The best defensive ends in the Big XII

Much like it is with any other position in this conference, the defensive end position is laden with talent, size, speed and strength. Edge rushers, guys with great backside pursuit speed and some that just have those motors that never quit. Well, we rank some of the best, 10 down to 1 as we give you our take on the best rush ends in the conference.

10 - Abraham Wright (Colorado) – 6-3, 240, Jr. – From his size, you might think that he'd be an ideal linebacker. That may or may not be true, but much of what a linebacker can give you is a benefit for coming off the edge.

 

Wright has that, sporting quickness, while using his leverage well around the outside while bending in to make the turn for the QB.

 

Abraham also works well off the ball if he needs to go back in coverage. That's something you don't see a lot of nowadays in that most rush ends have the job of pinning it back and getting to the QB, while linebackers take up a lot of the short passes, outs or hitches.

 

Wright reads those pretty well and he's got good speed side-to-side.

 

You might say that's he's a well-rounded rush end that will give as good as he gets and with the help he has on the interior and from the other rush end spot in junior Alex Ligon, Wright is set up to have a pretty good year.

 

Now, as for Ligon, he could have made this list as well, but I like Wright's overall quickness a little better and it just seems like he's got a better feel for what it takes to get into the backfield and finish off the play.

 

2004 Statistics: 10 games, 21 tackles (14 SOLO, 7 ASST), 6 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 1 pass break up, 1 quarterback hurry

 

9 - Jermial Ashley (Kansas) – 6-5, 250, Sr. – Sometimes all a player needs is time. For Ashley, coming from the junior college ranks, it was also a matter of opportunities. Now with former starter David McMillan gone, he's got those and you can expect him to make the most of them.

 

Jermial fits what I consider very close to the prototype defensive lineman of today's college game. His size is good, arms are long and he's got a pretty decent first step off the line. Not even five years ago, he would have been labeled a "tweener" and probably moved inside. But as the athleticism of the bigger players has increased, the demands on their athleticism have followed suit.

 

What Ashley gives you more of than anything is consistency and that was from playing a back up role last season. He's fundamentally pretty sound and doesn't seem to make a lot of mental errors.

 

You can't say that of a ton of junior college transfers as they are recruited more for their instant impact ability rather than their savvy on the field. I think Ashley has that and plays as much to the situation in regards to down and distance as he does to the ability of those he's going against.

 

Against the run, no, he's not a run-stopper, but he's got a fair to midland grasp of how to play the run at his size. He uses his hands pretty well and doesn't get caught up in a lot of blocks.

 

Basically, he's solid. Probably not the super star playmaking machine, but if you want someone that plays hard every single down of the game and does it with good fundamentals and a good motor, he's the guy for you.

 

2004 Statistics: 11 games, 28 tackles (15 SOLO, 13 ASST), 9 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 7 pass break ups, 6 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble receovery, 1 blocked kick

 

8 - Keyunta Dawson (Texas Tech) – 6-2, 259, Jr. – Keyunta was living the dream last season. While Adell Duckett gets all the pub and the double-teams, Dawson did exactly what a player is supposed to do when one of their teammates is drawing so much attention:

 

Capitalize

 

Keyunta did that to the extent that it was he, not Duckett that led all rush ends in statistics last year for the Red Raiders.

 

Now, the shoe is on the other foot.

 

What Dawson won't have to prove is what kind of force he can be getting up the field. He can and does on a pretty consistent basis, using a very good first step off of the ball.

 

I was actually surprised a little at his ability to come off that edge, even if he's having to fight off the shoulder of a tackle to get there. At his size, I wouldn't expect a whole of flexibility in those hips, allowing him to bend in around the edge and get a good line to the QB. But, to that end, he's not bad at all.

 

What's going to hamper Dawson this year long with the rest of his cohorts along the line is making up for players lost and some apparent weaknesses, especially in regards to stopping the run. That's not Dawson's strong suit, nor was he asked to be any kind of physical force at the point of impact, last year.

 

Just on his size alone, playing the run is going to be a difficult task.

 

It's going to be a tough year for Dawson as the kind of attention Duckett saw last year, he'll at least get a good portion of this time around. I think he's able to handle it, but is he going to have to do it on his own?

 

If not, Dawson should have a solid all around season.

