the lookout list: DL
By Alex Chinery
With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books its time to shift focus towards the 2020 college football season. After Chase Young dominated any talk of defensive linemen in 2019, 2020 will be far more open. With a potentially dominant DT coming from Pitt, and a pass rusher from South Beach ready to command the attention of any team picking in the top five it’s fair to say that talented defensive linemen are peaking again in college football. Here are my favourites:
Jaylen Twyman, Pitt
The author of a remarkable breakout season in 2019, Jaylen Twyman drew comparisons to former Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald. Twyman finished with the second highest number of sacks in a conference packed with edge talent which is an incredible feat. Using his quick get off and insane pass rush moves from the interior Twyman lives in the backfield and makes plays on both the quarterback and running back like he has been shot out of a cannon. The leader of one of the best defensive line groups in the country, Twyman does benefit from teams having to give attention to his teammates. But with his ability to shift off double teams it doesn’t totally matter. I expect Twyman to become a household name this season with plenty of wow plays to boot.
Key Game – vs Virginia Tech 6th November
Gregory Rousseau, Miami
The man who finished second to last seasons number two overall pick Chase Young in the FBS sack leader board is back and ready to inherit Young’s crown as the pass rush king of college football. The highly rated rusher has an elite blend of power, bend and size and is a prospect that is going to excite analysts across the country. With 15.5 sacks in just 14 college games Rousseau has the potential to have a monster year for Miami this season, and is likely to be a top five pick in 2021. Expect some monster sacks when watching Miami this year.
Key Game – vs Pitt 3rd October
Marvin Wilson, Florida State
A highly touted recruit with all the physical tools, Wilson finally broke out to flash his true potential in the nine games he played in 2019. After making the smart decision to come back for his senior season Wilson goes into the year as the top interior defensive line prospect in the country. Putting up 8.5 TFL’s and 5 sacks a season ago, the FSU lineman flashed impressive mobility – his speed once he gets moving can be devastating. He offers really good pass rush from the interior with a great club/swim combo. Wilson is the kind of player that invites double teams and blasts through them with regularity. If he can be disciplined enough to stick close to the ground and not try to peek over blockers, he could be devastating in 2020 and beyond.
Key Game – @ Florida 28th November
Xavier Thomas, Clemson
A smaller edge prospect who has all the blue-chip skills, Xavier Thomas is yet to truly break out at Clemson. After injury and scheme disrupted his season in 2019 the de facto leader of the Tigers defense in 2020 must come out and play with fire. Thomas bends well and has great jump off the ball, meaning he often beats his block very quickly off the line of scrimmage. However he needs to improve his pass rush moves if he is to fully realise his potential. With only 5.5 sacks in 27 games in college the production needs to come this season, or his stock will take a big hit. Expect Thomas to be a star on the Clemson line in 2020, living in the backfield and finally breaking out into the playmaker he was touted as coming out of high school as a five-star recruit.
Key Game – @ Notre Dame November 8th
Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (Not Draft Eligible)
The former number two player in his recruiting class, Kayvon Thibodeaux posted a phenomenal 9 sack, 14 TFL season as a true freshman. A future top five NFL draft pick, Thibodeaux already possesses elite pass rush and get-off speed. This, combined with advanced instincts and a couple of wicked pass rush moves put his near the top of the tree of college pass rushers already. As he continues to grow stronger and develop a better arsenal of pass rush moves Thibodeaux will begin to dominate college football at a level similar to that of Chase Young and Myles Garrett in years past.
Key Game – vs Ohio State September 12th
Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
The former three-star recruit, Carlos Basham has an incredible work ethic and great football IQ. He ID’s blocking schemes quickly and uses that to be one step ahead of the linemen – especially against the run. Basham has an array of pass rush moves that is well developed and utilised to great effect. He plays with top effort and a great motor which allows him to make plays all over the field. Basham has some athleticism concerns when compared to the rest of this class but that shouldn’t hold him back too much this season in college, but it will affect his ranking for transitioning to the pros.
Key Game – vs Miami 9th October
Lorenzo Neal, Purdue
Coming back for his redshirt senior season, Lorenzo Neal suffered a torn ACL in 2018 that stole away his 2019 season. Neal is a people mover in the middle of the defense and a force in the run game. Often seen dominating double teams to fill gaps and eat running backs, Neal is a force of nature on the line. With the edge position being so important in the NFL, having a player inside who commands double teams and opens gaps for those pass rushers are a key piece of the puzzle on defense. The Purdue line didn’t have much trouble getting to the quarterback, but Neal was sorely missed in the run game, allowing 192 yards per game in conference play. With Neal back it’ll be much tougher to run on them this season.
Key Game – vs Wisconsin 14th November
Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
A big bodied run stuffer, Levi Onwuzurike excels at using his size and agility to beat defenders and clog up rush lanes. His impressive spatial awareness makes him tough to beat for a running back looking to gain yardage up the middle. The combination of his size and agility makes him hard to latch on to, allowing him to slip blocks and get into the backfield where he can be a problem. A lack of explosiveness stops him from being a more effective interior pass rusher and can lead to him being erased by double teams. It will be interesting to see how his play adapts to an altered scheme under a new head coach this season – a move away from the nose position to a three or five-tech could benefit him.
Key Game – vs Michigan 5th September
Big Kat Bryant, Auburn
Big Kat Bryant is an SEC monster with great size and ability to set the edge. Excellent hands and hip movement allow him to get the drop on the lineman opposite and be a real handful. His versatility to play as both a stand up or hand in the dirt rusher will be a huge draw at the next level, and makes him tough to beat in the college game. He’s more explosive than you would maybe expect given his size which ups the opportunity for wow plays. Bryant made the correct decision to return to school as he needs more time to develop some of the finer technical elements of pass rushing if he is to work his way toward the top of draft boards.
Key Game – @ Alabama 28th November
Aiden Hutchinson, Michigan
A versatile lineman who profiles to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front Hutchinson is brute of a pass rusher who loves to overpower the lineman in front of him. Hutchinson has good get-off and plays with a high motor. He combines this with good dip and strong hand placement when rushing from the edge, making him a tantalising prospect. Having only played 13 game so far in his college career Hutchinson is slightly inexperienced but that only means he could make huge strides in 2020. If he can add to his selection of pass rush moves and Michigan get creative moving him around on the line, then 2020 could be a huge year for the lineman, who needs to up his sack production to wash away the sceptics.
Key Game – @ Washington 5th September
the head of seven step drop, the touchdowns analytics page. alex is a Texas longhorns and green bay packers fan. he is one of the college chaps trio and produces the touchdown nfl podcast!