RCRuiting's Ole Miss Recruiting Position Analysis: Defensive Line

While I doubt we've recruited the next Greg Hardy, there are some 'croots to look forward to over the next few seasons in the 2011 class.

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 DYMongoose was bored and thought to put this together. It's a neat graphic, and we totally owe him some Cup dollars for it, so show him your appreciation.

As Juco mentioned earlier, he and I are spending our week looking at the 2011 Rebel signing class with hopes to determine just how good of a haul Coach Nutt and company brought in. This will involve vague adjectives, cliched expressions, and borderline creepy use of YouTube - everything you've come to expect from us. We're not experts, but we've seen enough football, especially Ole Miss football, to have a good idea as to where our team stands, where it is needs to be, and where it is headed.

Over the past three seasons, the hallmark of the Ole Miss defense has been the defensive line. Peria Jerry, Greg Hardy, Lawonn Scott, Jerrell Powe, Ted Laurent, and Kentrell Lockett have all been, at the very least, good up front for this program, with Hardy and Jerry being all-SEC caliber talents. But with only Kentrell Lockett, in a twist of dumb luck and misfortune, returning this Fall (fingers crossed!) after suffering a knee injury last season, the Rebels looked to reload and rebuild up front with this recruiting class.

 

In 2010, the Rebs inked bigtime prospects at defensive end in Carlos Thompson and Delvin Jones, as well as secured the transfer of Juco star Wayne Dorsey. Thompson and Jones saw very limited action (and, per this bloggeur's opinion, should have been redshirted), Jones was redshirted, and Dorsey started right away, meaning that, with Lockett, the Rebels have enough senior leadership and youth at the end position for that to not have been such a priority this offseason. But, at defensive tackle, the Rebels return a handful of sophomores and redshirt freshmen, with Powe, Scott, and Laurent all having played their final snaps in Oxford. This means that defensive tackle was the primary point of concern up front for the coaches during this recruiting cycle, but instead of looking for a slew of young bodies upon which to build the defensive line (the coaches got that last season in Carlton Martin and Byron Bennett), the coaches focused primarily on potential immediate starters out of the Juco ranks.

Uriah Grant is a 6'1", 280 pound defensive tackle out of Fullerton, California CC who should look to be a significant part of the rotation along the defensive line next season.

Just going by the video, he is big and strong, which gives him a great initial bull rush and the ability to stay under his blockers, but he's somewhat raw and relies a little too much on strength over finesse. That is certainly something which is a viable strategy in the California community college circuit, but in the Southeastern Conference, where many of the guards and centers he'll line up against are likely to be as big and strong as he, he'll need to further develop his hands. He does already possess a decent swim and is good at getting away from blocks when the play goes the other way. Going by this video alone, and looking at the DT talent across the conference, he'll likely not contend for an all-SEC spot, but he will certainly contribute to this defense.

Gilbert Pena, on the other hand, will easily contend and likely earn the starting job at Jerrell Powe's old nose tackle spot. He is 6'4", 315 pounds of talent who will be a chore for any interior lineman to move, let alone block. His offer sheet included Florida State and North Carolina, both schools with a fine reputation of recruiting and coaching defensive linemen, which is cause enough for my optimism over his talents. But the most interesting and optimism-inducing aspect of this player is his age. He's 24 years old, much older than the typical 20 or 21-year-old Junior college prospect. This is because, after high school, Pena went straight to work to support his family. After three yeras of, I dunno, throwing cars around a junkyard or something, Pena enrolled in school and hit the gridiron once again. One has got to hope that his added years signal a maturity level much needed to compete at such a high level. Here are Pena's highlights:

We would apologize for the poor video quality, but we didn't film it, so we'll just suggest you deal with it. What we can gather from this is that, for his size, he doesn't bull rush as often and does a fine job keeping up with plays. In a few plays, he stands up a bit too much, but does what he can to make up for it by simply overpowering his block. He plays until the whistle and stays with plays that a lot of DT's would give up on. He has a seemingly natural knack for totally avoiding chip blocks and sometimes even guards, which is nice, but not exactly easy to do in the SEC. One particular shot in this clip shows him follow a misdirection very well and locate the ball, which shows a real sense for the game and a drive any team would welcome on defense.

Out of the highschool ranks, 6'3" 265lb Woodrow Hamilton out of Raleigh, Mississippi will most likely earn a redshirt, as he'll be behind the aforementioned Martin and Bennett in the defensive tackle rotation. He has a great frame upon which to build, though, and a year in an SEC weight room should add 15-20 pounds, making him a great pickup to establish future depth.

Now, we ain't got any YouTubery for Hamilton, but Juco's 'crootin tidbuggets tell me that he lined up at DE in high school, suggesting both a quickness (upside) and a need to add weight to play tackle (downside). He also has solid technique in tackling.

And while defensive tackle was obviously the focus of this class, the coaches did ink Kameron Wood from Birmingham, Alabama at rush end. He is pretty slim at 220 pounds, but has a taller body which can hopefully stand to take on a few more pounds. His offer sheet is underwhelming, with neither Alabama nor Auburn showing interest in his talents, but Wood is most definitely a redshirt candidate anyway. Aside from Lockett, we have nary a proven defensive end, but we do have enough warm bodies that we won't need to toss Kameron Wood out there with a slap on the ass and a "go get 'em" any time soon.

Juco's tidbuggets on the guy are vague, as the only video he's watched is "sped up and busy," but he tells me that Wood doesn't appear to overpursue often, goes to the ball well even when it isn't going ot his side of the field. The guy has a build of a quite slim end, but the motor of an outside linebacker.

Overall, this bunch rates well enough, but not nearly as well as the linebacker group. It is great to see the coaches pursue junior college standouts to fill in some holes at defensive tackle immediately, and Gilbert Pena looks to be a promising addition to the team, but there was not as much talent on either side of the line in Mississippi high schools or junior colleges this year - the best of which ended up at Mississippi State - which led to good-but-not-great classes up front for the Rebels.

Grade: B-

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