1. DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina
2010: Coples, a senior, emerged last season with more tackles, sacks and tackles for loss than he had over his first two seasons. The first-team All ACC defensive tackle tallied a team-high 10 sacks as an end and tackle in 2010. He also led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback pressures. The rest of the North Carolina defense totaled 17 quarterback pressures. Against Clemson, Coples had two tackles and three quarterback pressures.
What he's doing here: Coples could be the first defensive player taken in next year's NFL Draft. But it's possible that he won't even be eligible to play when Clemson and North Carolina meet in late October. NCAA investigators have reportedly interviewed Coples about his attendance at a post-NFL Draft party in Washington D.C. with former teammates Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn. Both Austin and Quinn sat out of North Carolina's 2010 season because of NCAA infractions.
2. DE Donte Paige-Moss, North Carolina
2010: Paige-Moss finished second on the team in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (13.5), and seventh in the ACC in sacks. His best performance of the season was against N.C. State when he had 10 tackles, four tackles for losses and two sacks.
What he's doing here: Paige-Moss may not be every bit as talented as Coples, but he's still among the most talented defenders in the country. A junior, Paige-Moss could potentially be picked in the first-round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Aside from the on-field stats, Paige-Moss (6-4, 260) doesn't have as great of size and reach as Coples (6-6, 285).
3. DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
2010: As a first-year starter at right defensive end, Jenkins was named to the All-ACC first-team. The Seminole pass rush, which led the nation with 48 sacks, was led by Jenkins, who had 13.5. His season was fifth-best in Florida State history. Jenkins had two tackles against Clemson. It was one of four games that he did not record a sack.
What he's doing here: An early enrollee in January 2009, Jenkins could potentially hurdle Paige-Moss with a productive 2011. As a freshman, Jenkins had 12 tackles in 12 games, none of which were a sack. Like Coples and Paige-Moss, Jenkins, a junior, is also a potential first-round draft pick.
Honorable mention: DT J.R. Sweezy, N.C. State
2010: An honorable All-ACC pick, Sweezy led the Wolfpack with six sacks, five of which were during the final four games of the regular season. He was second on the team with 13 tackles for loss. The best game of his career was against Clemson last season when he had 10 tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.
What he's doing here: Now a senior, Sweezy played a limited number of snaps during his first two seasons, before breaking out last season. His season came on the heels of suspension because of an altercation with a 65-year-old bus driver.
Ranking the defensive linemen
CUTigers.com Top Stories
Pagano to TransferAfter helping Clemson win a National Championship and earning his degree, Scott Pagano has decided it is time for him to move on.
CUTigers.comFriday at 11:58 AM
RECRUITING RADARIn our weekly Recruiting Radar, CUTigers Recruiting Analyst Gary McDaniel updates you on the latest news and intel on the Clemson recruiting front!
CUTigers.comWednesday at 8:40 AM
TIGERS TAKE A W FROM WAKEAfter back-to-back heartbreaking losses to Syracuse and Duke, the Tigers built a 21-point lead on Wake Forest and won by 12 to complete the season sweep of the Deacs and keep their…
DEJA BLUEFor the second straight game, Clemson had the lead or a chance to win on the final possession of the game and came up just short. This time, it was against #18 Duke in the most…