There are a lot of quality defensive linemen out there this season. These are the ones that I have seen and I think are the best of the best. Please let me know if you think somebody else is better than a player on my list.
1. Mario Edwards Jr- Florida State. (6-3, 280) Super Mario may not be the best Defensive
Lineman going in, but I believe he will be the best during the season as he steps up to help offset the loss of Timmy Jernigan. Edwards is super quick with his reported 4.6 40 speed and very strong and aggressive. Look for Edwards to be a top 5 NFL pick after this season as this kind of talent does not grow on trees.
2. A’Shawn Robinson- Alabama. (6-4,320) It was a real toss up between Edwards and Robinson for number 1 position here. Robinson was a 5 star guy out of Texas that broke the Longhorns heart at the last moment when he signed with the Crimson Tide and was a star from day one. It will be interesting to see if he becomes even better as a sophomore and junior before declaring for the NFL draft. 8 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a true freshman impressed the normal football fan. There was some debate early on whether he was best suited for offense or defense but he cleared that up for the nation pretty early on in his career.
3. Robert Nkemdiche- Ole Miss. (6-5, 295) #1 recruit in his class a couple of years ago and has lived mostly by hype so far, although it is hard to say that with him just now being a sophomore. He did manage 2 sacks and 8 tackles for loss in 2013. Nkemdiche has moved inside to Defensive Tackle and should be a monster there in 2014. Like Edwards, he possesses excellent 40 speed running in the 4.6 area and at 295 that is simply incredible.
4. Leonard Williams- USC. (6-5,290) Don’t worry, SEC guys, Williams is from Daytona Beach, Florida. No matter which side of the Mississippi River he is from, he is a very talented and
productive player coming up with 73 tackles his sophomore year, plus 12.5 for loss and 5 sacks. Williams was second on the Trojans in tackles last season and 2014 should be more of the same and then he is gone for the NFL. New Defensive Coordinator, Justin Wilcox, should have a talented defense next season at USC and he is one of the top young coordinators in the country.
5.Cedric Reed – Texas. (6-6, 260) Reed is a big, quick true Defensive End in a 4 man front. He had 77 total tackles and 16.5 of those for loss. He was 2nd on the team in sacks at 10 and had 12 QB hurries and 5 fumbles forced. Reed was quietly one of the better players in the entire country and he has that one thing that scouts are looking for, height. Now days, everybody started calling it Length because of the talking heads on ESPN, so call it length if you like but you can’t coach that part of the game. Expect Reed to have a huge year with the hiring of defensive minded Charlie Strong who had one of the great defenses in the country at Louisville and before that at Florida. Reed is a senior that elected to return for his senior year.
6. Randy Gregory- Nebraska. (6-6,255) Gregory is like Reed and will be popular with scouts because he is 6-6 and very quick and aggressive. Gregory was a JC transfer into Nebraska and wrecked havoc from day one. Originally, from Fishers, Indiana and signed with Purdue. Gregory had 1 interception and he ran that back 33 yards for a TD. He also had 1 fumble return, 65 tackles, 16 Tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and 15 qb hurries. He should be the premier Defensive End in the Big 10 this season and a very productive player. He has some time left in Lincoln and he has a real chance of becoming a really special player for the Huskers.
7. Vic Beasley- Clemson (6-2,235) Beasley would be ranked much higher if he were bigger. He’s more of a LB sized DE, but still very, very productive. Beasley is just too quick for most Offensive Linemen not playing for Florida State. Beasley returns for his senior year after a very successful 2013. He had 1 fumble return for a 13 yard TD, 23 tackles for loss, 41 tackles, and 13 sacks.
Beasley is tied for the top returning sack guy in the country and should be in for more of the same in 2014 as the Tigers return everybody up front on their defense. Should be an OLB in the NFL some day. The senior from Adairsville, Georgia has 21 career sacks for the Tigers with another year to go.
8. Hau’oli Kikaha- Washington. (6-3,250) Sometimes Kikaha looks unblockable. He is a senior from Laie, Hawaii and he also had 13 sacks in 2013. 70 total tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. Kikaha has a motor that doesn’t stop. Like Beasley, Kikaha may be more suited for OLB at the next level and I am sure he has the quickness to excel at that position as well. He missed all of 2012 and had 2 reconstructive surgeries on his knee. Seems to be completely back from his injury. Very hungry and aggressive player for the Huskies. Kikaha has maintained a 3.5 GPA while at Washington.
9. Shilique Calhoun- Michigan State. (6-4,250) Calhoun is a big play guy from Middletown, New Jersey. He had 2 fumble returns for TDs, and one interception returned for a TD as well. He got his hands on the ball with 3 turnovers and scored on all of them. When Calhoun wasn’t scoring for his team, he was making 37 tackles with 14 of those being for losses. Calhoun also sacked the opposing QB 7.5 times and hurried them 18 more times. Michigan State had one of the top defenses in the country last season and they were a pleasure to watch and Calhoun was one of their leaders.
10. Chris Casher- Florida State. (6-4,260) Casher was a part time guy last season as a freshman and he got in some serious trouble off the field recently. But, that doesn’t take away from his football talent. Casher is another one of those guys that runs in the 4.6s and has talent to spare. Florida State will have another talented set of Defensive Ends kind of like from their glory days. The Mobile, Alabama product had 25 total tackles a season ago with 5 for losses and he sacked the QB a couple of times and hurried them a couple more. Casher is a very solid to spectacular player for the Seminoles and they have one of the top defenses in the country. Casher brings an extra burst of speed off the corner that most players don’t have. I am pulling for the kid and I hope his recent problems with the law were a fluke and he puts his heart and soul into becoming the great football player he can be.
11. Ryan Mueller- Kansas State. (6-2,245) Mueller is kind of like Beasley and Kikaha in that he is undersized but he brings it on every play. Leawood is from Leawood, Kansas and is super aggressive and totaled 62 tackles a year ago. He had 18.5 tackles for loss and he had 10.5 sacks. Mueller had 6 passes broken up and a very impressive 4 fumbles forced. The only guys that return for their senior years right now seem to be the undersized guys, so I am excited we have these guys. They make college football more fun to watch. Mueller is not the most physically gifted defensive linemen out there, but he’s solid on game day. Looks like the typical Kansas State hard working guy playing for an outstanding hard working coach that put the Wildcats on the map, Bill Snyder.
12. Trey Flowers-Arkansas. (6-4, 260) Flowers is not an undersized guy and he decided to return for his senior season. Flowers is really good finishing 2013 with 44 total tackles with 13.5 of those being for losses. Flowers had 5 sacks and 5 more QB hurries. He also forced 3 fumbles and broke up 2 passes. Very productive player for the Hogs and should go fairly high in the NFL draft depending on how he does at the combine. Flowers is from Huntsville, Alabama and somehow the Pigs stole him out from under the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.
Golden had 55 tackles, 13 of those for losses. Markus Golden also had 6.5 sacks for Missouri in their surprising 2013 SEC East Championship. Golden is also well thought of by NFL scouts and should have an outstanding 2014 season and then take his talents to the NFL. I will personally be watching to see whether Golden or Flowers has the better 2014 season.
14. Charles Tapper- Oklahoma. (6-4, 260) Actually, Golden, Flowers and Tapper are also similar players. Tapper was excellent last season and he made 49 tackles and 9 of those were for losses. Tapper had 5.5 sacks in 2013. Tapper is one of the new breed of Oklahoma Sooners that come from all across the country, as he is from Baltimore, Maryland. Expect Oklahoma to step back into the national title picture this season and for Tapper to be a huge part of that. Tapper and Eric Striker, Frank Shannon, Dominique Alexander and Zach Sanchez are quality defenders for the Sooners.
15. Grady Jarrett- Clemson. Clemson has a horde of quality defensive linemen returning in 2014 and Jarrett is one of their best. He is 6-1, 295 and had 59 total tackles last season. 10.5 of those
tackles were for loss. He also had 2 sacks and 3 qb hurries. Clemson offense took some hits to graduation but the defense should be much better this season and part of that will be due to Grady Jarrett. Jarrett is a difficult guy to block. The pride of Conyers, Georgia.
Jarrett is a little on the short side to find much love from the size obsessed NFL, but he is a good player.