Here are 10 defensive linemen to watch this upcoming college football season:
Morgan Breslin, USC
The Buzz: The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Trojan lineman is one of the best rushers in the country, registering 13 sacks in 2012, which was tied for first in the Pac-12 with Arizona State’s Will Sutton. He also finished the season with 19.5 tackles for a loss, which was good enough for fourth in the league.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
The Buzz: All you need to know about Clowney was represented in his legendary hit against Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl. A fierce defender, Clowney finished the season with 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss, which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference. If he stays healthy, he’s a sure bet to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Scott Crichton, Oregon State
The Buzz: Crichton’s presence on the defensive line was one of the main reasons Oregon State finished the season ranked third in the Pac-12 in total defense. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end led the team in tackles for a loss (17.5) and sacks (9). He had three games with multiple sacks in 2012 and will be key to Oregon State’s success in 2013.
Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
The Buzz: It will be part of Aaron Donald’s job to help the Panthers as they make the transition from the Big East to the ACC this season. A two-time All-Big East performer, Donald led the league in tackles for loss (18.5) while registering 64 tackles and 5.5 sacks to help Pitt finish with the third-best defense in the Big East behind Connecticut and Rutgers.
Dominique Easley, Florida
The Buzz: While injuries limited his time on the front line in 2012, Easley continued to show improvement when he was on the field. He led the Gators in sacks (4) and had 26 tackles including 8.5 tackles for loss. He registered 3.5 tackles for loss against Louisville in the Sugar Bowl. His play will go far in determining just how good Florida is this season.
Devonte Fields, TCU
The Buzz: Fields impact was almost instantaneous as the defensive end quickly made himself known to Big 12 offenses. He led the league in tackles for loss (18.5) and was third in sacks (10) an accomplishment that earned him freshman of the year honors as well as defensive player of the year honors as well.
Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
The Buzz: The Broncos were first in the Mountain West in total defense thanks, in part, to the 6-foot-3, 242-pound junior college transfer. Despite several off-field incidents, Lawrence still led the league in sacks (9.5) and was tied for first in tackles for loss (13.5). He also forced four fumbles as well.
Chris Smith/Trey Flowers, Arkansas
The Buzz: Smith and Flowers were one of the best defensive end combos in the country in 2012. The duo combined for 102 tackles (Smith 52, Flowers 50) including 26 (Smith 13, Flowers 13.) tackles for loss. They also led the team with 15.5 sacks (Smith 9.5, Flowers 6.0) combined along with a forced fumble by Smith.
Will Sutton, Arizona State
The Buzz: An All-American, Sutton was a terror to offenses across the Pac-12. He finished the season with 63 tackles including a Pac-12 leading 23.5 tackles for loss. His 13 sacks was good enough to lead the league as well. His presence on the defensive line has made him a threat and earned him the league’s top defensive honor.
Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
The Buzz: At 6-foot-6, 300-pouns, Tuitt was the anchor on a Notre Dame defensive line that was one of the keys to its undefeated regular season. As a sophomore, Tuitt led the team in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (12) while forcing three fumbles. He’s recovering from a sports hernia that limited him this spring.
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