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UT's Derek Barnett Makes Case for Himself at NFL Combine


INDIANAPOLIS —Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is an athletic freak, and he proved it again at the NFL Combine. He's projected by most experts to be the No.1 pick of the NFL Draft.

But what about Tennessee's Derek Barnett? He was even more productive in college, and he added to his tough-guy reputation by taking part in Sunday's drills despite being sick.

"I give him a lot of credit for showing up,'' Gil Brandt, former VP of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, said on Twitter.

Barnett did more than just show up on Saturdays with the Vols. It put him in great position to be picked early to play on Sundays.

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound defensive lineman has proven to be a human wrecking ball on the football field.

Barnett set Tennessee's all-time career sacks record of 33.0, breaking the previous mark of 32.0 held by the legendary Reggie White. His 52.0 career tackles for loss ranks second in Tennessee history only to Leonard Little's program-record 53.0.

He finished his junior season with a career-high 13.0 sacks, which ranks as the third-highest single-season mark in UT history behind only White's 15.0 in 1983 and Jonathan Brown's 13.5 in 1997.

"Derek is a high-motor player, a relentless pass rusher,'' Titans general manager Jon Robinson said. "He is strong at the point, he can leverage guys at the point of attack."

The Titans, who are scheduled to pick 5th and 18th overall in the first round, could always use another guy to get after the quarterback. Where Barnett goes in the draft, however, isn't quite as easy to figure out.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has Barnett listed as the No.3 edge rusher in this year's draft, behind Garrett and Alabama's Tim Williams.

"I really like Derek Barnett,'' Mayock said. "I think Derek Barnett is one of the hardest working, toughest edge rushers in this draft or any draft," Mayock said. "I think he's going to go somewhere. Let's say 10 to 22, somewhere in that range."

Others see Barnett going much higher, however.

Analyst Bucky Brooks, also of NFL Network, isn't completely willing to concede Barnett is second-best to anyone. He compared Barnett to former Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa, the No.3 pick in last year's draft who had a very successful rookie season with the Chargers in 2016.

"It's well-established that Texas A&M's Myles Garrett is viewed as the top pass rusher in the draft, but Tennessee's Derek Barnett definitely deserves consideration for the honor after terrorizing the SEC as a destructive force off the edge for three seasons,'' Brooks wrote for "In fact, you could make the argument that Barnett should own the No. 1 spot at the position after wreaking havoc on SEC foes as the Vols' designated pass rusher."

"When I study tape, I see a relentless pass rusher with an outstanding combination of skill and technique,'' Brooks said of Barnett. "He is one of the best hand-to-hand combat fighters that I've watched in years, and his ability to win with a variety of slick maneuvers makes him nearly impossible to slow down off the edge. In addition to his superior hand skills, Barnett has the rare ability to win with finesse or power off the edge.

"He displays enough quickness, balance and body control to blow past blockers with dip-and-rip maneuvers or he can use a variety of power moves, including the butt-and-jerk or bull rush to get home off the edge. With Barnett also displaying a non-stop motor to complement his technically sound game, he's like an old-school construction worker with a hard hat, lunch pail and a shiny toolbox. He has all of the rugged traits that you covet in a player while also displaying the skills to dominate at the next level."

Barnett ran a 4.88 at the combine on Sunday, and was also impressive in on-field work. The former Brentwood Academy star did a 31.0-inch vertical, a 117.0-inch broad jump and put up an impressive time of 6.96 in the 3-cone drill.

Barnett was interviewed by NFL Network after his workout. He had to reschedule some of his interviews because he was sick on Saturday. He wasn't 100 percent Sunday, but said he wanted to work out before NFL officials.

"I wanted to come out and perform because I know this is an important job interview,'' Barnett said. "A lot of people would not be here, and I was like, "I've got to make the most of the opportunity that I've got. So I just grinded it out and came here and did my best."

Barnett has been working on his speed in recent weeks, and he wants to add more moves to his repertoire for the NFL.

He had over 20 meetings in Indianapolis.

His plan was to convince NFL teams he's worthy of an early pick, if his college game tape didn't prove it.

"I think I need to open up my pass rush moves even more,'' Barnett said. "I think a lot of people know my bread and butter, every great pass rusher has that one go-to move and they keep doing it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

"(With me) you are going to get a tough player, very competitive and hard-nosed. I think if you look back at my past three years, I think I am a consistent ball player. I want to win, so that's the type of player you are going to get."

Titans GM Jon Robinson, head coach Mike Mularkey make their media rounds at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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