Chargers Prospect Analysis: D-Line, Part V

Jaime Cattano wraps up her five-part series analyzing the defensive line prospects the Chargers met with during Senior Bowl week. The last prospect to be examined spent his college career at defensive end, but his explosive speed and eye for the ball make him a chief candidate at linebacker.

The Chargers coaching staff conducted a private meeting with Cliff Avril of Purdue during the Senior Bowl week. The coaches left the enthusiastic athlete feeling confident that this budding star would be a significant addition to the San Diego roster.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience having the opportunity to be at the Senior Bowl," Avril said. "Not too many players get to talk to coaches and scouts from so many teams."

The 6-foot-3, 249-pound Boilermaker upholds Purdue's reputation as the "Den of Defensive Ends." Avril's breakout senior year was just what scouts wanted to see.

Named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches, Avril led the Boilermakers with a career-high 6.5 sacks. He recorded 41 tackles, caused four fumbles and picked up three fumble recoveries. Avril's amazing reach allowed him to deflect five passes and intercept one, bringing it back for a 43-yard touchdown.

Avril's main focus was to carry this success over to the Senior Bowl.

"I want to show I can play with the best of them and compete with the best of them," he said from Mobile, Ala. "Everyone here is supposed to be the most talented and I want to go out there and have fun."

During Senior Bowl week, the Oakland Raiders coaching staff ran Avril ragged through workouts, practices and drills. It didn't frazzle him in the slightest.

"Mentally speaking, I don't feel I have to stress as much as the other players," he said.

Avril makes plays in the backfield and is excellent in pursuit. He can play with his hand on the ground or standing up, a desirable trait in Ted Cottrell's 3-4 defense.

Avril knows the importance of performing well over the next couple of months to prove he is one who can't be ignored on draft day.

"The next few months are the last piece of the puzzle until the NFL," he said. "It's very important because you want to leave a good taste in everyone's mouth. I need to show the coaches I can play."

Avril's biggest drawback is his size -- he lacks the bulk to anchor against the run as a defensive lineman. He plays with a great leverage, but lacks the strength to take on bigger blockers at the point of attack.

Avril's speed and agility will only get him so far at the next level, so he will be forced to work on his technique. His alacrity and athleticism make him a likely candidate to play outside linebacker in Ted Cottrell's 3-4 scheme.

"I'm a hard-working player who is willing to do anything for the team," Avril said. "It's a game and in order to have fun, you have to make plays."

If Avril joins the Chargers roster, he will play behind another former Boilermaker, Shaun Phillips. Phillips also played end in college and transitioned to linebacker seamlessly, averaging 10 sacks over the last two seasons.

If the Chargers coaches are convinced Avril has the same kind of potential, he will be impossible to pass up.

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