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Scout’s notebook: defensive review

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Observations and analysis from the fifth week of the college football season, including thoughts about some of the nation’s top defensive prospects.

A roaring Red Wolf

The play of Arkansas State defensive end Alex Carrington left a favorable impression on me after his performance Saturday vs. Iowa. Carrington is a big, thickly built lineman at 6-5, 284 pounds and does a great job using his length and short-area quickness to shed blocks and make his way toward the football. He did an impressive job this weekend against Iowa’s physical right tackle, Kyle Calloway, setting the edge in the run game and defeating blocks at the point of attack. He also looked fluid and sudden as a pass rusher and did a great job beating blocks to the inside, keeping his pad level down and surging toward the quarterback. He isn’t a quick-twitch type of athlete who has the ability to consistently reach the corner and threaten the edge when rushing the passer, but his combination of size, length and body control makes me think he has the makings of a potential starting-caliber 3-4 or 4-3 DE in the NFL.

On the mend

Miami defensive end Eric Moncur is finally starting to look healthy and has done a nice job adding a spark to the Hurricanes defense so far this year. He’s an undersized lineman at 6-2, 250, but he showcases good technique in the run game and uses his hands well to disengage from blocks and make plays on the edge. He’s also a very effective pass rusher and gave Oklahoma LT Trent Williams all he could handle 1v1 in pass protection. Moncur displays a good initial first step, with the body control to drop his pad level around the corner or break off a quick “up and under move” inside. He finished Saturday night vs. Oklahoma with five tackles and one quarterback hurry and looks like a guy who could certainly find a niche as a nickel rusher or even play as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.

A sack machine

Another pass rusher I was finally able to watch last weekend was Texas A&M’s Von Miller, who was very impressive again against Arkansas. Miller finished the game with four tackles, two for loss, one sack and currently leads the nation in sacks with nine. He’s a DE/OLB tweener at 6-3, 240 but showcases the ability to really fire off the ball, drop his pad level and accelerate when turning the corner. He does a nice job cleanly changing directions in space and has a nose for the ball in both the run and pass game. Miller created a lot of havoc behind the line of scrimmage early against the Arkansas offense and is a guy who’s rarely blocked 1v1 on the outside. He looks like an ideal 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level and should certainly be able to enhance a team’s pass rush off the edge.

Bulk needed

The play of Minnesota OLB Simoni Lawrence runs about as hot and cold as any defensive prospect I’ve see so far this year. On one play, you’re likely to see the undersized 6-1, 221-pound linebacker run sideline to sideline, close on the ball instantly and make a play in pursuit. However, on the next play you might see him get completely washed out at the point of attack or not wrap up on contact and allow the ball carrier to break his tackle. Lawrence certainly possesses the range and closing speed to play in a Cover 2 scheme at the next level, but he’s a finesse guy who really struggles vs. any type of contact and needs to continue getting stronger and adding bulk to his frame to have any shot of playing on Sundays.

Big-time DT prospect you may not know

Sure, Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith isn’t exactly a household name, but boy, did he ever impress me vs. Hawaii. Smith finished with three tackles, two for loss, two sacks and was simply a man among boys inside for the Bulldogs. He exhibits a muscular-looking lower half in which he coils up well and really explodes off the ball. He showcases the flexibility to consistently keep his pad level down off the snap and can absolutely overwhelm opposing offensive lineman on contact. Smith displays only average shiftiness as a pass rusher, but it’s his initial burst that allows him to gain a step inside, and from there he simply uses his power to drive his way into the backfield. He plays with a motor that runs non-stop, and you can tell the guy has a passion for the game. He needs to learn to do a better job using his hands to disengage from blocks, and his pad level tends to rise once he gets tired (like any other defensive lineman), but Smith has been downright dominant at times this season and looks like a starting-caliber interior lineman at the next level.

Tigers fail to impress

In my Saturday primer, I wrote briefly about the talent along the interior of both the Georgia and LSU defensive lines. However, after watching the game, I came away less than impressed with the performances of LSU’s starting defensive tackles, Charles Alexander and Al Woods. Alexander is a tall, long-armed lineman who plays too high and doesn’t exhibit the type of pad level to be real effective at the point of attack. He’s easily sealed away from any kind of inside run plays and struggles to disengage from blocks vs. the pass. As for Woods, he’s a much thicker, more powerful lineman who displays the ability to anchor inside and be stout at the point of attack. However, he doesn’t use his hands well enough to shed blocks and doesn’t possess the body control or range to make any kind of a play away from his frame. The two combined for only one tackle vs. Georgia and looked like nothing more than a pair of free-agent prospects.

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