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2012 Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

Posted Apr 16, 2012

SAN DIEGO – Chargers.com will devote several weeks to previewing the 2012 NFL Draft, detailing prospects by position so you can familiarize yourself with the names and faces that will shape the future of the franchise and the NFL.

We’ve already looked at specialists, safeties and tight ends. Today we’ll review the top defensive ends in the draft pool.



Chargers angle: San Diego’s defensive line transitioned last season.

Vaughn Martin became a starter in his third season and began to grow into the potential of his 6-foot-4, 308-pound frame.

Last year’s first-round draft choice, Corey Liuget, started as well.

Luis Castillo injured his leg in the season opener, which helped usher in the youth movement. He returns to the team for an eighth year with a restructured contract. Castillo’s long-time teammate and friend Jacques Cesaire returns for a 10th season with the Chargers.



ANDRE BRANCH, Clemson

6-foot-4 ¼, 259 pounds

“I’m versatile, man, I can do it all. I can put my hand down in the dirt. I can stand up. It shows on film. I can drop back in coverage also.”

Notes: Recorded 10.5 sacks in 2011, 2.5 more than his 2008-10 totals … Also had 85 tackles, 17 for loss, as an All-ACC performer last season, mostly while lining up at “Bandit,” or right defensive end in the Tigers’ scheme … Sacked Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas three times in the second half of a 23-3 win on Oct. 1 … Pretended to be handcuffed for college sack celebration, saying “it basically symbolizes that I can’t be locked down” … Projected as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker/pass rush specialist.

NFL.com bio

QUINTON COPLES, North Carolina

6-foot-5 ¾, 284 pounds

“I heard the rumors and all the things that were going on about me not playing as hard, so I took it personally and I made a statement for myself (at the Senior Bowl) that I can compete outside of the ACC and all across the country.”

Notes: After playing defensive tackle in 2010, many expected big things from Coples back at his natural pass-rush position. He managed 7.5 sacks, but faced questions about effort and consistency after the season … Notched 59 tackles, 15.5 for loss and 10 sacks as a junior in ’10 … Played with current Chargers defensive tackle Cam Thomas at North Carolina … Earned back-to-back first-team All-ACC accolades.

NFL.com bio

VINNY CURRY, Marshall

6-foot-3 1/8, 266 pounds

“I like being the underdog. I feel like the underdog always works harder, always has something to prove. That’s my personality. I always have something to prove. I love to work. I love to get better and I just love the game of football.”

Notes: Third in the FBS with 22 tackles for loss and tied for sixth with 11 sacks in 2011 … Mother passed away early in the week before Marshall played Rice after battling cancer. Curry didn’t practice all week, returned to campus an hour before the game and made nine tackles, 3.5 sacks, recovered a fumble and forced another that led to the game-winning touchdown … Showed up at a Halloween press conference dressed as Rick Flair and claims he may become a professional wrestler after the NFL … Forced 10 fumbles in college, many by chasing down ball-carriers.

NFL.com bio

MELVIN INGRAM, South Carolina

6-foot-1 ½, 264 pounds

“(Sitting out a year with a foot injury) just showed me how valuable football was. Football has always been my life, but being without it for a year just made me appreciate it a lot more even though I appreciated it a lot already.”

Notes: Led South Carolina with 10 sacks in 2011 … Intercepted two passes and scored three touchdowns in 2011, including a 68-yard fake punt, and played on South Carolina’s hands team on kickoffs … Started for just one season with the Gamecocks … Can execute a standing backflip and was a 225-pound scoring point guard on his high school basketball team … Played numerous positions along the front seven in college.

NFL.com bio

BRUCE IRVIN, West Virginia

6-foot-3, 245 pounds

“I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Atlanta.  I dropped out of high school in the 11th grade. I kind of got into some trouble running with the wrong crowd. Finally saw the light. Got my GED. Took the test and passed all five parts on the first try. That January I went to school. I never looked back.”

