Note: All heights and weights are from the school, unless noted. All players are listed as "defensive linemen" by National Football Scouting. Several of the players, however, project to outside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme.
Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame: Lewis-Moore (6-4, 306) tore his ACL in the BCS Championship Game. He ended his career with a flourish with six sacks, 8.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. That ran his four-year total to 12 sacks and 22 tackles for losses. He missed the second half of the 2011 season with a detached MCL. Lewis-Moore, a graduate student, grew from 225-pound backup to team captain as a senior.
Bennie Logan, LSU: Early entrant. Logan (6-3, 295), an outstanding run stopper, tallied two sacks, 5.5 tackles for losses, one forced fumble and two blocked kicks in 2012. He wore No. 18; since 2003, No. 18 has gone to the player who best represents what it means to be a Tiger.
Star Lotulelei, Utah: Lotulelei (6-4, 320) was named first-team All-America after producing 42 tackles, five sacks and a team-high 11 tackles for losses. He forced three fumbles and tied for No. 1 in the nation with four recoveries. As a junior, he won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's top defensive lineman. Lotulelei was torn in Tonga and moved ot the States when he was 9. After high school, he spent a year moving furniture before enrolling at Snow junior college to restart his football career and get his grades in order.
Stansly Maponga, TCU: Early entrant. Maponga (6-2, 265) was first-team all-Mountain West in 2011 and first-team all-Big 12 in 2012. He tallied three sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 11 games (nine starts) this season. He missed two games with a foot injury that required surgery after the season. In 2011, he piled up nine sacks, 13.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles — just one of four players to rank in the top 10 nationally all all three categories.
Stacy McGee, Oklahoma: McGee (6-4, 299) was arrested for driving under the influence in the days before the Cotton Bowl. That's on top of serving a six-game suspension at the start of the season for violating university rules. In 34 career games (15) starts, he posted 2.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for losses.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU: Early entrant. Mingo (6-5, 240) is an almost-certain top-10 pick. He tallied 4.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for losses, a team-high 12 quarterback hits and once forced fumble in 2012. Mingo arrived on campus weighing about 200 pounds. He didn't start playing football until his junior year at West Monroe (La.) High. (A fast learner, he was an all-state linebacker as a junior and senior.) A track star, he ran the final leg on the championship 400-meter relay and placed fifth in the 200 and sixth in the 400. Despite starting just three games in 2011, he led the team with seven sacks 15 tackles for losses.
Sam Montgomery, LSU: Early entrant. Montgomery (6-4, 260) led the Tigers with eight sacks, 13 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles in 2012. That's on top of his 2011 campaign of nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses. He was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive lineman, in each of the last two seasons. Montgomery goes by the name "Sonic Sam" for his love of Sonic the hedgehog as a way to honor his slain stepbrother. Mingo and Montgomery met on a recruiting trip to Michigan.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Early entrant. Moore (6-4, 250) played linebacker in 2011 before moving to end in 2012. A possible top-five pick, Moore led the team with 12.5 sacks, 21 tackles for losses, 85 tackles and two blocked kicks en route to All-American honors. Moore, the first Aggies defensive lineman to lead the team in tackles since Sam Adams in 1993, was a finalist for the Hendricks Award. He tallied 26.5 sacks in his three seasons. Moore was arrested for possession of marijuana in summer 2011. Then-coach Mike Sherman suspended him for the 2011 opener and met with him weekly to keep him on track.
Alex Okafor, Texas: Okafor (6-5, 261 at Senior Bowl) started 33 games during his career, including 32 in a row. He was first-team all-Big 12 the last two seasons, and notched 12.5 sacks, 18 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles as a senior. He ended his college career with a bang by tallying 4.5 sacks in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon State, then continued his success with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
Ty Powell, Harding: Harding (6-2, 245 at Senior Bowl) dominated the Division II ranks with 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for losses and four blocked kicks to earn second-team All-America honors. He played defensive end at Harding and was an All-America safety at DeAnza junior college; he'll probably play outside linebacker in the NFL.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri: Richardson (6-4, 295) led the team or was among the leaders with four sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses, three forced fumbles and one blocked kick. His 75 tackles led all SEC defensive tackles. He was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. A five-star recruit out of Gateway High School in St. Louis, Richardson was so athletic that he returned kickoffs. Still, he hadn't amounted to much until 2012. He spent two years at junior college and missed spring practice in 2011 (academics) and 2012 (shoulder surgery).
K.K. Short, Purdue: Short (6-3, 308 at the Senior Bowl) led the Boilermakers with seven sacks, 15 tackles for losses and four blocked kicks. He was all-Big Ten for the third consecutive season and a second-team All-American as a senior. Short credited the Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan and the Packers' Mike Neal for getting his career on track after arriving at Purdue overweight.
John Simon, Ohio State: Simon (6-2, 256 at the Senior Bowl) won the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year Award after tallying nine sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses. He had five tackles for losses against Nebraska and four sacks against Wisconsin. He ranks seventh in school history with 20 sacks and 43 tackles for losses. Simon was the eighth two-year captain in school history. Simon played linebacker at the Senior Bowl. A revered leader, Simon was given the game ball after the victory over Michigan, even though he missed the game with a knee injury.
Jared Smith, New Hampshire: Smith (6-3, 292) was an FCS All-American with four sacks, nine tackles for losses, three blocked kicks and two forced fumbles. A three-year starter, he finished with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for losses.
Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky: Smith (6-5, 249) led the Hilltoppers in sacks for the third consecutive season, piling up team-leading figures of 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for losses while forcing three fumbles as a senior. He had three sacks against Alabama, so don't blow off his production. Smith's 1.25 sacks per game led the nation as he was named Sun Belt Conference defensive player of the year. Despite missing two games, he fell a half-sack short of setting the Sun Belt single-season record. His five sacks against Florida International also was No. 1 in the country. Smith credits his explosive season, in part, to taking up yoga.
Akeem Spence, Illinois: Early entrant. Spence (6-1, 305) started all 38 games during his career. He was an anchor of the nation's seventh-ranked defense, earning honorable-mention all-Big Ten honors with 72 tackles and seven tackles for losses. However, he failed to be as dominant as the player he replaced, 2011 Chargers No. 1 pick Corey Liuget.
Damion Square, Alabama: Square (6-3, 286) started every game as a senior, with the team captain finishing with 3.5 sacks, four tackles for losses and a team-leading nine quarterback hits. The nation's ninth-ranked linebacker coming out of Yates High in Houston, he redshirted in 2008 and missed all but two games in 2009 with a torn ACL.
Walt Stewart, Cincinnati: Stewart (6-5, 249) had five sacks in five games before his senior season ended with a back injury. In fact, his father said Stewart would retire from football because of a congenital spinal defect. In December, however, his father said Stewart had been cleared to begin training for the Combine. He finished with 17.5 sacks, 34.5 tackles for losses and eight forced fumbles in 43 games. The injury wasn't the only challenge in his life.
Devin Taylor, South Carolina: Taylor (6-8, 267) was a freshman All-American, first-team all-SEC as a sophomore and an honorable mention the past two seasons. After three sacks and 8.5 tackles for losses as a senior, his career totals were 161 tackles, 35.5 for losses, 18.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hurries in 52 games (45 starts). He was the South Carolina champion in the triple jump at Beaufort High. He wears a bunch of rubber bands on his wrists, including two for a former teammate who has thyroid cancer and another honoring veterans.
Bjoern Werner, Florida State: Early entrant. Werner (6-4, 255) is a potential top-five pick who piled up 13 sacks (tied for third nationally) and 18 tackles for losses this season. He was a finalist for the Hendricks Award and a consensus All-American. Only two Germans have been drafted: Patriots lineman Sebastian Vollmer and Giants defensive lineman Markus Kuhn. Werner, whose introduction to football came from a long-lost friend named Mirko and playing "Madden" video games, was a German exchange student who played only two years of football in the States before landing at Florida State. He played club football in Germany and two years at a prep school in Salisbury, Conn.
Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern: Williams (6-2, 341) was a three-time Division II All-American. The MIAA Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, Williams finished with 68 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for losses and five forced fumbles. He's the school's career sacks leader with 27. He parlayed a strong senior season into a strong week at the Senior Bowl. He was discovered at a prep school in Cincinnati playing guard. He missed the 2009 season because of a ruptured disc that required surgery. He considered quitting football at that point.
Jesse Williams, Alabama: Williams (6-4, 320), a nose tackle in the Tide's 3-4 defense, anchored the nation's best run defense. He tallied 36 tackles, 2.5 for losses, one sack and a blocked kick. He also played frequently as a short-yardage fullback. He can bench press 600 pounds and will take aim at the Combine record of 51 reps on the 225-pound bench, set by Eastern Kentucky's Justin Ernest in 1999. The Bears' Stephen Paea did 49 reps in 2011. A native of Brisbane, Australia, Williams grew up playing basketball and rugby before giving football a try when he was 15. He was discovered by the defensive coordinator at Arizona Western junior college, Jerry Dominguez, while he was teaching fundamentals to players like Williams on the Australian junior national team. After this year's national title game, he talked to Australia's prime minister via Skype.
Nate Williams, Ohio State: Williams (6-3, 249) missed most of 2011 after microfracture surgery on his knee, and recorded two sacks, four tackles for losses and a forced fumble in 10 games this season. Before the injury, he had 11 sacks and 26 tackles for losses.
Nick Williams, Samford: Williams (6-4, 310), a two-year starter, was first-team all-Southern Conference as a senior with seven sacks, eight tackles for losses and a blocked kick. He played only one year of football in high school so was lightly recruited.
Sylvester Williams, North Carolina: Williams (6-3, 313) had a big senior season with six sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses and was named first-team all-ACC. Williams played only one season of football in high school and went to class two or three times a week. Not even his father having the police take his son to school helped, as Williams was kicked out of school a few weeks later for poor attendance. Williams, checking in at 370 pounds, showed up at the Coffeyville Community College, even after the coach said he didn't want to see him.
Tourek Williams, Florida International: Williams (6-4, 255) arrived at Florida International weighing just 220. He blossomed into a three-year starter and three-year all-conference performer, including first-team honors as a senior with 6.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. At Miami Norland High, Williams was an offensive tackle and tight end until moving to defense halfway through his senior season.
Trevardo Williams, Connecticut: Williams (6-1, 235) played linebacker at the Senior Bowl and that's almost certainly where he projects in the NFL given his size. He was all-Big East his final two seasons, including as a senior, when he had 11.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses. He's the school's career leader with 30.5 sacks and added 40.5 TFLs and five forced fumbles. Not bad for a guy who arrived on campus weighing 205. Then-coach Randy Edsall offered Williams a scholarship after watching him compete at the state track and field championships.
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