Turning Up the Heat

As the SEC has slowly evolved from a predominate run conference into primarily a passing league, a locked and loaded, lightning quick, rush end has become defensive coordinators' weapon of choice.

We're talking about the type of player that can impact a game just by getting into his stance on the edge. A player that will make offensive tackles twitch and quarterbacks itch to get rid of the ball before their world comes crashing down around them. A player that can set the pace for the defense and destroy the timing of the offense.

Such a player is the most effective means of attacking a passing game because it requires none of the blitzes or stunts that can leave a defense vulnerable to big plays. It takes nothing away from coverage and forces the offense to become less aggressive.

Players such as Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Fred Dean and Charles Haley wreaked havoc in the NFL with their ability to pressure passers. The lack of a game altering talent at defensive end is perhaps the biggest difference in Tennessee's defenses this decade compared to last decade when standouts such as Todd Kelly, James Wilson, Steve White, Horace Morris, Chuck Smith, Chris Mims, Jonathan Brown, Leonard Little and Shaun Ellis brought the heat without missing a beat.

The ability to pressure quarterbacks without committing extra defenders needed to shutdown the run is the key to defensive success in the SEC. The strength of Florida's defense last season was its rotation of ends that provided perpetual pressure and forced a ton of turnovers.

Tennessee has had its share of solid defensive ends since the glory days of the 90s, but they haven't had that difference maker or the depth of the past. The Vols took a big step forward in 2007 with the addition of five-star talent Ben Martin. Now they are seeking prospects they can team with Martin to develop an elite rotation of pass rushers. In recent days we had taken a look at Leon Mackey, Robert Quinn and JC star Brandon Sesay.

Another standout to add to the that list is Quinton Coples of Kinston, N.C., who checks in at an imposing 6-foot-7, 240 pounds and runs a 4.65 time in the 40. Playing a more read, react and contain role as a defensive end for Kinston High School last season he recorded 110 tackles and three sacks. However he has the athleticism to become a pressure factor on the next level. He ran a 4.52 short shuttle at the Shrine Bowl combine, recorded a 29-inch vertical and lifted 185 pounds 13 times in the bench.

The lean defensive end has offers from all of his favorites including: Florida, Florida State, Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Ohio State and Tennessee. Coples needs to improve his technique and leverage to realize his full potential as well as increase his strength. However his length and raw talent give him a very impressive upside.

"I can chase the ball carrier well," he said. "I'm focused and have very quick feet and hands, but I want to improve my pass rush. I want to get more sacks next season and get to the quarterback quicker."

Getting to the quarterback will put Coples on the fast track to a starting job on the next level.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories