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Scouting The Defensive Ends: Class of 2013


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Here’s a look at the top sophomore defensive end prospects entering the 2010 season.

1. Alex Okafor, Texas – Whether it was Tim Crowder and Brian Robison, Brian Orakpo and Sergio Kindle, or Sam Acho and Lamarr Houston, the Longhorns have a tradition of tandem pass rushers leading their defensive front. This year the expectation is that Okafor will team up with Acho (10 sacks in 2009) to form one of the top duos in the nation when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Even though he didn’t make a single start or record a sack the true-freshman was impressive, providing depth for Mack Brown and company by backing up Kindle and Acho. Okafor was explosive enough to get into the backfield to register two tackles for loss against the run, six quarterback hurries and one forced fumble in his rookie campaign. The Texas native stands in at over 6’4” and weighs about 250 pounds, but is expected to grow into his frame over the next three seasons in Austin. How much bulk he adds during his time as a Longhorn will determine whether or not he remains at defensive end or moves to outside linebacker in a three-four scheme; a similar question that hybrids Orakpo and Kindle had when they entered the NFL Draft. While he is blessed with suburb athleticism we believe Okafor’s upside would be maximized with him playing with his hand on the ground in a four-three scheme…if he can add some more bulk. The skills are there for Okafor to be a terror as a run stopper and a pass rusher. Not just a stellar athlete, the Big XII product is also a high-character person and an excellent student, attributes which are being valued more and more by the NFL.

2009 Stats: 22 tackles, two tackles for loss, no sacks

2. Aldon Smith, Missouri – The Big XII Freshman of the Year as voted by the conference’s coaches was also a Second Team All-Big XII selection by the Associated Press in what was one of the best rookie seasons in 2009, regardless of position. One of the top prospects coming out of the state of Missouri, Smith exceeded the hype as a red-shirt freshman by setting a Missouri single-season record with 11.5 sacks, good enough for third in the conference. He was electric coming off the edge, using his explosive first step, agility, and long arms to beat offensive linemen and penetrate the line of scrimmage. In addition to his top-notch athleticism Smith plays with a high motor; he’s relentless when getting after the quarterback and when he smells a sack he has the closing speed to get all the way to the quarterback. If he continues to develop physically, improve his bull rush, add a variety of moves, and work on his hand technique the Missouri product could be downright unblockable as a pass rusher. Smith also proved to be productive as a run stopper, making an impressive 64 tackles as a freshman including 7.5 for a loss against the run, which is why his rookie campaign was so special. The Tiger is blessed with great length at 6’5”, prototypical for a defensive end. However, at 255 pounds he will need to add some bulk if he is to fit the mold of an NFL trench man, although some believe he may be athletic enough to make the move to outside linebacker in a three-four scheme where he could be a force coming off the edge. Smith will be draft eligible following the 2009 season and while he figures to return for the 2011 season at the very least, depending on how quickly he progresses in all aspects of his game the Missouri native could be temped by the NFL riches.

2009 Stats: 64 tackles, 19 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks

3. Nick Perry, USC – With a team-leading eight sacks in 2009 as a red-shirt freshman for the USC Trojans (tied with Everson Griffin), Perry earned numerous All-American honors based on his pass-rushing prowess. The Michigan native is very quick and limber coming off the edge and gave opposing offensive tackles fits as a situational pass rusher. He put up those impressive totals despite making just made one start in 2009 as a red-shirt freshman. Perry is your prototypical hybrid with the ability to get penetration on passing downs either with his hand on the ground or in a two-point stance. Nevertheless, despite his exceptional performance and sack numbers, Perry was no lock to crack our top three defensive end prospects for 2013. In fact, the Detroit product hasn’t sewed up a spot in the Trojans’ starting lineup as a sophomore—his playing time will have to be earned in 2009. Many believe juniors Armond Armstead and Malik Jackson are the better all-around players, and fellow red-shirt sophomore defensive end Wes Horton will also compete for playing time. First and foremost Perry needs to work on playing the run. He’s a raw in that aspect of the game, lacking the hand placement and overall technique to be a factor in the trenches. To be considered a better all-around player this Man of Troy must work on gaining leverage when engaged, learn to shed blocks and tie up blockers when called upon. At 6’3” and 250 pounds the 20-year-old lineman is undersized, but if he can bulk up and get stronger it will go a long way in solidifying his status as an NFL prospect. The competition at USC could make or break Perry…the talent is there for the sack master to be an impact player.

2009 Stats: 24 tackles, nine tackles for loss, eight sacks


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