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NFL Combine Recap: Defensive Ends

Posted Mar 7, 2014

Combine Recap is a positional review of defensive players ranked as top prospects by NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock in order of his post-combine lists.

2014 NFL Combine Recaps: Offensive Tackles | Guards | Centers | Tight Ends | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Defensive Tackles | Defensive Ends | Linebackers | Cornerbacks | Safeties

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, Jr.

In college: Clowney entered the NFL Draft with a year of college eligibility remaining after experiencing a dip in production during his junior season but is considered by many analysts as the top defensive player on the board. He was second on South Carolina’s team with 11.5 tackles for loss and had three sacks in 2013. Clowney set single-season school records for sacks (13.0) and tackles for loss (23.5) in 2012 when he finished sixth in Heisman voting, became the first sophomore to win the Hendricks Award (top DE), was first-team All-American and All-SEC and a finalist for the Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik awards. He was named SEC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American in 2011 after recording 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks.

On a decrease in stats from 2012 to 2013: “Going into last season I had a lot of high expectations of myself. Things don’t always happen like you plan on,” Clowney said. “I was really trying to break the (career) sack record for us for the next guys coming in. There were a lot of ups and downs but we won 11 games, were 11-2, won our bowl game, finished No. 4 in the country for the first time in South Carolina history, so I was pretty excited about the season. I wasn’t worried about my stats really. A lot of game changing went on when we played teams: quick passes, two-on-one, opposite side runs, but that happens. I wasn’t really worried about my stats, I just wanted to win.

On why he should be selected with the first pick: “The Super Bowl, defense won that game, shut them down, shut them out,” Clowney said. “It takes defense to win championships, hands down. You had a great quarterback in Peyton Manning, hats off to him also, but defense wins the Super Bowl.”

Kony Ealy, Missouri, Jr.

In college: Ealy was named first-team All-SEC in 2013 after recording 43 tackles (30 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles and returned an interception 49 yards for a TD as a junior, starting all 14 games and helping the Tigers win the SEC East. Ealy started 10 of 12 games he played in 2012 and had 37 tackles (18 solo), 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He played in 13 games in 2011 after redshirting in 2010.

On Clowney: “I think he’s very athletic, he’s a freak,” Ealy said. “It’s hard to contain him. And when you do contain him, it frees up a lot of other people. I see a similar game in me as far as being able to double me and freeing up a lot of my other teammates. I think he feeds off his teammates’ energy and I do the same thing. Pretty much the same size. He’s got a couple inches on me but other than that, just going out and competing.”

On being encouraged by what former teammate Sheldon Richardson did in his rookie season: “I have the confidence. I know I can go into the NFL and play right away. It’s just a matter of getting the plays and learning the playbook and when I do that, I’m going to be explosive.” And on what Richardson told him about the NFL: “He says it’s lavish, which means lovely.”

Dee Ford, Auburn, Sr.

In college: Ford was named first-team All-SEC in 2013 after recording 29 tackles (18 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He had two sacks against Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship. Ford had 34 tackles (23 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in starting seven of 11 games he played in 2012. He received a medical redshirt in 2011 because of a back injury. He played in 13 games in 2010 as a sophomore and 13 in 2009 as a freshman. Ford was not cleared medically to participate in on-field drills at the 2014 NFL Combine.

On what he’s heard about his performance in the Senior Bowl: “The first thing they tell me is ‘You had a heck of a Senior Bowl,’ but my message is that was really nothing, honestly, because I was still in the healing process then, so we’re just going from there,” Ford said.

Projection: “I’m definitely going to be in the first round. I didn’t put in all this work to settle for second,” Ford said. “I feel like I am one of the best pass rushers in this draft and that’s what the NFL needs right now, so I’m definitely not going to say I’m going to fall into the second. I definitely believe I can be in the first.”

Scott Crichton, Oregon State, Jr.

In college: Crichton was selected second-team All-Pac 12 in 2013 after recording 47 tackles (29 solo), 19 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2013. He was named first-team All-Pac 12 in 2012 after posting 44 tackles (23 solo), 17.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks as a sophomore. Crichton was honorable mention All-Pac 12 in 2011 with 74 tackles (48 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and a school single-season record of six forced fumbles. He redshirted in 2010.

On his decision to enter the draft now: “I did it for my family. I love my family. I’ve taken this responsibility to take care of them,” Crichton said. “My mom works two jobs, and my dad is disabled and still works a job, too. They are getting old and I want them to retire and just stop working. I just did this for my family. I was going to come back to college but just to see my family struggle — we didn’t have much growing up and to see my family struggle — I wasn’t OK with that so I had to do something and this is one of the greatest opportunities for me to take care of my family.”

Revved up: “I think my motor is one of my strengths,” Crichton said. “All the coaches have told me I’ve got a great motor. But I’ve got to stay consistent with it. I know I took a play off here or there. I still need to work on that, too.”

Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame, Jr.

In college: Tuitt was named first-team All-Independent after starting 13 games in 2013 and recording 49 tackles (24 solo), nine tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks. He was named second-team All-American in 2012 after recording 47 tackles (24 solo), 13 tackles for loss and 12 sacks (second-most in a single season in school history). He played in nine games as a freshman in 2011 and recorded 30 tackles (11 solo), three tackles for loss and two sacks. Tuitt finished his career with 21.5 sacks, which is tied for third in school history.

On playing on the same defensive line with Louis Nix: “It’s been a great pleasure playing next to him. He taught me many things. A great leader. A tough, nitty-gritty nose tackle as well. I expect big things from him in the NFL. He did a lot of things, helped us out a lot, especially with double teams. He’s a great guy.”

On playing multiple spots: “I’m very versatile. I can play every position on the defensive line,” Tuitt said. “We ran the 3-4 defense at Notre Dame, but we had the 4-3 as well. I was versatile at every position. It was like 50-50 (3-4, 4-3).”

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