This is my list of who I think are the best college Defensive Tackles, not NFL prospects.
1. Dexter Lawrence – Clemson: One of the more incredible physical specimens that college football has ever seen. The former 5 star recruit came into Clemson as a 6-5, 340 with supposedly sub 5.0 speed in the 40. This guy is a monster and as a true freshman, he was 4th on the team in total tackles behind only Linebackers and a Safety. With his massive size, his strength and his quickness, Lawrence is a hard guy for any Offensive Linemen to contain. He seemed fairly equal as a run stopper and as a pass rusher with 6.5 Quarterback sacks and 9 tackles for loss. He should be a 1st
team All American for the next 2 seasons and a first round pick after that.
2. Derrick Nnadi – Florida State: This is not an NFL list, and Nnadi is going to be considered too short for their tastes. But, Nnadi is about 6-1, 315 and one of the more productive Defensive Tackles around. He’s a disrupter and menace to offenses. He generally requires double teams which frees up Linebackers, which doesn’t show up in the statistical categories. If Florida State is going to make a run, if they are going to upset Alabama in their opening game, then it’s going to fall on the unheralded players like Nnadi that take one of the team.
3. Ed Oliver – Houston: Definitely, 5 star recruits turned freshmen Lawrence and Oliver were the top true freshmen Defensive Tackles I’ve seen in all the years of watching football. Oliver could very well have been the top guy on this list. Like Nnadi, he’s not the prototypical sized Tackle at 6-2, 290 but he’s a different level of quick than most Offensive Linemen are used to taking on. Oliver is almost unblock able. Oliver was the first ever 5 star recruit signed by the Houston Cougars and it was done while Tom Herman was coaching them. He’s another guy that has to be accounted for on every play, or he will make you pay.
4. RJ McIntosh – Miami: Just who has the better tandem of Tackles, Clemson, Miami or Michigan? Hard to say, and your defense can’t lose with any of them. That brings me to my next question, who is better, McIntosh, or teammate Kendrick Norton? They are both outstanding. McIntosh might be slighter taller at 6-4, 290 and he is extremely quick. Not only does Miami have one of the best Tackle tandems in the nation, they also have one of the top Defensive Lines from left to right, or right to left. If you are an Offensive Lineman, McIntosh is not a guy you want to see in front of you.
5. Bryan Mone – Michigan: Watch Michigan game film, this guy is tough when he is in the game. I’m totally not worried about the Michigan defense in 2017 with guys like Mone, Hurst, Gary and Winovich. Mone is 6-4, 310 and this is his last big chance at being the guy in the Michigan front. He
has missed plenty of playing time so far, but now is his chance.
6. Da’Ron Payne – Alabama: Payne is a super specimen that’s had to mostly wait his turn for playing time. Payne is 6-2, 320 and he will be a force in the Alabama defensive front. Don’t think because Alabama lost every starting Defensive Lineman that they will be pushovers this season. Far from it, with their recruiting prowess, the machine just rages on. Payne will be a senior and he will surprise.
7. Christian Wilkins – Clemson: A super freshman in his own right in 2015, Wilkins gave way to Dexter Lawrence this season and he even moved outside to Defensive End because of team injuries. Most Defensive Tackles lack the athleticism to play outside, but Wilkins can move. This season, Wilkins moves back to his natural Tackle position.
8. Kendrick Norton – Miami: Norton is a dangerous opponent with good size at 6-3, 305 and excellent quickness. I will never forget the play he chased down Florida State Quarterback Deondre Francois and landed on him, which might have been a penalty. It was not called, but Norton is big, strong and physical. Plus, he’s got a lot of quickness. Both McIntosh and Norton had about 10 tackles for loss and about 2 Quarterback sacks.
9. Trenton Thompson – Georgia: One might have considered Thompson a failure as a pass rusher if not for their bowl game against TCU where he had 3 Quarterback sacks.
10. Maurice Hurst – Michigan: Mo Hurst is ‘only’ 6-2, 285, but he is super quick and difficult to
block. Hurst spent a lot of time last season in other team’s backfields. With only shared playing time, Hurst made 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 Quarterback sacks. Not only 4.5 sacks, but he also hurried the Quarterback another 7 times. Under super Defensive Line coach Greg Mattison’s tutelage, Hurst and Mone just use natural athletic ability, quickness and quality technique to frustrate Offensive Lines and Quarterbacks trying to beat them.
11. Dre’Mont Jones – Ohio State: Excellent freshman Tackle last season that had to play early because of injuries. The 6-3, 290 Jones came in last year and was one of the team’s most productive players and one of their top tacklers.
This season, Jones will split time with previous starter Tracy Sprinkle.
12. Steve Richardson – Minnesota: 6-0, 300 and a nose man. Dude is a beast. I would like to rank him much higher and this guy can really play. He’s always drawing double teams which is what a nose guard should do. He is strong, super quick and very aggressive. The pros will likely turn their noses up at him, but the guy can play at the college level. He is built like a brick. Very tough guy and you can win with guys like Steve Richardson up front. He’s one of my favorite players to watch and with coach Fleck on board now, this team could be really decent. I probably should have him rated closer to #1, but guy is chiseled and hard to block.
13. Vita Vea – Washington: The Huskies had a good defense last season and they played Alabama pretty tough until they wore out later in the game when their own offense could not move the ball at all. Vea is one tough cookie inside at 6-5, 335. He’s tough against either the pass of the run with 5 Quarterback sacks. He teams with Greg Gaines for a formidable front.
BJ Hill – North Carolina State
Justin Jones – North Carolina State
Michael Hill – Ohio State:
Robert Landers _ Ohio State
Davon Hamilton – Ohio State
Jashon Cornell – Ohio State
Poona Ford – Texas
Greg Gaines – Washington
Chris Nelson – Texas
Dontavius Russell – Auburn
Lowell Lotulelel – Utah
Daylon Mack – Texas A%M
Jerry Tillery – Notre Dame
Kahlil McKenzie – Tennessee
Matt Elam – Kentucky
Christian LaCouture – LSU
Olive Sagopulu – Wisconsin
Bijhon Jackson – Arkansas
Joshua Frazier – Alabama
De’Asian Richardson – Louisville
Folorunso Fatukasi – UConn
Scott Pagano – Oregon
Frank Herron – LSU
David Moa – Boise State
Harrison Phillips – Stanford
Demarcus Christmas – Florida State
Drew Bailey – Louisville
Jeremiah Clark – North Carolina
Chris Slayton – Syracuse
Andrew Brown – Virginia
Trey Dishon – Kansas State
Neville Gallimore – OU
Chris Bradley – TCU
Nate Hoff – Indiana
Kingsley Opara – Maryland
Raequan Williams – Michigan State
Mike Panasiuk – Michigan State
Mick Stoltenberg – Nebraska
Carlos Davis – Nebraska
Khalil Davis – Nebraska
Parker Cothren – Penn State
Gelen Robinson – Purdue