The University of Southern California certainly forbids plagiarism, but in this instance, cutting-and-pasting is the only option available. Later this month, the 2009 NFL Draft will feature the entire core of starting linebackers from the 2008 USC Trojans defense.
The trio of Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews will all most-likely be selected in the first round of the upcoming draft. They all bring a similar smash-mouth style, that isn’t overly fancy and is undeniably rough around the edges. These guys aren’t squeeky clean kids, they aren’t flashy athletes, and they certainly don’t take kindly to dudes wearing the opposite color jersey.
Each of these guys are gladiator-like warriors who live up to their Trojan name. Maualuga is the fierce inside-backer, who may not be very fast, but is a bonafied tackle-machine and a fox-in-the-whole leader. Cushing could be the most impressive physical specimen of the trio and possesses a tremendous strength-speed combo. Clay Matthews, though equipped with a similar build, is a more sideline-to-sideline athlete who can fly around in coverage while remaining stout against the run.
With the proliferation of 3-4 defenses around the league, a premium has been put on big-strong-quick linebackers. All three of these guys fit that bill, and will definitely be gone by pick 35.
With the proliferation of the 3-4 defence in the NFL, an urgent need has developed for high-caliber ‘hybrid’ outside linebackers. These are generally kids who played with their hands in the ground in college, as undersized defensive ends. NFL scouts proceed to envision these physical specimens as the ideal 3-4 outside linebacker– where laying booming hits and putting pressure on the opposing quarterback are the primary objectives. Larry English, this year’s MAC-conference defensive player of the year, falls within this prototype.
When you first look at English’s 6’2″ frame, carrying 255-260 pounds, you’re automatically reassured this kid belongs in first-round conversation. When you compound this with the fact that he’s a workout warrior, and ran a pair of 4.7 forty-times at his Northern Illinois pro-day yesterday, you’re confident that this kid will do damage at the next level.
Examining English’s body of work, you’ll see that he’s had over 30 sacks in the past three seasons. When you flip on the film, you see a high-motor workhorse who brings it every down. In addition to looking at his tape, you could also reference his trophy case– where on top of being the MAC-conference defensive player of the year this year, he was their MVP in both 2007 and 2008. That’s a some serious hardware to back up your resume.
What’s the catch?
Well naturally, you have the “small-school” debate, where people criticize English’s production for the fact that he often played against inferior competition at Northern Illinois. Of course, I despise these sentiments, and one only need to look to last year, where a Div 2 corner from Tennessee State ended up making some noise on draft day. I’m of course referring to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who was taken 16th overall by the Arizona Cardinals, and who amassed 6 interceptions as a nickle corner.
The other knock on English is a history of fairly serious injuries, and admittedly, this is a more substantive concern. With an injury history that includes a torn ACL, a torn pectoral muscle and a broken thumb– the caution flags may be warranted. But physical examinations have deemed English 100% healthy, and that is ultimately bad new for NFL QB’s.