Quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers get the stats and the headlines, but anyone who knows the game of football will tell you the game is won and lost in the trenches. The defensive line sets the tone for an entire defense. If the defensive line clogs up gaps it frees up the linebackers. If the line gets an effective pass rush it aides in coverage
for the defensive backs.
During last years U.S. Army All-American game the West defensive line established dominance early and often. This year the East defensive line is filled with several big, but athletic tackles and ends. As is the case during most all-star games several of these players will be playing out of position and will have a week to adjust before game time. Today we break down the East defensive line as we prepare for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas on January 7, 2006.
Future Auburn defensive tackle Bart Eddins, 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, from Trinity Presbyterian in Montgomery, Ala., is a very explosive athlete. He is an effort type prospect who is full bore all game long. His quickness off the ball is unmatched. One area that Eddins will need too improve on prior to college will be keeping his pads low consistently. There is an old football cliché out there that "low man wins", and its often true.
Maurice Evans a 6-3, 255 pound, defensive end from Christ the King High in Middle Village, N.Y. is a raw prospect, but has an untapped amount of potential at the next level. He is a very athletic and aggressive player who moves very well and can apply pressure to the quarterback. Evans will have to adjust his game in college and learn to play in a more structured and disciplined scheme.
Corey Hobbs a 6-5, 310 pound, defensive tackle who has committed to the Florida Gators is an intriguing prospect. He is very explosive and lightning quick off the ball; conversely it's that same explosiveness that he needs to control at times and not over penetrate and give up his gap responsibility. Hobbs is one of several defensive linemen in the game who could also play
offense in the future.
Kentucky commitment Micah Johnson at 6-2, 252 pounds, is one of the most athletic big men in the nation and is currently ranked as the No.1 defensive tackle prospect in the country. He is an exceptional athlete who has a tremendous amount of explosive speed and power. Johnson plays linebacker in high school and is outstanding in pursuit, but he seems destined for the defensive line in college, so it will be interesting to see how he performs during the week of practice leading up to the game. It would not shock me to
see him take a few snaps at linebacker or fullback.
Jacques McClendon a 6-3, 275 pound, Tennessee commit from Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., has played end and tackle in high school. McClendon is what is referred to as an effort kid. He is on the go non-stop, and pursues very well for his size. You can tell McClendon relies a lot on natural ability, once he is in college the fundamental side of his game should improve as far as positioning and technique.
Jared Odrick at 6-6, 285 pounds, is perhaps the only other big athlete in the nation who compares to Micah Johnson. Odrick has run a (4.95) 40 yard dash, and a (4.34) short shuttle. The Lebanon, Pa., native has his heart set on defense at the college level, but he has the type of potential to be a future first round NFL draft pick at offensive tackle.
Rob Rose at 6-4, 240 pounds, from Glenville High in Cleveland, Ohio, first showed his wares at last years All-American combine in San Antonio, now he gets a shot in the big game. Rose has the body of an NFL player already. He is very active off the edge, one area he could and will improve is his pass rush ability. At the high school level you can get away with using brute force, not so when you hit the college scene.
Clemson commit Ricky Sapp at 6-5, 225 pounds, from Bamberg Ehrhardt High in Bamburg, SC., will likely be a name you hear frequently in the future. Sapp
has the frame, the wing-span, the speed and athleticism to be a very special player and a dominant force off the edge. The only chink in the armor is at times he tries to rely on his natural gifts and will give up his outside shoulder and break containment, which is a "cardinal sin" in football. Once he learns pass rushing techniques the ACC could be in trouble.