Preview 2013 - CFN All-Tarmac Team Defense
West Virginia LB Isaiah Bruce
Get ready for the new stars about to fly on the 2013 CFN All-Tarmac Team - Defense.
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CFN All-Tarmac Offense
DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
Beasley didn't start a game in 2012. He didn't need to in order to lead the Tigers with eight sacks, which also ranked No. 5 in the ACC. The freakishly explosive athlete operates as if he's channeling current Seattle Seahawk edge rusher Bruce Irvin. Beasley just erupts off the snap, uses his hands very well and is often too quick around the edge for opposing offensive tackles. Sure, the 6-3, 225-pounder could be vulnerable against the run, but the trade-off in the pass rush is worth it. Beasley is set to go national, using his scary, quick-twitch athleticism to challenge for the nation's lead in sacks.
DE Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
Fowler has slimmed down, added muscle and become a film rat, with a singular goal in mind—becoming one of the SEC's premier pass rushers in just his second year. He got off to a solid start as a rookie by making 30 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss and 2.5 sacks. But now he's poised to morph into a versatile menace, both from defensive end and from BUCK linebacker. Fowler has an insatiable desire to keep improving, and is just as quick to whip blockers with his power as he is with his speed.
DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida
The D-line was already going to be the deepest unit in Tampa in 2013. The availability of Lynch adds a resounding exclamation point to the argument. A former mega-recruit of Notre Dame, he sat out 2012 after debuting in South Bend in 2011 with 33 tackles, seven stops for loss, 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. The 6-6, 244-pound Lynch has the long arms, explosiveness into the backfield and hot motor that will conjure up images of a young Jevon Kearse. It's going to be fun watching No. 19 blossom into a coveted NFL prospect this year.
DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
No defensive line in America lost more talent to the NFL than the Seminoles did last year. And it's not even close. But in the wake of the departures comes opportunity. Jernigan, in particular, is all set to parlay his junior season into a three-month audition for pro scouts and GMs. Even as a reserve off the bench, No. 8 made his presence felt by parlaying 45 tackles and eight stops for loss into honorable mention All-ACC. Now that his minutes are about to increase markedly, few doubt he'll deliver a campaign that attracts all kinds of positive pub. Jernigan erupts off the snap, and plays with shocking range and suddenness for a 6-2, 292-pounder, which is exactly what the ‘Noles need as they rebuild up front.
DT Anthony Johnson, LSU
The veterans have cleared out of Baton Rouge. It's Johnson's time to begin showing why he has an All-American ceiling. As a key member of the rotation in 2012, he started three times, finishing the year with 30 tackles, 10 stops for loss and three sacks. Thrust into more of a leadership role this fall, he's capable of parlaying his only year as a full-timer into maximum attention from pro scouts and GMs. Johnson has many of the qualities that the NFL looks for in an elite interior lineman, from his sudden first step and closing speed to his strength at the point of attack.
DT Danny Shelton, Washington
U-Dub used a wave of underclassmen on defense last season. Shelton, now a junior, is bucking to become the best of a deep and budding unit. The 6-1, 317-pounder laid a foundation by starting every game and by being tabbed All-Pac-12 honorable mention. He barely scratched the surface of his potential, while making 41 tackles and four stops for loss. But the coaching staff believes Shelton, a former state shot put champion, has the heavy hands, get-off and intensity to start consistently beating the double-teams that confronted him throughout last fall.
LB Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia
West Virginia needs plenty of help on defense. Bruce is one of the team's young players hoping to initiate some progress in 2013. As a rookie last fall, he was forced to clean up a lot of messes, finishing with 94 tackles, 6.5 stops for loss, two picks and a couple of fumble recoveries. Bruce is physical and instinctive, sniffing out plays before they have a chance to develop. He's also not about to rest on his strong debut, earning Iron Mountaineer recognition for his effort in the weight room during the offseason.
LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
The days of relative anonymity outside of Tuscaloosa are just about over for Hubbard. As a sophomore on the outside, he led the national champs with 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles, yet the average fan didn't know a thing about him. His profile is about to get the kind of bump that comes from being a next-level pass rusher playing for the game's most recognized program. Hubbard plays with the athleticism that's expected from a Nick Saban defender, but also possesses the length and the wingspan to really compound the problems for opposing tackles and quarterbacks.
LB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
The Bulldogs are in the market for a successor to Jarvis Jones, the first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jenkins believes he's up to the challenge, a sentiment shared by more than just the sophomore. As a rookie out of high school, Jenkins started six games and channeled his predecessor by making 31 tackles, eight stops behind the line and five sacks. He's a natural at getting into the backfield, a must for the outside linebackers in Todd Grantham's 3-4 base alignment. And he carries himself with a level of confidence and swagger sure to rub off on the teammates surrounding him.
LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
Kendricks just isn't getting the attention he deserves, even within his own league circles. That ought to start changing this year, though, his junior season as a Bruin. Kendricks is the proverbial tackling machine, piling up a Pac-12-high 150 stops, including a half-dozen behind the line, two sacks, three fumble recoveries and a pair of forced fumbles. And yet he was only named honorable mention All-Pac-12. Scratch head here. At 6-0 and 228 pounds, Kendricks isn't the prototype on the inside, but he more than compensates with tremendous range, closing speed and instincts. He'll be impossible to overlook when all-star votes are cast this postseason.
LB Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
It didn't take McKinney very long to show that his initial two-star high school ranking will wind up being vastly underrated. After redshirting in 2011, he took flight in 2012 with 102 tackles, tops among all SEC freshmen. The former high school quarterback has bulked up to 6-5 and 235 pounds, and has the long frame that can handle even more weight. With a full season as the starter behind him, McKinney plans to take on a greater leadership role, while spearheading a D that wants to attack more in 2013.
LB Shaq Thompson, Washington
Is Thompson technically a safety or a linebacker? Does it really matter how he's labeled? The second-year wunderkind played the nickel position in his debut, a hybrid that allowed him to freelance wherever help was needed. But he'll spend more time near the line this year. Thompson made good on his high school hype and heavy recruitment by earning Most Outstanding Freshman from his team and honorable mention All-Pac-12 from his league. The uniquely athletic 6-2, 230-pounder burst out of the gate with 74 tackles, 8.5 stops for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. His versatility and speed will allow the staff to use him liberally on blitzes, or to blanket tight ends in coverage.
DB Travis Blanks, Clemson
The Tigers will be replacing three starters from a secondary that appears as if it'll be the weakest link of the 2013 defense. The emerging catalyst of the unit will be Blanks, a 6-1, 190-pound sophomore free safety who started eight games in his first season. He's versatile, instinctive and a lot more mature than his age might indicate. In his debut, the Freshman All-American met elevated expectations by making 51 stops and breaking up seven passes. Blanks has the right work ethic and physical ability to quickly become one of the ACC's top defensive backs.
DB Alex Carter, Stanford
In just his second year on the Farm, Carter is already the new mainstay among the Cardinal cornerbacks. The well-sized former four-star recruit debuted with the program by starting four games, making 46 tackles, three stops for loss and three forced fumbles. Sure, there were growing pains, but Carter harbors the potential to blossom into the total package at the position, an athletic cover guy with the physicality to support the run. He's going to surprise a number of quarterbacks this fall, especially with all of the support he receives from all-star safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards.
DB Ronald Darby, Florida State
The Seminoles' depth in the secondary can be illustrated in two words: Ronald Darby. The 5-11, 183-pound sophomore is one of the better backup cornerbacks in the country, a young player with a tremendous future in Tallahassee. He arrived as a can't-miss recruit, and promptly turned 22 tackles and eight passes defended into being named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Darby might have to bide his time a little, but he has an exciting future that'll continue to evolve in 2013. Given a little time, he'll become the next big thing at corner in garnet and gold.
DB Jalen Mills, LSU
Mills already looks as if he'll be the next in a growing line of cornerbacks that use Baton Rouge as a launching point to the NFL. The 6-0, 185-pounder started all 13 games in his first season removed from DeSoto (Tex.) High School, no small achievement at a power program like LSU. Mills played exceptionally well, considering his lack of experience. Not only did he excel in coverage in the game's deepest league, but he also exhibited the toughness to challenge receivers at the line of scrimmage and finish fourth on the team with 57 tackles.
DB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Purifoy is one of those special athletes in college football who entices a coaching staff to concoct new ways to get him involved in the game. Gators' head coach Will Muschamp, in fact, is determined to turn his versatile junior into a triple-threat in 2013. Purifoy is already a sticky cover corner and one of the most disruptive presences on special teams. He's fast, fierce and never far from the ball. Think Honey Badger, with a much longer frame. Florida will also look to use Purifoy occasionally at wide receiver in an attempt to bring his playmaking ability to an offense pining for more pop and field-stretching plays.
DB Damian Swann, Georgia
On a defense that'll be light on surefire answers when 2013 begins, Swann is a welcome sight for head coach Mark Richt and his assistants. The junior cornerback really came on strong last season, closing out the year with a couple of Capital One Bowl interceptions against Nebraska. He'll pick up where he left off, distinguishing himself as one of the SEC's best defensive backs after being passed over by all-conference voters in 2012. Swann breaks quickly on throws, while playing with a level of enthusiasm that becomes contagious to the other Dawgs on the field.
CFN All-Tarmac Offense