Earlier, I released a handful of under the radar offensive players that will be down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl. Next up, is the defense and there are more than a few guys who could become household names after all the dust has settled.
DE: Byron Cowart (Maryland)
‘This is all I have left.’
That may very well be what is going through the mind of Maryland defensive end Byron Cowart. A few years ago, Cowart was the number one recruit coming out of high school and decided to sign with Auburn. His Auburn journey did not go as planned and Cowart transferred to Maryland in time for the 2018 season in a last-ditch effort to salvage his career. While he finished with just three sacks this season, Cowart still showed flashes that reminded the world why he was the #1 recruit just a few years ago. He wins with a quick burst off the line and his violent arms make him a potential danger to the backfield at all times.
DT: Renell Wren (Arizona State)
Renell Wren is a driver, as in he has no problem driving opposing linemen backwards. The Arizona State defensive tackle has long arms and a powerful base which he uses to push interior linemen into their own backfield. Wren is a raw prospect but has a lot to gain this week should he perform to his potential.
— Fabian Ardaya (@FabianArdaya) October 15, 2017
EDGE: Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
This may feel like a bit of low effort selection but I’ve had Montez Sweat circled before the likes of Josh Allen, D’Andre Walker, Chase Winovich and Christian Miller chose to sit this week out for their own reasons.
Sweat is by no means a finished product but he carries lots of optimism. The Mississippi State pass rusher recorded 11 sacks this season and while a handful were the result of his hustle, there was still a lot to like from an athletic standpoint. With long arms and a massive 6’6 frame, Sweat has the length to beat tackles on the outside or inside shoulder. When that does not work, look for Sweat to use his quick burst off the line to get around the edge.
My flight to Mobile is still a couple of hours away, so a few more players I want to highlight in the meantime. A lot of EDGEs dropped out this week leaving Montez Sweat as one of the top remaining pass rushers. He's got a great burst off the line. Big week ahead for him. pic.twitter.com/MmAxnxPv7Z
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) January 20, 2019
ILB: Terrill Hanks (New Mexico State)
Linebacker Terrill Hanks has the numbers to state his case. Over 100 tackles in each of his last three seasons and eight career interceptions. Now allow his tape to translate those numbers into football terms – Hanks has been a sideline to sideline linebacker for New Mexico State, as he is all over the field. Hanks came to New Mexico State as a safety but made the transition to linebacker and has not looked back. While he still has a few rough edges (strength issues), his instincts and range cannot be ignored.
Something tells me Hanks’ play will be hard to ignore this week.
Taking a quick look at New Mexico St. LB Terrill Hanks (@elev8yourgame) today. His instincts and athleticism make him a perfect fit for the modern day NFL linebacker. Great speed and comfortable in coverage. He will also be at the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/9T0C30q1xY
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) January 9, 2019
CB: Isaiah Johnson (Houston)
I have been raving about Houston’s Isaiah Johnson for weeks. He just carries this enticing combination of size, speed and potential that makes him hard to forget. Johnson converted from wide receiver to cornerback two seasons ago but he is developing rather quickly at his new position. This is due to his athletic traits; Johnson has insane closing speed and ability to break on the football which has led to four interceptions and 12 pass deflections.
Oh, did I mention yet that Johnson is also 6’4?
Sign me up.
Catch Houston CB Isaiah Johnson in the Armed Forces Bowl today. The senior CB is 6’4 with great closing speed and was also invited to the Senior Bowl. The Armed Forces Bowl kicks off at 3:30 PM EST. pic.twitter.com/YWs5CSmcG5
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) December 22, 2018
Also ejoy the bonus clip of pass rusher Jaylon Ferguson who will also be in Mobile this week.
S: Mike Edwards (Kentucky)
Versatility is the name of the game and that just so happens to be Mike Edwards’ biggest selling point. Edwards is comfortable and productive in deep coverage, against the run and can even play in the slot. The Kentucky safety has recorded 317 tackles and 10 interceptions over his NCAA career, a testament to how he can bring the best of both worlds. Edwards flies all over the field and with a good week of practice, he could see his name alongside the likes of Johnathan Abram and Nassir Adderley, perhaps even surpassing them.