Notes: Made 22.5 sacks in 21 games at West Virginia … Played just one year of high school football and went to junior college as a safety, but his coach moved him to defensive end when he struggled to pick up the defense … Played in a 3-3-5 scheme with the Mountaineers and didn’t play much outside of pass-rush situations … Ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

NFL.com bio

CAM JOHNSON, Virginia

6-foot-3 ½, 268 pounds

Notes: Began his career as a 3-4 outside linebacker, then switched to a 4-3 defensive end as a junior under a new coaching staff … Recorded a combined 10.5 sacks the last two seasons and made 11 tackles for loss in 2011 … Pittsburgh recruited him as a receiver out of high school, wanting him to follow Larry Fitzgerald and Antonio Bryant as the next NFL product from their offense … Projected by several analysts as a 4-3 end in the NFL.

NFL.com bio

CHANDLER JONES, Syracuse

6-foot-5 3/8, 266 pounds

“People say I’ve got competition or I’ve got big shoes to fill because my brothers are both pro athletes and I’m not. I turn it into a joke and say, ‘Well, we all wear size 15.’”

Notes: Missed five games with a knee injury in 2011, but still became a first-team All-Big East selection with 39 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception … Made all 4.5 sacks in his first four games of the season … Brother Jon Jones (15-1) is current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and brother Arthur Jones is a defensive tackle on the Baltimore Ravens.

NFL.com bio

RONNELL LEWIS, Oklahoma

6-foot-1 ¾, 253 pounds

“At Oklahoma, we wanted fast guys out there at the ends. We really just try and sell it up, come underneath with a move. Never really a spin move because they always wanted our eyes on the quarterback and (wanted us to) try and beat them with speed.”

Notes: A first-team All-Big 12 performer in 2011, Lewis made 60 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 10 games … Role simplified to pass-rush focus near the end of his college career … Has worked hard at outside linebacker drills and thinks he’ll fit best in a 3-4 scheme at the NFL level … Nicknamed “The Hammer” by college teammates … Benched 225 pounds 36 times at the NFL Combine … Dealt with knee and neck injuries in college as well as an academic suspension … Played running back and free safety as his high school played eight-man football for three years … Spent much of the offseason training at Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego.

NFL.com bio

WHITNEY MERCILUS, Illinois

6-foot-3 5/8, 261 pounds

“My parents are Haitian immigrants. They broke their backs throughout the years just to put food on the table for me, my brother and my sister. They instilled those values in us to work hard, never give up on anything in life and keep us pushing forward and go for great things, and it definitely happened.”

Notes: Led the nation with 16 sacks as a junior and forced nine fumbles, second-most in NCAA history … A consensus first-team All-American, Mercilus led the Big Ten with 22.5 tackles for loss and won the Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in the nation … Totaled just two sacks in his first two seasons at Illinois … Played with Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget at Illinois.

NFL.com bio

NICK PERRY, USC

6-foot-2 ¾, 271 pounds

“I prefer 4-3. I’d like to keep my hand in the dirt. But as long as I’m rushing and getting to the quarterback, I’m fine whatever it is.”

Notes: Led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks as a junior, earning first-team all-conference honors … Added 10 pounds of muscle since the end of the season … Admitted to not practicing many linebacker drills in preparation for the Combine, focusing on defensive end skills … Leaped 38.5 inches at the Combine and ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash … Started nine games as a sophomore in 2010, making 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks.

NFL.com bio


OTHER NOTABLE DEFENSIVE ENDS
Name School Height Weight
Frank Alexander Oklahoma 6-3 3/4 270
Jake Bequette Arkansas 6-4 5/8 274
Jamie Blatnick Oklahoma State 6-3 1/8 263
Jack Crawford Penn State 6-4 7/8 274
Tyrone Crawford Boise State 6-4 1/4 275
Justin Francis Rutgers 6-2 268
Trevor Guyton California 6-2 5/8 285
Akiem Hicks Regina 6-4 5/8 318
Jamaar Jarrett Arizona State 6-4 3/4 265
Brandon Lindsey Pittsburgh 6-1 5/8 254
Jonathan Massaquoi Troy 6-2 1/8 264
Shea McClellin Boise State 6-3 3/8 260
Donte Paige-Moss North Carolina 6-3 3/8 268
Derrick Shelby Utah 6-2 7/8 266
Jacquies Smith Missouri 6-2 5/8 253
Scott Solomon Rice 6-3 262
DeAngelo Tyson Georgia 6-2 1/4 315
Olivier Vernon Miami 6-2 1/8 261


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