2019 Preseason All-American Projections: Defensive Ends

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2019 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 the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2020 NFL Draft.

First-Team Defensive Ends:

Chase Young, Ohio State

With Nick Bosa injured for most of 2018, Young took over for the Buckeyes and led their edge rushing with a superb sophomore season. For the year, Young recorded 34 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, five passes broken up and two forced fumbles. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder is a quick edge rusher who has lot of athleticism with the upside to be even better as he gains experience. Young will see a lot of double teams and extra attention this fall, but he is good enough to overcome it and still produce a big year that yields a lot of postseason honors, including All-American status.

A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

Over the past two seasons, Epenesa has been a very good defender for the Hawkeyes. As a freshman, he flashed with 4.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 15 tackles and one forced fumble. Epenesa showed that he was just scratching the surface as he was even better as a sophomore, recording 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four passes batted, 16.5 tackles for a loss and 37 tackles. The 6-foot-5, 277-pounder is one of the best edge defenders in college football, and if he continues his upward trajectory, he could put together a huge junior year to be a top NFL prospect and All-American.

Second-Team Defensive Ends:

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

There was a trio of sophomore Big Ten defensive ends who had huge 2018 seasons, and Gross-Matos was right there with Chase Young and A.J. Epenesa as a force for his team. Gross-Matos showed more as a run defender than Epenesa or Young, totaling 54 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss. While Epenesa and Young got to the quarterback more, Gross-Matos still put heat on the quarterback, collecting eight sacks and two forced fumbles. He has good length, size and upside to continue his strong play as a junior and earn All-American accolades.

Nick Coe, Auburn

There were other Auburn defenders who got more attention, but Coe enjoyed a breakout 2018 season in the SEC, notching seven sacks, two forced fumbles, 27 tackles and 13.5 tackles for a loss on the year. Coe is a strong defensive end who could be better now that he has a year of experience. With Derrick Brown coming back to Auburn, Coe could form a dynamic tandem with the fantastic interior defender. and it will be difficult for defenses to double team both of them when they line up next to each other. Coe could produce a big junior year, and projecting him as a Second-Team All-American might be too conservative as he could end up being a first-teamer.

Third-Team Defensive Ends:

Terrell Lewis, Alabama

Lewis missed the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL during the summer of 2018 before fall camp. Lewis was playing well in the 2017 season opener before sustaining an injury that cost him most of that season. He totaled just 16 tackles with a sack for the year, but scouts who watched 2018 spring football were raving about him. Sources believe Lewis has a ton of potential.

The edge defender, formerly known as Terrell Hall, Lewis developed behind the scenes for Alabama in 2016. Scouts have told me that in practice Lewis was very impressive as he is big and quick, plus possesses surprising change-of-direction skills. They said that Lewis has a great build and is dripping with upside. He has really impressed them watching him in practice during the past few seasons, so he could have a big year if he is finally able to stay healthy.

Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame

Kareem was one of the tough defensive linemen who led the Fighting Irish in 2018. He totaled 42 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, five passes broken up and a forced fumble on the year. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder has quickness and athleticism on the edge with a lot of athletic upside. He could be poised for a big jump in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Utah’s Bradley Anae, Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes, Mississippi State’s Chauncey Rivers, Florida’s Jabari Zuniga, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, Auburn’s Marlon Davidson and Northwestern’s Joe Gaziano.

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