DL, LBs Shift Talks to Defense at NFL Combine

INDIANAPOLIS — Following two days of media interviews with offensive players, the talks will turn to defensive prospects at the NFL Combine.

Defensive linemen, 30 ends and 26 tackles, and 35 linebackers are scheduled for Saturday's interview sessions with reporters as offensive linemen and tight ends hit the field for timing and testing drills. The players are part of more than 330 who were invited to Lucas Oil Stadium for the annual event.

Titans general manager Ruston Webster was asked Thursday how he thinks Tennessee's plan to use a "hybrid" defense with elements of a 4-3 and 3-4 under new coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Webster said the switch has "created some nice avenues for us."

"I think it opens things up for us, I really do," Webster said. "I think it opens things up for us for those in-between rushers. Maybe they are not a 4-3 end exactly, but in a 3-4 and the way we're going to play in this hybrid defense, they'll fit that and will give us something."


Multiple projections have South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney winding up in the AFC South.

South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is expected to receive a significant amount of attention from reporters. Clowney is one of 13 defensive linemen from SEC schools and one of 13 underclassmen in the position group. Other SEC defensive linemen are: Missouri DE Kony Ealy, Florida DT Dominique Easley, LSU DT Ego Ferguson, Auburn DE Dee Ford, LSU DT Anthony Johnson, Tennessee DT Dan McCullers, Alabama DE Jeoffrey Pagan, South Carolina DT Kelcy Quarles, Missouri DE Michael Sam, Arkansas DE Chris Smith, Alabama DE Ed Stinson and Arkansas DT Robert Thomas. The field also includes Arkansas State defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers, who played high school football at Brentwood Academy. 

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently projected that Clowney will be selected by Houston with the first pick of the NFL Draft in May, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. predicted earlier this month that Clowney will go to the Texans or to Jacksonville with the third overall pick.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks ranks Clowney as his "top defender in the 2014 class." Brooks ranks Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt, Ealy, Ford and Oregon State's Scott Crichton as the next defensive ends and Notre Dame's Louis Nix III, Florida State's Timmy Jernigan, Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman, Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Arizona State's Will Sutton as his top defensive tackles.

In rankings released before the combine, NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock rated Clowney, Ealy, Ford, Crichton and Stanford's Trent Murphy as his top five defensive ends. He ranked Nix, Jernigan, Donald, Hageman and Easley as his top five defensive tackles.  

Jeremiah's Top 50 overall prospects include: Clowney (1), Jernigan (6), Nix (20), Hageman (23), Ealy (26), Donald (30), Easley (33), Ford (39) from the defensive line.

There are five players from SEC teams and five underclassmen in the group of linebackers that include 20 outside linebackers and 15 inside linebackers. The players from SEC schools are: LSU's Lamin Barrow, Alabama's Adrian Hubbard and C.J. Mosley, Florida's Ronald Powell and Kentucky's Avery Williamson, who is from Milan, Tenn.

The group also includes Illinois' Jonathan Brown, who played high school football at Christian Brothers in Memphis, and Andrew Jackson of Western Kentucky.

Brooks ranks UCLA's Anthony Barr, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, Buffalo's Khalil Mack, BYU's Kyle Van Noy and Florida State's Telvin Smith as his top five outside linebackers and Mosley, Wisconsin's Chris Borland, Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood, Florida State's Christian Jones and Stanford's Shayne Skov as his top five inside linebackers.

Mayock's rankings, regardless of inside/outside LB, are Mack, Mosley, Barr, Borland and Shazier. Jeremiah projects Mack to Atlanta with the sixth overall pick, Barr to Tampa with the seventh and Mosley to Minnesota (eighth). He includes Barr (4), Mack (5), Mosley (9), Shazier (35) and Borland (43) in his list of Top 50 prospects.

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