2014 Preseason All-American Projections: Defensive Tackles

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 May for the 2015 NFL Draft.

First-Team Defensive Tackles:

Leonard Williams, USC

Williams earned a starting spot as a freshman in 2012 and took the Pac-12 by storm. The Daytona Beach, Florida product excelled for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Williams recorded eight sacks, 64 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, four passes batted, an interception and two fumble recoveries in a fabulous freshman season.

As a sophomore, Williams played well for USC in 2013, but he was banged up for part of the season. Williams recorded 74 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and five sacks for the year. He generated more pass rush than the numbers indicate.

Williams missed spring ball this year after shoulder surgery, and he’ll need to be healthy to hold up against the steady amount of double-teams that are slated to come his direction in 2014. Still, the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder is very disruptive and is capable of producing a huge season.

A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

It isn’t easy for freshman to see the field at Alabama. The program always has excellent talent in the upperclassmen, plus the coaching staff prefers to play more experienced players. However, Robinson was too good to keep on the sideline in 2013. The freshman was a standout defender for the Crimson Tide with 38 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks.

The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder is quick for his size and very strong. With his upside, Robinson could be even better as sophomore and junior. He could be the next star draft prospect from Alabama’s defense. With C.J. Mosley in the NFL, Robinson and safety Landon Collins should get plenty of hype as the Crimson Tide’s star defenders.

Second-Team Defensive Tackles:

Mario Edwards, Jr., Florida State

Edwards played well for Florida State in 2013. The first-year starter totaled 28 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble return for a touchdown – against Clemson. Edwards played well in the National Championship Game with three tackles for a loss and a sack. He has a nice combination of power, speed and athleticism.

Edwards was stuck behind Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine in 2012, but he still managed to flash potential in backup duty. Edwards ended up starting the final two games after Carradine was injured. Edwards totaled 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks, one pass batted and 2.5 tackles for a loss in 2012.

With Timmy Jernigan in the NFL, Edwards should be the lead defensive tackle for the Seminoles. Edwards (6-3, 294) has strength and speed to be an impact player. Florida State is expecting Edwards to become a star in 2014.

Michael Bennett, Ohio State

Ohio State’s defense had some ugly games in 2013, but Bennett was one of the bright spots. In 2013, he totaled 42 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles.

Bennett is a quick and athletic interior pass-rusher. With defensive ends Noah Spence and Joey Bosa causing pressure from the outside this year, Bennett could rack up sacks with quarterbacks stepping up in the pocket to avoid the edge rushers. Ohio State figures to playing with a lead a lot, so Bennett should see plenty of pass-rushing opportunities. The 6-foot-3, 288-pounder could be in store for a big season.

Third-Team Defensive Tackles:

Chris Jones, Mississippi State

Jones showed some serious potential as a true freshman. He flashed as an interior pass-rusher for the Bulldogs. In 2013, Jones totaled 32 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, three sacks and three passes broken up. He has the ability to play defensive end and tackle. According to Mississippi State, Jones played at 315 as a freshman and has dropped weight for his sophomore season. That could make him even better at pressuring the quarterback.

Ellis McCarthy, UCLA

McCarthy totaled 28 tackles with three tackles for a loss and two sacks in 2013. The sophomore was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. McCarthy did a nice job as a run-plugger at the point of attack.

Many believe that the 6-foot-5, 330-pounder is set to produce more as a junior. He has the size and quickness to cause a lot of disruption at the point of attack. Like most nose tackles, McCarthy may not produce a big stat line, but he could produce enough havoc to pick up some postseason honors.

Honorable Mentions: Rice’s Christian Covington, Stanford’s Henry Anderson, Texas’ Malcom Brown, UCLA’s Eddie Vanderdoes, Florida State’s Eddie Goldman, Iowa’s Carl Davis, Virginia Tech’s Luther Maddy, Washington’s Danny Shelton, Oregon’s Arik Armstead, San Jose State’s Travis Raciti, TCU’s Chucky Hunter and USC’s Antaun Woods.

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