Tackling The Defensive Tackle Position In The SEC: Who's The Best Prospect?
By Matt LaPan
The SEC has dominated the landscape of college football in recent years; that is not news to anybody. But its dominance at the defensive tackle position is nearly unmatched. In the past two drafts, the SEC has sent 12 defensive tackles to the NFL, including four in the first round (two in each draft). From Fletcher Cox to Sheldon Richardson, the SEC's defensive linemen have made a splash in the draft and 2014 could see the same results.
The SEC boasts another great class of defensive tackles, with none better than Dominique Easley and Anthony "The Freak" Johnson. But which is the better prospect for the 2014 draft?
The case for Dominique Easley . . .
Easley was a disruptive force on the Florida defensive line last season as a defensive end, but according to Gators coach Will Muschamp, he will play both end and defensive tackle in 2013. Although Easley is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle at 280 pounds, his disruptive ability and burst off the line make him one of the best defensive players in the entire conference. Easley combines an elite motor with great strength and leverage to overpower opposing offensive linemen. This ability will only be heightened as Easley will now square off against guards and centers as opposed to tackles.
Easley will have a chance to showcase his explosive ability and his polished pass-rush moves early and often against some of the SEC's best as Florida is set to square off with four of the preseason AP Top 25. If Easley performes like many expect he can, he could see his draft stock skyrocket.
The case for Anthony Johnson . . .
Nicknamed "The Freak", Johnson's athletic ability is through the roof. What many do not notice is his ability to swallow up opposing linemen in the run game. Although Johnson has not developed into the superstar that may had projected, he will have a chance to prove in his junior campaign that he has the NFL ability that stars before him consistently have shown.
Johnson does show a good burst off the line and is stout against solo blocks and double teams. Following what has been deemed by many as his best spring, Johnson is poised to make a big impact this season and should see his draft stock soar.
The top defensive tackle prospect in the SEC is . . .
Easley. Although both young men possess top-flight talent, Easley has a bit more polish on his game, which will help him this season and in the NFL draft process. Not enough can be said about how important the move from end to tackle will prove to be for Easley as he is evaluated as a player at the next level.