Deandre Coleman, California: Coleman (6-5, 315) was a two-year starter and played in every game during his four seasons. He was voted a team captain as a senior, when he recorded 40 tackles (tops among the team's defensive linemen) with 2.5 sacks and a team-high nine tackles for losses. For his career, he tallied 5 sacks and 26.5 TFLs. Coleman, with a fitting nickname of "Biggie," saw his production curtailed by playing under three defensive coordinators.
Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh: Donald (6-1, 288) was selected the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player), Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year), Outland Trophy (best offensive or defensive lineman) and Rotary Lombardi Award (best defensive lineman or linebacker), making him one of the most decorated players in Pitt history. He was voted a consensus All-American during a senior season filled with big plays. Donald totaled 59 tackles, 28.5 tackles for losses, 11 sacks, 16 QB hurries, four forced fumbles and a blocked extra point in 13 games. On a per-game basis, Donald led the nation in TFLs and was 13th in sacks. He was a one-man wrecking crew against Georgia Tech with six tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and a sack. USA Today had the perfect headline: Donald isn't short on talent. A young Donald almost quit before his career began.
Dominique Easley, Florida: Easley (6-2, 285) was a preseason first-team all-SEC selection but he sustained a torn ACL in his right knee at practice before the fourth game of the season. Shortly after the injury, he decided to turn pro rather than take advantage of a medical redshirt. He tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011. In two-plus seasons, he tallied 72 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 18 tackles for losses. He's chronicling his path to the draft for FOX Sports.
Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech: Ellis (6-2, 342) posted 102 tackles and 9.5 tackles for losses during his career. His only postseason honors were second-team all-WAC as a sophomore. Ellis' nickname is "Jelly Bean," even though he isn't particularly fond of the sugary, chewy candy. However, he admits, "My eating habits are horrible. I won't eat a lot throughout the day, but when it is time to eat I make sure I eat and it's usually something bad for me."
Ego Ferguson, Louisiana State: Early entrant. Ferguson (6-2, 309) started all 12 games in 2013 – his only season in the starting lineup. He was an honorable mention on the all-SEC team with 58 tackles, including 3.5 for losses and one sack. He missed this year's Outback Bowl with a knee injury. He spent his senior season of high school at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., so he could face better competition.
Ra'shede Hageman, Minnesota: Hageman (6-6, 318) was first-team all-Big Ten and the Gophers' MVP as a senior. Among his 38 tackles were two sacks and a team-high 13 TFLs. He added nine batted-down passes and two blocked kicks. He broke into the starting lineup as a junior with six sacks. Coming out of Washburn High in Minneapolis, Hageman was the nation's top-ranked tight end. He also was the star player on a state-championship basketball team and allegedly can do 360 dunks. He made the move to defense during his redshirt season of 2009. "My better days are still ahead of me," he said. Hageman's birth name was Ra'Shede Knox. His mom spent time in jail and he never knew his father. He and his brother spent time at about a dozen foster homes until being adopted by Minneapolis attorneys Eric Hageman and Jill Coyle. It wasn't a smooth path, however, as Hageman was suspended for academic reasons in 2010 before coach Jerry Kill got him back on track.
Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech: Hyder (6-2, 280) was second-team all-Big 12 as a senior behind his 65 tackles, 11.5 tackles for losses, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks as a defensive end in Tech's 3-4 scheme. He finished his career with 38 consecutive starts. In his five seasons, he played for five defensive coordinators and three head coaches. A cousin, Chris Houston, is a cornerback for the Lions.
Anthony Johnson, Louisiana State: Early entrant. Johnson (6-2, 295) started for one season, earning second-team all-SEC honors in 2013. Among his 35 tackles were a team-high nine tackles for losses and three sacks. Coming out of O.P. Walker High School in New Orleans, Johnson was Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year and the top defensive tackle in the recruiting class. He set the state record with 79 sacks for his career. Johnson, whose family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, also is a certified chef through the Louisiana Technical Institute. "In high schoo,l my mama told me 'If you don't have a woman who can cook, you better learn to do it yourself because you don't want to eat TV dinners all the time,' " Johnson said. "The Freak" also sang in the choir and sang the national anthem before some games .
DaQuan Jones, Penn State: Jones (6-4, 323) was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior, when he led Penn State with 11.5 tackles for losses and was named the team's MVP. His 56 tackles led all Big Ten defensive linemen. He lost 20 pounds before his senior season thanks to a diet that cut out a campus hot spot. Jones was on the move throughout his childhood because his mom was in and out of jail and his life and his dad struggled to make ends meet. "I had to change and I had to take a step back and realize sometimes you grow up and some people do what they have to do to survive," he said of his high school days. "A lot of people use drugs to just make money. That's something I had to separate myself from so I wouldn't be caught up in that and possibly lose the opportunity to go to school."
Daniel McCullers, Tennessee: McCullers (6-7, 348) spent his first two years at a junior college before going to Tennessee, where he started 19 games in his two seasons. He posted 33 tackles, including 4.5 for losses, as a senior. Tipping the scales at 377 pounds in 2012, he recorded 39 tackles, including one sack and 5.5 TFLs. So, to say McCullers was the big man on campus would be an understatement. He was a shy 400-pounder with academic problems in high school. "It took us a year to get him to shake people's hands. It took three years to get him to talk," one of his assistant coaches told USA Today in 2012. "He didn't realize how good he was going to be until he started playing. He got a second opportunity, and that was eye-opening." He learned discipline at Georgia Military College.