does not extend his arms quick enough to prevent blockers from getting into his chest…Takes himself out of plays by his penchant to over-pursue (lacks redirection skills), but his quickness is also his strongest asset.
The team's premier pass rusher, he has been in the starting lineup since midway through his freshman year, earning the opening nod in 23 of 31 contests…Recorded 136 tackles (71 solos) with 15 sacks for minus 122 yards and 27 stops for losses of 121 yards during his career as a Bulldog…His 15 sacks rank sixth on the school's all-time record list.
REMINDS YOU OF… Darren Howard, New Orleans Saints. Can simply dominate at times, but he's still developing his pass rushing skills.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Looks like he wrapped up a late first round slot, with the Bears highly interested. Would have been a top five pick if he stayed in school another year.
Positives: Tall, rangy athlete with long arms and a thick chest…Gets off the snap in an instant and has impressive upfield acceleration…Very quick to diagnose the plays and is rarely caught out of position…Has the balance and leg drive to hold firmly at the point of attack…Uses his rip and swim moves to split combo blocks and delivers vicious arm swipes to stack…Stays low to jam the tight ends at the line and has a jarring hand punch to rock the blockers back…Possesses the lateral agility needed to make plays in pursuit and is very quick to penetrate from the backside…Wraps securely, extending his arms to insure the ball carrier goes down…Has the knee bend to gain leverage and shows good spin moves to elude…His hand punch is evident in the two-gap, as he quickly locks out the blocker…Chases with an explosive burst and keeps his balance sliding down the line…Has the frame that can easily add fifteen pounds with no speed dropoff…His huge wingspan poses sight problems for the smaller quarterbacks to scan the field and also comes into play with his penchant for blocking punts.
Negatives: Struggles at times to defend vs. the run when he fires out too high off the snap… Loses leverage at times because of his height…Age (25) is a concern, as he served two years on a church mission before enrolling in college…While fast, he does not accelerate as one would like when rushing the passer…Weight room figures don't always translate to the football field.
Two-year starter who is an emerging star, playing with a "search and destroy" attitude… Also excels in the classroom, earning national academic recognition…A very physical pass rusher, with a variety of moves and explosive quickness, he finished his career with 156 tackles (92 solos), 16 quarterback sacks, 40 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 13 pass deflections.
REMINDS YOU OF… Travis Hall, Atlanta Falcons. Could possibly move inside, as he has incredible power and leg drive.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If he makes it past the second round, someone will get a huge steal. If not for Anton Palepoi, Denney would have been given "Most Underrated" status.
Positives: Amazing physical specimen with a long wingspan, thick calves, a muscular build and cat-like quickness…Strong run defender who plays with excellent leverage and knee bend…Has the explosive initial step to defeat combo blocks…Disruptive penetrator who does a fine job of riding blocks and moving laterally…Hustles in pursuit and has a sharp lateral change of direction…Shows good hand usage, power and effort on the pass rush…Escapes quickly from the low blocks, working fluidly back towards the ball…Uses his hands well, delivering a solid hand slap, coupled with a fluid swim move to shed and close on the passer…Gets upfield instantly and has a sudden burst as a pass rusher off the edge.
Negatives: Tries to "take on the world" too much (gets overaggressive to compensate for the lack of talent he played with on Kentucky's defense)…Needs to show better ball recognition ability, as he will bite on quarterbacks' pumps and fakes…Has to do a better job of keeping blockers out of his chest, as he gets too upright in his stance, allowing the opponent to gain leverage…Could use more lower body strength, as he can be ridden wide at the point of attack… Frustration late in games will see him overpursue…Has to add more bulk to combat the larger pro offensive lineman, as his relentless motor is too good to be wasted as a situational player.
The three-year starter decided to test his wares in the pros by declaring for the 2002 NFL Draft as an underclassman…Blessed with remarkable quickness and leaping ability, he blocked four kicks (three field goals, one punt) while performing on special teams…Saw action in 34 games, with 29 starting assignments…Finished his career with 128 tackles, 19 quarterback sacks for minus 126 yards and 35 stops for losses of 178 yards…Only Oliver Barnett (26, 1986-89) had more sacks in Wildcats annals.
REMINDS YOU OF… Willie McGinest, New England Patriots. For all of the promise he showed in high school, I suspect he may have peaked.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Just gets eaten alive by the bigger blockers. He has the look, but just does not play the part. If not for Alex Brown, he would have been my "Most Overrated," as something is missing with this kid.
Positives: Tough play-maker who possesses a good combination of strength and speed… Thrives on rushing the passer…Aggressive run stuffer who has solid upper body power, quick feet and fluid redirection skills…Works hard to get off blocks and has dynamic rush moves…Decisive in his charge, extending his arms properly to engulf the quarterback… Maintains balance working through traffic, using his hands with force to avoid low blocks…Very effective in his backside pursuit, using his long arms to flush the quarter-back out while attacking the ball…Has a relentless motor.
Negatives: His lack of size prevents him from being a consistent force vs. the run…Has had a series of injuries that makes one question his durability…Lacks the lower leg drive to be effective vs. the larger blockers…Does not utilize his speed as well as he should, lacking that explosion coming off the snap…Strictly an edge rusher who is limited to weakside duties.
Highly decorated, both on the football field and in the class room…Three-time Academic All-Southeastern Conference pick who was slowed by knee problems in his senior year… A relentless tackler, he totaled 146 tackles (103 solos) with 19 quarterback sacks and 37 stops behind the line of scrimmage during his career with the Volunteers…His 19 sacks rank eighth on the school's career-record list.
REMINDS YOU OF… Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. I love his heart, I love his drive, but feel he may be better suited to play linebacker in a 3-4 system.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Gets devoured too much by the bigger blockers to be an every down player. He spends more time in the training room than the equipment manager, yet his heart is tremendous. Move him to linebacker and he'll be a great one.
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Has good muscle development in his chest and arms…Quick off the snap, using his arm power well to work to the inside…Very agile, slipping through blocks easily…Power pass rusher who can beat his man with his explosive initial step…Has enough of a burst to get wide… Shows good hand usage, keeping his arms constantly moving to gain leverage and defeat blocks…Has the height advantage and leaping ability to obstruct the quarterback's passing view…Very effective using club moves when combatting combo blocks…Decisive taking on contact, redirecting fluidly while generating a low charge…Chases quickly in pursuit and has the lateral agility to string plays wide.
Negatives: Several knee injuries bring up concerns about his durability…While he shows aggression, he tries too much to use his upper body strength to overpower blockers, rather than swim and rip through the blocks…Has never shown much consistency as a bull rusher, basically due to slender calves and poor leg drive that prevents him from getting free from the larger offensive tackles…Lacks late game stamina and does not hustle throughout, all but disappearing from the action once he tires.
The All-America and Nagurski Award candidate has demonstrated the ability to dominate offensive linemen…He possesses a great combination of strength, power, speed and size… Kenyon (pronounced Ken-YON), an outstanding pass rusher has fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in 2000, re-establishing himself as the premier pass rusher in the West, evident by the fact he received the Morris Trophy as the Pac-10's best defensive lineman…He has worked hard to enhance his fundamentals and technique, meeting some outstanding individual goals he set for himself…Finished his career with 138 tackles (96 solos), 16.5 sacks for minus 107 yards and 34 stops for losses of 158 yards…His 34 tackles behind the line of scrimmage rank ninth in school history.
Positives: Jason Taylor-type (Miami) with outstanding short area speed…Very effective on stunts, playing with his hand down wide to the open side to get after the quarterback quickly…Has great agility for his position, making plays in pursuit…Has that explosive initial burst and long arms to seal off the outside rush…Can flash upfield, displaying fine foot agility when dropping off in pass coverage…Has fine inside counter moves off his upfield rush and excellent recovery speed… Plays with good leverage to prevent blockers from containing him…Has the short area agility to penetrate the line, collapse the pocket and pressure the quarterback…Disruptive pass rusher who gains leverage with his strong straight-ahead charge off the snap…Stays in control, going low in his stance and extending his arms properly to grab, contain and wrap before the tackle…Has a sharp drive coming off the edge as a pass rusher and uses his short area speed to collapse the pocket and bring down the quarterback in the backfield…Can excel as a rush end in the "46" defense, but his speed could see him shift to strongside linebacker in the pros.
Negatives: Lacks overall bulk to prevent blockers from locking on and riding him wide… His slight frame causes the larger blockers to cover him up and push him around in traffic…Despite his quickness, he shows inconsistencies playing off the edge while in a three-point stance, feeling more comfortable standing upright.
Late bloomer who came into his own as a senior…Has incredible quickness for a player his size, taking advantage of that speed to be a consistent and disruptive force in the opposing backfield…Registered 103 tackles with five quarterback sacks and 12 stops behind the line of scrimmage during his career.
Positives: Shows quickness getting on the edge of the offensive linemen…Holds his ground firmly at the point of attack…Rolls his hips effectively, showing good foot agility in the two-gap… Uses his hands with aggression while shedding…Faces up and delivers good striking ability working in the short area…Creates problems in the backfield with his acceleration and uses his hands well to push the pocket….Shows good change of direction agility with an explosive burst to the quarterback.
