2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Defensive Ends

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team Defensive Ends:

Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Clowney was a First-Team All-American last year after dominating the SEC. One could make a strong argument that the phenom was the best player in college football. There was nobody better from an NFL-prospect perspective. The sophomore amassed 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, two passes batted and 13 sacks in 2012. He finished sixth for the Heisman Trophy.

The 6-foot-6, 272-pound Clowney has a rare skill set with elite speed, strength and athleticism. He has incredible explosion off the snap. Clowney is also lightning fast coming off the edge and has natural power to shed blocks. He has a developed arsenal of pass-rushing moves, too. Clowney also seems to have the ability to get some sacks on shear intimidation.

Clowney is extremely strong in taking on offensive linemen on running plays. He is a stout defender at the point of attack and maintains his gap. Clowney routinely charges through the line to blow up runs in the backfield.

As good as Clowney is, it wouldn’t be surprising if his numbers decline in 2013. The junior will see constant double-, and even triple-, teams this year. Clowney will play some good offensive tackles and teams will be scheming away from him. While his numbers could be down, he still should produce well enough to be a First-Team All-American again.

Trent Murphy, Stanford

This was a tough call for the second spot between Murphy and Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt. Murphy was my choice because Stanford has a lot of talent in its front seven who should help free up Murphy. The Fighting Irish have a great nose tackle in Louis Nix, but teams are definitely going to be sending a plethora of double-teams Tuitt’s direction.

The last few seasons, the Cardinal featured a physical front seven with a number of solid NFL prospects. There were bigger names for Stanford last year, but Murphy was the team’s best player. Murphy is a physical force who beats linemen with power and technique. He also has speed and explosiveness to get by as an edge-rusher. Murphy totaled 56 tackles with 10 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, one interception and a forced fumble in 2012. He had 6.5 sacks in 2011.

Also helping Murphy to produce is the fact that Stanford lines him up in a variety of spots to generate mismatches. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder could be poised for a big senior season. It wouldn’t be surprising if he has big production and is one of the nation’s leaders in sacks.

Second-Team Defensive Ends:

Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

Tuitt was one of the breakout stars who helped lead Notre Dame to the National Championship game. While Manti Te’o got all the headlines, the play of Tuitt and nose tackle Louis Nix were essential factors to the Fighting Irish’s success. Tuitt had 12 sacks with 47 tackles, three forced fumbles, one pass break up and a 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Navy last year.

The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder has surprising speed and explosion for such a heavy defender. His closing speed is impressive and he is developing a nice repertoire of moves. At the point of attack, Tuitt is a tough run-defender who maintains his gap.

Tuitt could be even more of a force in 2013 now that he has a year of starting experience, but he will see a plethora of double-teams. The junior has the size to play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or defensive end in a 3-4 set. Notre Dame could help Tuitt by moving him from to tackle or end in passing situations to go against the weakest offensive linemen.

Morgan Breslin, USC

The USC Trojans had a very disappointing 2012 season and fell far short of expectations, but one of the bright spots was the breakout performance by Breslin. The junior college product had a monster season in his first year on campus. He thrived as an edge-rusher in Monte Kiffin’s defense and took up residence in opposing teams’ backfields.

Breslin recorded 62 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, four passes batted and a forced fumble. He had a monster 3.5 sack game against California with other multi-sack performances against UCLA and Arizona State. Breslin finished the year with nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against Georgia Tech. He has a good get off and some developed pass-rushing moves.

The biggest issue for Breslin for the next level is his size. At 6-foot-2, 250-pounds, he would have to move to outside linebacker, but that may not be a bad thing. Kiffin has returned to the NFL and Clancy Paendergast, another former pro defensive coordinator, has taken his place. Pendergast has run a variety of schemes and is creative, so it will be interesting to see how he uses the athletic Breslin in 2013.

Third-Team Defensive Ends:

Scott Crichton, Oregon State

Crichton has displayed some natural pass-rushing skills over the last two years. The sophomore had an impressive 2012 season with nine sacks, 17 tackles for a loss, 44 tackles and a forced fumble. He had six sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles and 74 tackles as a redshirt freshman in 2011.

Crichton needs to improve his hand usage and the ability to shed blocks. He has some quickness and strength, but needs his repertoire of pass-rushing moves to get better. Crichton is too reliant on a bull rush.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder has a good motor and shows a lot of hustle. If Crichton can continue to build on his first two seasons, he could challenge for First-Team All-American consideration.

Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets are moving Attaochu from outside linebacker to defensive end this year. Perhaps that could increase his already impressive production and be a catalyst for a big senior season.

Attaochu is very fast and athletic. He had a number of impressive sacks in 2012 including some against good competition like Florida State right tackle Menelik Watson. Attaochu totaled 69 tackles with 10 sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, one pass broken up and one forced fumble. He had solid sophomore season with 59 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one interception, two passes broken up and two forced fumbles.

With the move to defensive end, Attaochu (6-3, 240) has to gain weight in order to hold up in run blocking. The added strength should help him in the pass rush as well. It will be interesting to see how heavy Attaochu weighs in when training camp starts.

Honorable Mentions: TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, South Florida defensive end Aaron Lynch, Ole Miss defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, LSU defensive end Micah Eugene, Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, UCLA defensive end Cassius Marsh, Florida defensive end Dominique Easley, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner, Stanford defensive end Henry Anderson, North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin, Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle, Alabama defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama defensive end Ed Stinson, Miami defensive end Anthony Chickillo, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley and Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard.

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