January 25, 2006

The Breakdown: Defensive linemen

In "The Breakdown," veteran talent scout Randy Rodgers is analyzing film of a select group of the nation's top prospects for Rivals.com. Rodgers has more than 35 years of experience in the college recruiting arena. He was the recruiting coordinator at the University of Illinois (1988-91) and the University of Texas (1992-97) and is one of the leading authorities on high school football talent analysis in the country. In this edition, Rodgers takes a look at defensive linemen.

Defensive ends
Eddie Jones, 6-3, 240, Kilgore (Texas) Video
Jones is the best athlete playing DE in Texas. He has outstanding quickness off the snap. While not tall, he is a good jumper and has the ability to bat balls at the line of scrimmage. He is an excellent pass rusher, relying on moves and his first step ... shows a tremendous burst to the ball when disengaging. Because he is a three-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball), he hasn't had a lot of concentrated weight training, but he is naturally explosive and his strength level should really ramp up when he gets into the college strength and conditioning routine. I like his lateral movement and ability to play in space. He may be a good enough athlete to possibly be a hybrid DE/OLB. He has the ability to play a read-and-react technique, yet still get to the ball on plays away from him. Might be a spot player as a pass rusher as a freshman.
Brandon Warren, 6-2, 230, Alcoa (Tenn.) Video
A bit undersized as a DE, but a tremendous edge rusher. Appears to have long arms, has an excellent first step and gets up field quickly. He has a real burst to the ball once he clears blockers and is unique in that he is athletic enough to play DE and WR. Shows excellent hands, and leaping ability on offense. Definitely has "pad" speed, because the number of breakaway runs on his tape indicate he is much faster than the 4.8 listed. He has enough athletic ability to possibly be a TE but isn't tall. He might also be an OLB with primary pass rush responsibilities.
Ricky Sapp, 6-4, 225, Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt Video
Has good height. His excellent takeoff makes him an outstanding pass rusher. He plays with excellent pad level, and if he could grow enough, he could be an inside player. Very explosive, has excellent lateral movement, can take on and shed blockers. Excellent in pursuit. Has played as a standup OLB in the past and shows ability to play in space. He will have a learning curve because of level of high school competition, but he has the combination of speed and size to play three different positions in college.
Deantwan Whitehead, 6-6, 245, Birmingham (Ala.) West End Video
Tremendous size and excellent speed. Has a very good initial takeoff, shows the ability to make both swim and rip pass rush moves. He clearly could be a speed rusher off the edge but has the size you are looking for in a 5-technique. Needs to improve his upper body strength and ability to shed blockers, but can rely on size and speed at the high school level. Good tackler. Could fit well into both odd and even front defenses, which gives him flexibility for early college playing time.
Lamarr Houston, 6-2, 257, Colorado Springs (Colo.) Doherty Video
Really plays more inside than DE. Current size and bulk indicate he should grow into an excellent DT in college. Has both swim and power pass rush techniques. I really like his strength and pad level play. Shows excellent change of direction and agility. Is really impressive in his effort and ability to make plays in pursuit. Has one of those proverbial fast motors that college coaches love. I think his playing speed is much faster than his testing speed.

Randy Rodgers' DE Comparison:
I like Ricky Sapp and Eddie Jones best because of their speed, burst and big play ability. They are disrupters. Sapp can play as a standup player which is a bonus. Brandon Warren is another tremendous athlete who could play a variety of spots. I see Whitehead as a true 5-technique, and I see Houston as a guy who will move inside in college.

Defensive tackles
Al Woods, 6-4, 329, Elton (La.) Video
Dominating player on both sides of the ball. Needs to be able to lower his pad level vs. contact, but has the size and strength to get away with it. Does most of his disengaging and blocking with his hands and arms instead of bending knees and using leg power. Defensively, he has an excellent takeoff, plays with a fast motor and shows good speed in chase plays. Definitely a bull rusher who will wind up playing inside. Has real football speed for a big man. Offensively, he showcases his mobility with a lot of pulls. Because of his fast motor and mobility, he should have a much better chance of contributing defensively early in his career. Defensive tackle is a much higher recruiting priority than offensive guard.
Gerald McCoy, 6-4, 305, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Southeast Video
Great size and potential. Has a really fast first step and excellent takeoff on the snap. Plays with a really good pad level and has real field strength. The pile goes down when he arrives. Despite size, he is more than a bull rusher ... shows a swim and rip in pass rush situations. Very good on lateral steps, would be a terror as a slant nose, but athletic enough to be a two-gap player. Absolutely dominates at the point of attack ... can get a push and collapse the pocket vs. the pass. It would be hard to imagine this kid not being in the DL rotation as a true freshman.

Randy Rodgers' Defensive Tackle Comparison:
Both are outstanding big men. I like McCoy better because he is fundamentally better. He has a natural knee bend, plays with good pad level and has much better lateral quickness. Woods has potential on both sides of the ball, but without improving his pad level play, he won't have as much chance to get in the rotation as a freshman. Improvement in his technique allows him the opportunity to use his considerable body strength and bulk. I am told Woods plays in a small classification and it appears that he is much bigger than opponents.

More Breakdowns:
Quarterbacks | Backs/Receivers | Offensive linemen | Linebackers | Defensive backs

For more of Randy Rodgers recruiting analysis, check out his website, randyrodgersrecruiting.com.

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