Negatives: Slow to locate the ball at times and it take awhile for him to digest the play… Has to stay lower in his stance, as he takes too many unnecessary shots to his legs…Will try to outmuscle blockers and his lack of size causes problems when he attempts that… Will take plays off…Has to develop better rip-&-swim moves to prevent from being washed out when redirecting inside…Was suspended in 1999 after being charged in a hit-&-run accident.
The All-Southeastern Conference choice has been a mainstay on the defensive line from his "Bandit" end position since his freshman year…In 42 contests, he totaled 167 tackles (90 solos) with 12 sacks for 91 yards and 29 stops for losses of 122 yards…He recovered four fumbles while causing five others and deflected eight passes.
Positives: Has a wide upper body and lower frame with good muscle development and thick hips and thighs…Plays at a low pad level, showing the sudden burst needed coming out of his stance and the strong arm swipes to defeat combo blocks…Has a strong forward burst off the snap, using his strength and leg drive to gain leverage on the blocker…Delivers a sudden hand jolt to keep his opponents on their heels…Very quick coming off the edge and shows the instinctiveness to diagnose the play and make quick decisions on the way to flush out the quarterback…Has very effective rip-&-swim moves to flash through the gaps…Shows excellent balance, leaping over fallen blockers with no hesitation to close on the ball…Has the speed rush moves needed to consistently collapse the pocket.
Negatives: Even though his high motor is an asset, it also is a hindrance, as he plays out of control at times, struggling to change directions during the chase…Needs to add some more bulk to his frame to prevent the larger blockers from shutting him down upon contact…Has had a series of right hip flexor problems…While fast to chase after the ball, he shows inconsistencies when having to pursue the ball away from his territory…While cleared of charges, he was suspended in 2000 when arrested for felony drug distribution after driving a friend to deliver cocaine.
Valuable reserve who has seen action at both defensive end and tackle…Came to the school as a partial qualifier, but was granted a fifth year of eligibility, as he is on course to graduate in the NCAA's specified period…Missed the 2000 season when he was arrested and later suspended from the team, but the coaching staff has praised his work ethic and determination to prove that he learned from his costly mistake…Finished his career with 79 tackles (30 solos), two sacks for minus 14 yards and five stops for losses of 25 yards in 32 games.
Positives: All-out battler who has been compared to former Cougar and present Atlanta Falcon, Travis Hall, for his superb lateral agility and high intensity level…Has the short area quickness to turn the corner and delivers a punishing initial jolt…Has an assortment of rush moves and the spin ability to redirect inside…Attacks the outside hard and keeps his balance while holding his ground firmly vs. the power charge…Comes off the snap low and is very active using his hands to shed… Shows suddenness in his forward charge…Has the leg drive to stack the pile and the long wingspan to make tackles on the perimeter…Very effective at disrupting the passing game with his long arms, as he will either block the quarterback's vision or bat down the pass.
Negatives: Appears very rigid trying to change direction, appearing to hesitate before moving laterally…Relies so much on his forward burst, he will take himself out of the plays by over-pursuing…Needs to be more aggressive with his hands, as blockers can get inside his chest to gain leverage…Can be controlled by the combo blocks, as he needs to stay lower in his stance.
Late bloomer who originally began his career at Brigham Young, only to transfer to Snow Junior College before returning to the Cougars as a junior…Finally was given an opportunity to start as a senior with the new coaching staff in place…Teamed with Ryan Denney to give the Cougars the premier pass rush tandem in the Mountain West Conference…Finished his career with 66 tackles (39 solos), nine quarterback sacks and 19 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Positives: Compactly built with a thick chest and legs…Intense tackler who is very quick off the snap and possesses a wide array of rush moves…Two-gap run stuffer with the change of direction ability to string plays wide and make tackles on the outside…Uses his hands well and maintains his balance while avoiding low blocks…Has an explosive initial step to redirect sharply to the inside and fires low off the snap with a powerful thrust… Dynamic outside pass rusher who has the lateral agility to easily beat blockers to the inside gap…Pursues hard and takes proper angles to the ball carrier…His fluid hip swerve allows him to easily collapse the pocket…Could shift inside in a 4-3 alignment.
Negatives: Shorter than desired for a defensive end…Even though he has good short area speed, he lacks the sustained quickness to drop off in pass coverage…Needs to use his hands better to combat the low blocks…Does not always get his arms extended, resulting in blockers getting into his chest…Lacks the leaping ability and height to disrupt the short area passing game at the line.
Four-year starterwho was one of the most dominating pass rushers in school history, ranking fourth on the Tigers' career-record list with 20 sacks for minus 123 yards…Started 39 of 41 games at LSU, recording 184 tackles (108 solos) with 38 stops for losses of 165 yards.
