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It's Time To Get Defensive

Scott Haynes, College Editor

On Campus Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For the last several weeks we have taken a look at the best offensive players in the country at the skilled positions.

Well, there are two sides of the ball and the star power on defense this year in the college ranks is every bit as deep as that of the offense.

Starting this week, we will go through the defensive positions and give you just a glimpse of the potential difference-makers this year, starting with the glamour spot at defensive end.

David Pollack
David Pollack led the SEC in TFLs, sacks and QB hurries.
DAVID POLLACK: The Georgia Bulldogs have been blessed with an active defensive line for some time now, but this year's unit could be one of the best. Sure, Pollack benefited from having first-round draft pick Johnathan Sullivan inside last year, but the 6-3, 278-pound Pollack probably helped Sullivan just as much. The junior sack-master made the move to the outside last year and paid immediate dividends, leading the SEC in TFLs (23), sacks (14) and QB hurries (35). In addition, Pollack recorded two interceptions, while also blocking a punt and a field-goal attempt. Don't be surprised to see him once again atop the SEC in several statistical categories.

JASON BABIN: Not exactly a household name, this Western Michigan Bronco could very well be the best downlineman in the college ranks this season. On the preseason watchlists for the Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Bronco Nagurski Award, the 6-4, 265-pounder is coming off a 2002 campaign in which he was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, after posting WMU single- season records of 23 TFLs and 15 sacks, to rank second and fourth in the nation, respectively. