Stand and Deliver

The 2008 draft is full of intriguing defenders and Ohio State's Vernon Gholston is at the top of the list. Gholston has all the tools to be dominant, so's NFL Draft Analyst Chris Steuber fills you in on Gholston's positional future at the next level.

In the world of Astrology the Leo is considered the most dominant of all the zodiac characters. They know exactly what they want and use all of their energy, creativeness and resolution to get it, as well as being certain that they will get whatever they are after.

Ohio State’s versatile defender Vernon Gholston isn’t a Leo by birth date, but he played the Leo position with the Buckeyes and his objective was to sack the quarterback.

The Leo position at Ohio State is a defender who plays with his hand down in the ground and lines up at outside linebacker. This is an important attribute that will only help Gholston’s draft stock this April and it will make him more attractive to NFL teams.

Gholston lines up at OLB against Northwestern.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At the NFL Scouting Combine, the 6-foot-3, 266-pound Gholston addressed his versatility and what position he prefers to play at the next level.

"I'm not really uncomfortable with either one of them; I played them both [DE and OLB] in college,” Gholston said. “It's really wherever the team puts me. The biggest thing is I'm capable of playing both positions. Actually, I played linebacker in high school, so when I got to Ohio State the biggest adjustment was becoming a defensive end; playing with my hand on the ground."

"I love playing defensive end. I love getting after the quarterback and affecting the game that way.”

Gholston’s desire to impact a game was evident with the Buckeyes.

During his three-year career at Ohio State, Gholston recorded 87 tackles, 30.5 for a loss, 22.5 sacks and an interception. This past season, Gholston enjoyed a breakout year where he totaled 37 tackles, 15.5 for a loss and 14 sacks. His ability to make plays in the backfield is uncanny and his production is off the charts.

Gholston is a projected top-ten draft choice and interestingly enough the teams selecting from No. 6 – 8 (New York Jets, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens) run a 3 – 4 defense. The skill set Gholston brings to the table seems to be a perfect fit for the 3 – 4, and evaluating each of those teams they all could use a physical freak like Gholston playing OLB to create havoc in the backfield.

But when you think back to this past year’s Super Bowl and witnessed how the New York Giants defensive line dominated the Patriots offensive front, it may entice the teams (Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints) in the top-ten that run a 4 – 3 defense to consider drafting Gholston as a DE.

"I know how big the defensive line is [to teams in the NFL],” Gholston said. “If you got a front four that can control the game you're destined for championships. That was proven [in Super Bowl XLII]. The way [the Giants] were able to take advantage of their speed and get to the quarterback [proved it]."

Gholston is an explosive pass rusher who has tremendous strength and is able to get in the backfield and create havoc. He’s quick off the snap and uses his freakish strength to get around the end. He uses his hands well and gains leverage inside. He has great agility and is fluid changing direction in pursuit of a ballcarrier.

As much potential as he has, Gholston struggles to get off blocks against a bigger opposition. He has a tendency to wear down as a game goes on and is a bit streaky when it comes to his sack total. Gholston, if he plays in a 4 – 3 defense at the next level, will have to improve his run defense to become a complete DE.

Whether Gholston plays at OLB or DE in the NFL or if he plays in a 3 – 4 or a 4 – 3 defense it doesn’t matter, because he will get after the quarterback and reward a team with his versatility.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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