Positives: Lean, athletic pass rusher with a frame that can add additional bulk without any dropoff in quickness…Has an explosive initial burst, getting his hands up quickly on his rise from his stance to get into the blocker's chest…Plays with awareness and shows the instincts needed to diagnose and read the plays…Combats double team blocking with true aggression, playing with leverage vs. the run…Has a hard charge chasing from the back-side, displaying proper body lean off the corner…Displays good power upon contact to wrap and take down when tackling…Has a very quick swim move and excels at flushing the quarterback out of the pocket…Knows how to use his hands to control and adjust off blocks…His quickness and pass rushing skills could see him shift to outside linebacker at the pro level.
Negatives: Marginal size hurts him at times trying to defeat multiple blockers…Needs to develop more arm power and use his hands with more force coming out of his stance…Has had problems in the classroom, but has greatly improved his work ethic on the field.
School legacy, following his father, former running back Zachary Dixon (1977-78) to play for the Owls…All-out hustler who plays until the whistle sounds…Started 33 of 37 games he played in at Temple…Finished with 160 tackles (87 solos), 11 sacks, 30 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 35 quarterback pressures.
Positives: Hard upfield pass rusher who is very quick off the snap…Has a good feel for blocks and is very productive on stunts…Can redirect inside with an explosive initial step…Comes off the ball with good body lean…Plays with leverage, keeping his pad level low to prevent from getting washed down by blocks…Keeps his shoulders squared when moving laterally…Active in pursuit, using his power to get through traffic well…Comes hard off the edge, showing good shiftiness in his attack…Flashes cat-like quickness and good reaction movements…Uses his hands well to keep blockers away from his body.
Negatives: More move-oriented, as he does not work through contact with power, at times… Struggles to anchor and read vs. the run…Has a problem defeating blocks vs. the larger foes… Plays out of control at times and can be ridden wide too easily.
Two-year starter with a relentless motor…Finished his career with 137 tackles (96 solos), 12 sacks for minus 77 yards and 25 stops for losses of 102 yards.
Positives: Shows the instincts to quickly locate the ball…Stays on his feet and gets a good hand jolt and punch to defeat blocks on the edge…Has a low center of gravity and fine balance stringing the plays wide…Stays low in his stance to extend his arms and wrap tackle…Great worker in the weight room and has a relentless motor on the field…Has the leaping ability to bat down passes at the line…Sacrifices his body to take on the combo blocks.
Negatives: Has poor overall body definition…Could receive a medical reject due to his knock-knees (said they are so bad, he can not even wear braces)…Frame has reached its maximum, which is a problem, as he generally gives up forty plus pounds to the offensive linemen…Has a good motor, but tends to take plays off…His lack of lower leg drive allows the blockers to easily turn him away from the play…Pulls up instantly when the play is not directed at him and seems sluggish in his lateral movements…Straight-ahead charger who does not show the ability to get into that extra gear needed to flush the quarterback out… All but disappears when matched in a very physical confrontation.
Tough player who provided quickness and leadership to a young Eagles defensive unit…Moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, collecting 118 tackles (81 solos) with 18.5 sacks for minus 107 yards and 23 stops for losses of 110 yards.
Positives: Muscular pass rusher who excels in backside pursuit…Has the speed to turn the corner and redirects sharply to the inside…Very effective using his hands to get a strong push off the blockers in pass rushing situations…Able to dip his shoulder to generate a surge off the snap…Can bend his knees and leverage blocks…Disruptive penetrator who attacks the outside hard with speed…Avoids low blocks well & has the agility to swing his hips around to escape the traffic on the way into the backfield…Very good at positioning his body and rarely gives up ground while shedding…Slides well laterally and re-directs well in the open…Has a fluid change of direction in space…Shows good foot technique accelerating to the ball…Relentless in pursuit, using his power well to burst into the backfield.
Negatives: Battles a little too high and sometimes stops his feet, rather than driving through, when making the tackle…Tends to stay on the ground when leveled, rather than getting up quickly to bounce back into the play…Not as big as one would like and lacks the sudden burst you want from an edge rusher, despite his abundance of speed…Has a great upper body definement, but he's not equally powerful in the leg department, giving way to the more physical blockers…Looks stiff at times coming off the edge, needing to utilize his great speed better.
Valuable performer coming off the bench, providing superb pass rushing ability for the Bulldogs…Despite starting only seven of 43 games he played in, he registered 18 sacks for minus 165 yards, 17 additional stops behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 10 yards and 37 quarterback pressures…His 18 sacks rank fifth on the school's career-record charts, topped only by Richard Tardits (29, 1985-88), Jimmy Payne (28, 1978-82), Mitch Davis (27.5, 1990-93) and Freddie Gilbert (26, 1980-83)…35 of his 74 career tackles (50 solos) were from behind the line of scrimmage…Intercepted two passes and deflected three others…Also caused three fumbles.