The Mighty Quinn

It seems almost inconceivable that a couple of defensive ends from a high school in South Carolina Low Country could tip the competitive balance of the country's most powerful congregation of college football programs, but such a scenario is entirely possible.

In February the Florida Gators signed five-star defensive end Carlos Dunlap, 6-6, 240, 4.7, of Fort Dorchester High School in North Charleston, S.C., beating out SEC East Division rivals South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia for the nation's No. 4 ranked prospect at his position.

This year the Gators are back in North Charleston pursuing Dunlap's talented teammate Robert Quinn, 6-4, 255, 4.75, who projects as one the best in the Class of 2008. Playing on the opposite side from Dunlap he posted 85 stops with 11 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Although it's still early in the recruiting process the battle for Quinn includes a list of favorites that include: Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson.

Scout.com's national recruiting analysts offers the following appraisal of the defensive prize: Quinn, 6-4 and 255 pounds, will be one of the most sought after defensive end prospects in the nation. He has super size, quickness and speed. Quinn is cat-quick off the edge and can be overpowering at the point of attack with a bull-rush. He also has a good inside move and the speed to beat a tackle wide and get to the quarterback. Quinn plays with discipline and plays contain very well. He is good and fast in pursuit, showing good lateral movement and the ability to chase down plays. Quinn has the ability to shed blocks at the line of scrimmage using his hands and strength very well. He has a nice frame to add weight and muscle and long arms. Overall, he looks like a very good defensive end prospect.

The Mighty Quinn is exceptionally strong for a high school junior, boasting a 405-pound bench press and a 510-pound squat. He reports a personal best time of 4.65 in the 40 and was quick enough to play strong-side linebacker as a sophomore.

After observing Quinn in workouts Scout.com's Miller Safrit described him as follows. "In person, everything about Quinn is just bigger - his head, his hands, his arms, everything. On the field, his is quick off the ball with great leverage off the ball showing fast hands getting a good punch into the offensive lineman and crashing into the backfield where he has solid reaction time towards the ball carrier.

Quinn's quickness and strength are evident on the wrestling mat where he has captured consecutive state titles in the heavyweight division as well as an improbable third place finish as a freshman where he took on mostly upper classmen.

Quality depth and strength at the defensive end position is particularly important in the SEC because defenses like to load up against the run. That requires consistent containment of the running game to funnel the ball toward the strength of the alignment. It also requires pressure on the passer without reliance on the blitz. The idea is to maintain a numerical advantage by forcing five O-linemen to block four defenders. That leaves a player uncovered in the defensive front seven to clean up.

The key to deploying this strategy is having outstanding starters at defensive end and no drop-off among the backups. Ideally a defensive coordinator would use a five-man rotation at DE and run fresh players in like a relay race. An examination of the Florida-Tennessee series shows that pressure on the passer and forcing the run into the teeth of the defense are critical components to victory.

Quinn attended last year's Tennessee-Florida contest and he could be a combatant in the 2008 game. If he joins the Gators collection of outstanding DEs it will be bad news for the SEC.

"Tennessee is a school where I already feel comfortable with the coaching staff," Quinn told Newberg. "I also love that stadium and would love to play there.

"Florida is the national champions and you can't just blow off the national champions."

The Vols and Gators fought each other for the services of DE standout Derrick Harvey in 2006 and this year they split in the recruiting battles for Ben Martin and Carlos Dunlap. All three were five-star prospects. Now UT needs Quinn to balance the competitive ledger.

History tells us the winner in this series goes on to compete for bigger prizes.


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