 

2004 Statistics: 12 games, 26 tackles (16 SOLO, 10 ASST), 9 tackles for loss, 6 ½ sacks, 1 pass break up, 2 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

 

7 - Scott Edmonds (Kansas State) – 6-4, 260, Sr. – The one thing that sticks out about Edmonds is the athleticism he maintains at his size. He's stocky to say the least, but that hasn't stopped him from simply producing on the field. Edmonds actually led all rush ends on the team in statistics last year, even with Tearrius George on the other side.

 

If you want someone that can stand in against the run, Edmonds has the strength to do that. If you want someone that can slip the edge, Edmonds has good quickness, but I think his success comes from a good combination of using technique and strength off the line. And, if you want someone that does all the dirty work in getting the job done, he's the guy for you.

 

You aren't going to hear the word "fancy" when Edmond's name is used. He's not. He's physical, smart, fundamentally sound and he'll give you the same at the end of the game that he gave you at the beginning.

 

Call him the typical blue collar rush end that starts well, finishes well and just waits until he gets to do it again.

 

2004 Statistics: 10 games, 27 tackles (14 SOLO, 13 ASST), 8 ½ tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 pass break ups, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumbles recovered, 1 blocked kick

 

 

6 - Adam Carriker (Nebraska) – 6-6, 275, Jr. – If you asked Carriker what he would want more than anything, the answer would be simple: To stay healthy

 

Hampered by an ankle injury most of last season, this brute force of a rush end spent more time battling his own pain rather than dealing it out on others. Knock on wood, those days are behind him and Carriker is as big, fast and strong as he's ever been.

 

What Carriker gives you is a pretty decent first step off the ball, but even if he doesn't out quick the guy in front of him, he's got what it takes to out muscle them. Carriker could be the strongest rush end in the conferene, which is one of the big reasons why Nebraska will now go to a Base End and Open End formation.

 

Basically, that means one of the starting defensive ends (Base) will always line up on the strong side, while the other (Open) lines up on the weakside. That means  Carriker is in for plenty of physical battles this year.

 

If he stays healthy, though, and with the help of veteran and finally, deep defensive interior, you are going to see what this guy can do.

 

2004 Statistics: 10 games, 36 tackles (19 SOLO, 17 ASST), 7 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries

 

5 - Tearrius George (Kansas State) – 6-4, 250, Sr. – He wasn't the team's most prolific rush end last year, but George has the makings of being the best one on the team this season.

 

He plays the run well, gets off the edge quickly and he's tenacious to say the least. He and his teammate (Scott Edmonds) are going to be a great tandem and both are going to have more success because the other one is on the other side of the field.

 

What George will give you is a quick burst off the line that offenses will eventually have to account for. If he gets chipped, he's physical enough and strong enough to fight those off, but even better, he knows how to use his hands.

 

He's got a great motor, though, something I don't think you saw all of last year, but as he got going, the numbers started to mount up.

 

Edmonds will be better because of George and George will be better because of Edmonds. Now, if they can just get some help inside, that will bring this entire unit a lot of success on the year.

 

They got pounded on pretty good as a whole last year, so there's a little redemption in mind, but at least for the defensive end position, they should get just that.

 

2004 Statistics: 10 games, 21 tackles (11 SOLO, 10 ASST), 6 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass break up, 1 quarterback hurry, 2 forced fumbles

 

4 - Brian Robison (Texas) – 6-3, 267, Jr. –  To say that you as a rush end bettered Tim Crowder statistically is saying something indeed. Robison can say that as he edged his teammate by a tad.

 

But, I doubt even Robison would argue that if we are talking pure rush ends, Crowder is the king on the team.

 

That shouldn't be an insult to Robison, though, as he is a converted linebacker and for someone going from the "up" to "down" position, I think he adapted pretty well.

 

First thing you are going to get out of this guy is quickness off the line, thus the edge, but not always the most graceful approach to the QB.

 

What I mean by that is that when you see some players come off the edge, you know where they are going just by where their shoulders square up after coming around the block.

 

Robison doesn't have a great amount of flexibility or at least, doesn't make quick enough adjustments in the backfield and if the QB moves up, Robison is probably going right on by.

 

This guy has absolutely no problem getting into the backfield. His stats speak for themselves. There just needs to be a maturation of his technique, so that it can go with his impressive athleticism.

 

Like Crowder, Robison had a lot of help last year from the slew of talent around him. He'll have that once again, especially along the line. It should be a another statistically solid season for him, but if he can find a little more control, it could be a banner year.

