Author's Note: Last year, before I became a Front Page Author, I posted a few pieces on the top college prospects at the very beginning of the college football season for '09-'10. There are roughly 22 positions (11 on each side of the ball) to focus on. Each week, leading up to the very first NCAA Football Game for the '10-'11 Season, I will take a look at one of the positions. Each position will vary in the amount of players I cover. Number of players per position will range anywhere from 10-20 of the top prospects. I will be ranking them as to where I think they will be slotted in next years draft should they all enter. Mind you, these are just my opinions, but I feel that the rankings are going to be pretty close to the opinions of the rest of the Nation. I haven't seen any preseason player rankings yet, so it should be interesting to compare to once they come out.
Last week, we took a look at the cornerback position which seems to be on most fans radar for next years draft. However, some feel that the defensive end position could potentially be another big area of concern. Depending on how everything pans out in next years draft, and where the 49ers are slotted to pick, would defensive end possibly be a good way to go as well? I guess we'll have to wait and see how the guys on the team do and who exactly is available to us in the next draft.
Defensive end in a 3-4 scheme is a position that isn't typically going to rack up double-digit sacks and, or very many tackles. The position is basically to open it up for your stud linebackers. So, when looking at these prospects, the majority of them would most likely fit better in to a 4-3 scheme as defensive ends and some of them will even be drafted as outside linebackers potentially. There are however a few mixed in to this bunch that would be good candidates as 3-4 defensive ends.
Do Niner fans believe in Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith to handle business for a while longer? Will Kentwan Balmer ever be good enough to cut it in this league? Or is it time next year to draft some young blood to get in there and make difference?
Let the discussion begin...
1. ROBERT QUINN | 6'5", 275 LBS | UNC TARHEELS - For the past two years Robert Quinn has been a dominant force on the field. It is fully expected that Quinn will have an even better year this go-around. Last year he finished the season with several tackles and had 11 sacks. If everything stays on course for the young Tarheel, there is no doubt that he would be the very first defensive end off the board in next years draft should he declare himself eligible.
2. ADRIAN CLAYBORN | 6'3", 285 LBS | IOWA HAWKEYES - Adrian Clayborn was a one-man wrecking crew in last years 24-14 Orange Bowl victory over the hard running Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Clayborn almost single handidly shut down Jonathon Dwyer which could have been part of the reason his draft stock fell some. Clayborn should have another excellent year and is potentially a first round selection in the next draft.
3. SAM ACHO | 6'3", 260 LBS. | TEXAS LONGHORNS - With the departure of Sergio Kindle, Acho will be left alone to do it more on his own. However, Acho is no slouch. Texas' defense should give Acho enough support to still be just as effective. Some expect Acho to just level out this year but I believe he has it in him to have an even better season than last.
4. GREG ROMEUS | 6'6", 270 LBS. | PITTSBURGH PANTHERS - Romeus is easily the Panthers number one guy on defense. Pittsburgh, since Dave Wannstedt took over as head coach, has had some great recruiting. The Panthers are expected to be ranked high by season end. Greg Romeus as well as Deon Lewis (on the offensive side of the ball) will be pivotal in Pittsburgh's success this year.
5. ALLEN BAILEY | 6'4", 290 LBS. | MIAMI HURRICANES - During the course of this years college football season, Allen Bailey could be a sleeper. Bailey has the potential to climb his way in to the top three for his specific position. Miami is going to have a very exciting team this year. Look for Bailey to contribute to the fireworks. The 'Canes haven't had a defensive lineman as fun to watch as Bailey since Warren Sapp's days in Miami.
6. CLIFF MATTHEWS | 6'4", 250 LBS | SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS - Cliff will more than likely be drafted as an outside linebacker. Even though he should see action as a linebacker in the pros, Matthews will be an explosive force off the line in a hybrid 4-3 scheme, Similar to a Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers. Cliff Matthews should certainly be on everyones watch list in the upcoming season.
7. RYAN KERRIGAN | 6'4", 265 LBS. | PERDUE BOILERMAKERS - The Boilermakers probably won't have the best season this year. Kerrigan will be one of the few bright spots for fans and students to cheer about. Kerrigan will have his work cut out to be considered as one of the few lucky draftees in the 2011 Draft.
8. PIERRE ALLEN | 6'5", 270 LBS. | NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS - With Ndamukong Suh now playing for the Detroit Lions, it will be up to Allen to step up and fill some extremely large shoes. Allen has the tangibles to make it work. He isn't a Ndamukong Suh but not many people are or have been at that level. In any case, Allen should be a guy to keep an eye on if you enjoy college football or are new to it.
9. JONATHAN FREENY | 6'3", 255 LBS. | RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS - No relation to Dwight (spelling of the last name even differs), Jonathan Freeny has the tools and skill-set to be extremely talented at the college football level and really came on strong last season with 9 sacks. If Freeny can repeat the success in the up and coming season, plenty of scouts will have their eyes on this young talent.
10. PERNELL MCPHEE | 6'4", 280 LBS. | MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS - Anytime I hear the name "Pernell", I always think of Pernell Whitaker. Pernell Mcphee has the same sort of punch on the gridiron as Whitaker does in the ring. Mcphee may be ranked a little low here but factoring in division and competition it could be just right. In college football things can change dramatically from year to year. Mcphee could easily be a sleeper. If he can put on a good 10-15 pounds before the draft, he could be a viable option to consider in that oh-so-rare 3-4 defensive end position.