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NFL Combine Recap: Defensive Tackles

Posted Mar 6, 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

Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh, Sr.

In college: Donald was selected first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC and won the Outland Trophy, Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards in 2013 after leading FBS with 28.5 tackles for loss and had 11 sacks and 59 tackles (43 solo) as a senior. He was named first-team All-Big East in 2012 after leading the team with 5.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. Donald was named second-team All-Big East in 2011 after recording 16 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He finished his career with 181 tackles (115 solo), 66 tackles for loss and 29.5 sacks.

On how high he could go in the NFL Draft: “You never know. All I can do is do my part and keep trying to open up eyes with what I did on the football field, what I did in my career on film,” Donald said. “Just go out there and try to compete and shock a couple more people.”

On his “favorite” player, Geno Atkins: “I love the way he plays. I watched him a lot my junior year in college,” Donald said. “Explosive, fun to watch, he just makes a ton of plays. What he’s doing in the NFL is amazing, it’s an honor to even be compared to a guy like that.”

Timmy Jernigan, Florida State, Jr.

In college: Jernigan was named second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC after starting 14 games and posting 63 tackles (35 solo), 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2013. He recovered from an MCL injury during spring 2012 practice to appear in 13 games with two starts in 2012 and had 45 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as a sophomore. He played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2011. Jernigan opted to declare for the NFL Draft with one year of college eligibility remaining. He finished with 138 tackles (73 solo), 25 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 40 games.

On concerns about his stamina: “I definitely don’t feel like it’s an issue. I played on a team where I only played three full games – no, actually four full games the entire season and I just did what I could with the opportunity,” Jernigan said. “There wasn’t times where I had to play the whole game. Like I said, I only played in four games the entire season, every game I was out by third quarter. But when my number was called, when they needed Jernigan to be in the game, when I knew that I had to be in the game in order for us to win, I was there. I played 73 plays (in the BCS Championship game).”

On if he considers himself a leader: “I definitely do, on the field and off the field. On the field I was definitely one of the leaders of our defense,” Jernigan said. “I feel like we had probably the best defense in the country, and off the field I was a leader as well. Definitely in the weight room. I was a weight room warrior at Florida State.”

Louis Nix III, Notre Dame, Sr. (academically, but one year of eligibility remained)

In college: Nix was first-team All-Independent in 2013 after recording 27 tackles (11 solo) and two for loss, despite missing five games because of a torn meniscus. He had surgery in November and graduated in December. Nix was first-team All-Independent in 2012 after playing in 13 games, starting 11 and leading the Fighting Irish defensive line with 50 tackles (20 solo) and adding 7.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He was first-team All-Independent in 2011 with 45 tackles (12 solo), 4.5 for loss and half a sack after redshirting 2010 as a freshman. Nix weighed in at 331 pounds at the NFL Combine, saying he had lost about 23 pounds since January by switching from burgers and fries to salads and running about 60 minutes a day on an elliptical machine.

On if 331 pounds is where he wants to stay: “It depends on who you ask. If somebody wants me to stay there, I’ll stay,” Nix said. “If they want me to get sexier, then I got it.”

On if he’s a “hold the point guy or has some wiggle”: “I think I can wiggle a little bit. I have dance moves. That should prove a lot,” and on what he wants to show teams: “That my knee is well. I can run on it. I have a little wiggle, like I said. Just show that I’m back and myself again. Less weight, though.”

Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota, Sr.

In college: Hageman was named third-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten in 2013 after leading the Gophers with 13 tackles for loss and posting 38 tackles (26 solo) and two sacks in 13 games. He had 35 tackles (20 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 13 games in 2012. Hageman played in 12 games in 2011, recording 13 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Hageman played tight end in high school and planned to do so at Minnesota, but redshirted in 2009 and switched to defensive line in 2010, appearing in eight games.

On switching from TE to defensive line: “Really, I mean, I just had to catch up. Obviously there’s a lot of great D-tackles here and I feel like I’m definitely a few steps behind them,” Hageman said. “I mean, this is my third year playing D-tackle and I’ve obviously got to where I am now just by being athletic and being strong. But I feel like there’s a lot of D-tackles here that have been playing this position for a long time and I feel that I have to catch up. Just, you know, educated myself more obviously on D-tackle and just be more fundamental because especially when you get to the next round, I feel like everybody in the NFL is athletic, especially the D-tackles.”

On overcoming a tough childhood: “I was just blessed to be adopted by just great parents who kind of gave me another opportunity for a childhood, to be able to play sports, use that as an outlet. That definitely helped me,” Hageman said. “I was able to trust my struggle and just kept moving forward. I mean, 12 years ago, I definitely wouldn’t have seen this coming.”

Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina, Jr.

In college: Quarles was named first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC in 2013 after recording 39 tackles (27 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 12 games as a junior. He had 38 tackles (23 solo), eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 11 games in 2012 as a sophomore and 28 tackles (16 solo) and two tackles for loss as a freshman in 2011.  He weighed in at 297 pounds at the combine.

On Steve Spurrier mentioning his belly and comparing him to Warren Sapp: “I mean, to be compared to a great, I could care less about having a stomach,” Quarles said. “I trimmed down a little bit. I look way better than I did. I look real good for my weight right now.”

On if he gets tired of his production being attributed to Jadeveon Clowney’s impact: “I do get tired of hearing it, but it is what it is,” Quarles said. “I feel like I was in the weight room working hard at 6 o’clock in the morning. I was out there at two-a-days running hoops so I could get to the quarterback. I’m glad he was out there and that things worked out the way that they did, but at the end of the day, I still had to beat my man to get there.”

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