Ranking the 2014 Defensive Tackle Group

Who replaces Big Will? - Gregory Shamus

Which Junior Defensive Tackles should Michigan prioritize? Maize n Brew weighs in.

I've been asked to break down the 2014 prospects for Michigan at the defensive tackle position, adding in a few others from the region or that are receiving heavy interest. Compiled here is a ranking of the aforementioned prospects, from best to worst. Although 'worst' definitely requires some sort of asterisk or something around it.

VA DT Andrew Brown- Explosive off the ball, often just beats lineman out of their stance. Really impressed by his suddenness, can juke and slide to avoid blocks, looks like an excellent one gap lineman. Has competed and beaten the best offensive line talent in the country through the camp circuit. Love his intensity and passion while he's playing. He's a bit stiff in the hips, which prevents him from being as versatile as his fellow '14 VA DL Da'Shawn Hand. Long arms let him get into blockers pad, as well as make plays behind the line.

MI DT/DE Malik McDowell- While Brown might edge him out in the view of recruiting services based upon his explosiveness, I think McDowell is the more athletic prospect. Looks like he could be a star at the 3-tech or 5-tech position. Technique is by no means perfect, but plays with good leverage for a 6'6 kid, which is probably why he continues to be recruited for the defensive side of the ball instead of for the offensive tackle position. Incredibly disruptive; even though he plays less than stellar opponents, he wreaks the sort of havoc you'd expect from such an elite prospect. As of right now, he's probably the lone true "can't miss" prospect of the 2014 bunch for Michigan

UT DT Bryan Mone- Not as explosive as other offered prospects, but seems further along in his development. Probably a future nose tackle in spite of his size (6'4) because of strong understanding of leverage. Looks like the linemen Michigan's developed over the past few years- not flashy, but relentless on the field. Is like the type of player who will probably end up with offers from most of the Pac 12, including USC. I'm hoping Michigan can secure a commitment from him soon, because if not, the competition will be steep.

FL DT Khairi Clark- Looks like a future nose tackle based on size (6'3, 310) and build. Gets off the ball well, but plays with terrible leverage. Competition looks weak. Highlights make it appear as though only pass rushing technique is the swim move. Does a good job in pursuit once he breaks into the backfield, long arms let him drag down rushers, QBs. Like how he keeps his legs churning while trying to break through a block. Looks susceptible to good cut blocks, doesn't really know how to deal with them. Has all the tools to be an elite tackle in the future, but very raw at the moment.

VA DT Nyquan Harris- Another player with insufficient video for me to comfortably get a handle on his play. A future Nose Tackle/Run Stuffer. Not very agile in space. Plays a sort of one-gap penetrating role in high school, but probably a two-gapper in college. That will require work on his hand usage, but I'm encouraged by his long arms and pretty good leverage.

SC DT Dexter Wideman- Offers a great deal of versatility. Probably one of the least stiff prospects I've analyzed so far, which opens up the possibility of playing on the end, which he does in high school. My guess is he might fit the best as a 3-4 DE, but could end up a 3-technique as well. Not very explosive or refined as a prospect. Competition is questionable. Sometimes looks like he takes plays off early, doesn't play to the whistle. All in all, I think he'll probably stay south, and is probably not a great fit for Michigan either way.

UNOFFERED

MI DT Kenny Finley- Very smart and instinctive player. At this point, size (255 pounds, but definitely an interior lineman) is the only things that's keeping him from being a BCS caliber lineman. If he can get up to 280 and keep his athleticism, you might see the staff an extend an offer.

OH DT Michael Barwick- Obviously a second tier option, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him get an offer down the road. Not an elite athlete, but I think Michigan probably has worse on the DLine now anyway. Fairly good understanding of leverage, but terrible hand usage. Barring improvement, probably going to end up a borderline 3/4 star that will be pursued by schools not named Ohio, Michigan, or Penn State in the B1G.

IL DT/DE Enoch Smith- I don't feel as though there's enough film for me to fairly evaluate Smith, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. At 6'2, 265, size is going to be a bit of an issue for him. Is he a tweener? Or does he truly fit either of the positions? The problem is he doesn't even have the elite explosiveness that gets most tweeners looks. Will probably end up at a lower tier B1G school, or perhaps the MAC.

The rankings would be the same whether I put the delineation of offer/unoffered there. Aside from Smith, I think I'd be pleased if any of these players were to join the fold, although McDowell is undoubtedly the priority. Give me Mone, McDowell, (and depending on numbers) Finley, and I'd say it's a good year on the line. Given the versatility of McDowell, I think the staff could justify taking all three, but we'll see how the numbers end up.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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