2012 NFL Combine

A Closer Look At Dontari Poe

By Christina Rivers

When Dontari Poe (defensive tackle) out of Memphis bench-pressed 225 pounds 44 times on Sunday at the 2012 NFL Combine, he had a lot of eyes on him. Five reps short of the all-time record set by Stephen Paea proved that Poe is strong. It was his unofficial 4.87 first-attempt in the 40 that had phones ringing, and he followed it with a 4.94. Poe can bench-press 500 pounds and squats 700. Poe\’s potential worth after a strong combine showing may have just thrust him forward as one of the top prospects in this year\’s draft.

Poe\’s size, strength and speed would improve any 3-4 defense that depends on a nose tackle to anchor the line. The Pittsburgh Steelers, with Casey Hampton likely to be unavailable and Chris Hoke retired, would love to see the 6\’4”, 364 pound Poe not only clog the inside of their defensive line, but create an ability for the second-level defensive players to make big plays. Poe has shown an ability to occupy more than one blocker while using his strength and 32” arm length to overpower offensive linemen across from him. With 9 5/8” hands, Poe is athletic enough to also apply pressure to any opponent\’s passing game as well.

Poe, a native of Mephis, Tennessee, played high school football at Wooddale High School for coach Jesse Allen. Selected to participate in the first-ever Toyota East vs. West Tennessee All-Star Classic (2007), Poe was also one of the top 20 prospects in Tennessee as rated by Rivals.com. Tennessee Football Magazine placed him on the Phenom 32 all-state honoree list. Further awards included: 2007 MIAA 4A-5A Best of the Preps Team by the Commercial Appeal. The fact that Poe was a Best of the Preps All-Metro selection in track as a junior and a winner of the shot put title for Class 3-A at the state meet that same year spoke volumes as to just how strong and quick Poe was, even as a prep star. He was a city, district and region track title holder as a senior as well.

Poe declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year at Memphis having played in 35 contests. In that time he had 101 total tackles, five sacks, four forced fumbles, four passes broken up, and 21.5 tackles for a loss. During his time with the Tigers, Poe had a career-high eight tackles against Marshall and UT Martin (2011 and 2009 respectively). In 2011, Poe was named to the second team All-Conference USA. He was also listed as an honorable mention All-America pick by Pro Football Weekly and selected as a third-teamer on Phil Steele\’s All-C-USA Team. Poe was named as the team MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year at the team\’s annual post-season banquet.

Poe\’s decision to enter the NFL draft early was partially made by his mother, Sandra. At the time, Poe said, “I\’ve just been focusing on the here and now…my mom will handle everything outside of this.”  He also spoke to other family members; a sign of maturity and conscientiousness that many young players do not have.  Mike Dubose, his coach and former head coach at the University of Alabama was impressed with the young man\’s character and play. DuBose told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that Poe “put himself into position to make some really big plays for us. Sometimes the ball has come out extremely quick on him and maybe he didn\’t get the sack, but he got good pressure on the quarterback.” DuBose has called Poe “powerful” and “the best defensive lineman I\’ve ever coached.” The only negative DuBose gave about Poe was that he often gets too anxious to make a play, or thinks he is the only one responsible for making the play and “overthinks”.  DuBose worked with Poe to recognize that “he can\’t get frustrated when he can\’t [make the play]”.

NFL.com analyzed Poe\’s strengths as: “A serious ability to eat up a double team. Strong lower body so that he can stabilize his position. His athletic ability and quickness force the use of a double team, and he can wreak havoc around the ball. Poe uses his strong hands to keep defenders at bay and throw them around to create opportunities. He is a consistent defender who combines size, strength, athletic ability, and the understanding of what it takes inside for himself and those around him to do their job.”

The negatives listed about Poe were mainly focused on his ability to move outside to end in the 3-4 defense and his ability to get off the ball (by NFL.com).  However, the National Football Post said that they believe Poe has a “Haloti Ngata-type build” and that he puts in time off the field to improve. Although Poe has had issues with maximizing on taking a positive first step off the football, he appears raw.

The Steelers organization has always been good about developing raw talent, and Poe appears to be a confident young player that could be molded into a fantastic nose tackle. Raw doesn\’t mean bad; it means workable. Poe has proven over his college and prep career to be highly coachable. Introducing Poe to a defense that has arguable been the best in the NFL in at least the past five seasons would make perfect sense. Watch for the Steelers to put his name on their draft sheets and try to obtain him in the first round.

Poe\’sCareer Defensive Statistics

2009 11/6 18 9 27 0 0 3 7-13 2-4 0-0
2010 12/12 21 20 41 0 0 3 6.5-27 2-16 0-0
2011 12/12 18 15 33 2 0 1 8.0-26 1-3 0-0
Total 35/30 57 44 101 2 0 4 21.5-66 5-23 0-0


Poe\’s Career Highs

Tackles 8 (2x, last vs. Marshall 2011)
Solo Tackles 5 (vs. UT Martin 2009)
Assisted Tackles 5 (2x, last vs. Marshall 2011)
Tackles For Loss 2.5 (vs. Arkansas State, 2011)
Sacks 1 (4x, last vs. SMU, 2011)
Forced Fumbles 1 (4x, last vs. SMU, 2011)
Pass Breakups 1 (4x, last vs. Southern Miss, 2011)
QB Hurries 2 (3x, last vs. MTSU, 2011)


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