Posted by Walter
Onto the best of 2007 on the defensive side of the football........
1) Calais Campbell, Miami (Jr.) - While most people in the country don't yet know about Calais Campbell, we here at the 323 have been on board since day one. Campbell is everything you want in a defensive end. He is HUGE at 6'8'' and 280 lbs. so he is naturally stout against the run, but what is most impressive is how quickly he can penetrate and get to the QB or running back in the backfield. Campbell made a TON of plays in 2006 as his 10 sacks and ridiculous 20 (!!) tackles for a loss indicate. I saw Campbell absolutely dominate Boston College last season and tabbed him as a potential #1 overall pick.....today I stand by that prediction.
2) Lawrence Jackson, USC - Jackson burst onto the scene as a sophomore but had a huge backslide in 2006 registering only 4 sacks and looking lethargic at times. Still Jackson's talent and physical abilities are undeniable. He has a great frame at 6'5'', but could stand to add a few more pounds so long as he doesn't lose any quickness. Jackson is not the overall prospect of Campbell, but he has the size and skill to dominate.
The best of the rest.........
3) Tommy Blake, TCU (Jr.) - Blake is an outstanding athlete with tons of potential, who is always in the backfield.
4) Bruce Davis, UCLA - Way too skinny at under 240 lbs., but the NFL loves speed rushers and Davis is amongst the best.
5) Chris Long, Virginia - Some think he is just a name, but Chris has his dad's size (6'4'' 284 lbs.) and nasty demeanor.
Keep an eye on.......
Quenton Groves, Auburn - Groves has had a lot of off field issues, but when he has played he has made his presence known. Groves is a freakish athlete at 6'4'' and over 250 lbs., and he is still very undeveloped with room to grow. Groves has the most potential of any of the senior defensive end prospects, as his 9.5 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss indicate. If Groves could ever get a full season under his belt he'd really be something.
1) Glen Dorsey, LSU - Many NFL personnel directors were disappointed when Dorsey decided to stay in school....he's that good. Dorsey would have been a consensus top 10 pick in 2007 and should be a potential top 5 pick in 2008. At 6'2'' and 284 lbs. Dorsey may be viewed as a potential 3-4 end in the pros, but he is definitely good enough to be a dominant three technique tackle a la Warren Sapp.
2) Frank Okam, Texas - Okam is the next in the long, seemingly unending, line of great Longhorn defensive lineman. Like many who came before him, Okam is a physically dominant presence along the defensive front. At 6'5'' and 315 lbs. Okam is difficult to move, although he needs to maintain his leverage more consistently. He doesn't have the pure pass rushing potential of Dorsey, but Okam is a rock in the middle of a defense.
The best of the rest.......
3) Sedrick Ellis, USC - Solid prospect who has underachieved thus far in his career.
4) Andre Fluellen, Florida State - Constantly overshadowed by higher profile players on the Seminole defense, Fluellen has developed into a fine player himself.
5) Roy Miller, Texas (Jr.) - Overshadowed by Okam, but Miller is a solid prospect who may project better as a 3-4 end.
Keep an eye on.......
Marcus Harrison, Arkansas - The Razorbacks defense lost a lot of talent this offseason and they will need Harrison to step up physically and as a leader. Harrison has all the tools to succeed but will need to assert himself to live up to his potential. At 6'3'' and 310 lbs. Harrison has the size and strength to stay inside, so he needs a big senior campaign.
1) Dan Connor, Penn State - A pure outside backer, Connor is almost the prospect that Paul Poszusny was going into 2006. Blessed with great triangle numbers, Connor finally came into his own in 2006 by putting some off the field troubles behind him. How Connor plays in 2007, without Puz and Tim Shaw flanking him, will be the true test as to whether Connor has become the player we all thought he'd be when he arrived at Happy Valley.
2) Vince Hall, Virginia Tech - A bit shorter than you'd like at 6'0'', but Hall is a classic football player. As an inside backer he has the ability to make plays all over the field and never seems to be out of position. Hall is a smart and productive player, and reminds me a lot of HB Blades in this year's draft. If the Virginia Tech defense turns out to be everything we think it will be in 2007, Hall will slowly climb up draft boards, as well as become a household name.
The best of the rest......
3) Johnathan Goff, Vanderbilt - Rated as the top ILB by many pundits, Goff is a physical specimen.
4) Ali Highsmith, LSU - Highsmith is another supremely talented Tiger defensive player who should climb draft boards all season.
5) Brian Toal, Boston College - Toal has been somewhat of an underachiever, but he can put all that behind him with a huge senior season.
Keep an eye on......
Jolonn Dunbar, Boston College - Although very undersized for a Mike backer at 6'0'' 230 lbs., Dunbar has consistently outplayed Toal for three seasons. Dunbar isn't great taking on blocks, but he makes a ton of plays sideline to sideline and is a real factor in the Eagles' pass defense. With so many NFL teams playing the Tampa 2 defense, which requires an athletic Middle Backer who can drop into the deep middle, Dunbar could be a real surprise at the next level.
1) Antoine Cason, Arizona - There were some, myself included, who felt Cason was the best cornerback in America going into the 2006 season. Although Cason returned to school, it wasn't because he disappointed. He was dominant all season for the Wildcats, and his signature performance came when he shut down USC's Dwayne Jarrett (something only he and Arkansas' Chris Houston were able to do). Cason is equally adept at man and zone, and is a much surer tackler than he's given credit for. He projects as a great NFL player.
2) Zack Bowman, Nebraska - Bowman has a ton of talent, but he has a terrible injury history having several major surgeries while in college. In a way he is a lot like former Seminole corner Antonio Cromartie who was taken in the first round by San Diego. Bowman has a lot to prove as a Senior, but when he is healthy, there are few better than him in the nation.
The best of the rest......
3) Josh Pinkard, USC - The best of a weak safety group, Pinkard has great size and can cover but will need to prove he is all the way back from an ACL injury.
4) Simeon Castille, Alabama - Castille has outstanding size but his ball skills need work.
5) Kenny Phillips, Miami (Jr.) - A highly touted player, Phillips needs to show that he is more than just hype.
Keep an eye on......
Justin King, Penn State (Jr.) - King was one of the supremely talented Freshman JoePa brought in a few years ago in that heralded class. Since then, King has played offense (WR) and defense (S) and excelled at both. Finally able to focus solely on the defensive side of the ball, King is primed for a breakout season. He is a bit slight at 6'0'' 180 lbs. so his future is probably at corner, not safety.