 

2004 Statistics: 12 games, 48 tackles (27 SOLO, 21 ASST), 14 tackles for loss, 1 ½ sacks, 1 interception, 18 quarterback hurries

 

3 - Brian Smith (Missouri) – 6-3, 225, Jr. – Speed – Quickness – Athleticism. Smith didn't start last year, so he's got some anonymity his side, especially when teammate and fellow rush end Xzavie Jackson will get more of the early attention. From what I have seen, though, at the end of the year, It's Smith that should be getting plenty of praise of his own.

 

Yes, he's not that all-around threat as a defensive end, someone of his weight certainly not a huge force in stopping the run. But, Smith is extraordinarily disruptive in the backfield and he gets there in a blink of an eye.

 

That's what you expect of someone his size, but there's one thing that guys his size often do that Smith seems to have avoided for the most part up to now and that is overrunning anything and everything in sight.

 

With speed rushers, it's come off the edge, bend the hips and go where you think he'll be. If you get a QB with even a decent amount of agility, a quick step up in the pocket can make some speed rushers look awfully foolish.

 

Smith is quick, but doesn't let his ability override his logic, staying within the play, rather than trying to MAKE the play, thus being a more dependable lineman rather than someone that's just hot and cold.

 

That's why I like him even though he's not a real solid force to stop the run. He just does everything else so well. Jackson is good and probable draft pick in the future, but for right now, I like Smith more.

 

2004 Statistics: 11 games, 22 tackles (15 SOLO, 7 ASST), 8 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 2 pass break ups, 7 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles

 

 

2 - Larry Birdine (Oklahoma) – 6-5, 251, Jr. – Losing Dan Cody stinks. Regardless of whatever else, Oklahoma lost their best pass rusher and it's up to someone to try and take his place.

 

Well, that's not going to happen as Oklahoma doesn't have another Dan Cody lying around, but with great recruiting classes over the last few years, they have got guys more than able to step up if not keep up with the standard Cody set for them to follow.

 

Birdine isn't Cody, but don't let that fool you into thinking that he's a pushover or someone that can't get up the field. He can, and he's one of those high-motor guys that can bend in off the edge very effectively.

 

He's got a good first step, uses his hands well, but also has very good command of his body in close to tackles that are trying their best to get their hands on him.

 

That's probably the only area where Birdine could get exposed early on as he isn't the biggest or strongest DE around. How he does in playing the run will determine a lot, because if the opponent isn't going to the other side where C.J. Ah You is expected to be and you know they aren't going up the middle, where Dusty Dvoracek is ready to greet them rather rudely, Birdine will have games, where he's going to have to be that all around End. But, we're pretty confident that he'll do just that.

 

2004 Statistics: 13 games, 40 tackles (29 SOLO, 11 ASST), 11 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 4 pass break ups, 11 quarterback hurries, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery

 

 

1 - Tim Crowder (Texas) – 6-4, 255, Jr. – I don't know what you can say about the ugly stepsister, so to speak, when it comes to the best defensive end tandem in the conference. Yeah, Tim Crowder wasn't quite the equal of teammate Brian Robison, at least statistically, but you can see how insanely gaudy both of their statistics were.

 

Coming out of high school, everyone could see of Crowder that he had the ability and motor to be a special player at the college ranks and beyond. And, up to this point, he's done nothing to disappoint.

 

He's aggressive, quick, fast, tenacious and he's got talent galore. What can you say for a kid that as a sophomore led the entire conference in quarterback hurries, piling up an incredible 22?

 

Well, you can say that he's special, gifted and just pretty damn good.

 

Whatever you want to say about him, you can't say that he won't have an even better year this season.

 

Have you looked at Texas' entire defensive line?

 

It's insane and that means the guys on the ends are going to have a ton of opportunities to make plays. And that's something Crowder has already shown he's good at and then some.

 

Outside of Texas fans, everyone else will think I am nuts for raking this kid at the top. But, I have not seen any rush ends coming back this season that I can clearly say are better. And this kid is just coming off of his sophomore year.

 

If potential is king, Crowder is king, because his potential is through the roof.

 

2004 Statistics: 12 games, 47 tackles (27 SOLO, 20 ASST), 10 tackles for loss, 4 ½ sacks, 3 pass break ups, 22 quarterback hurries, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

 


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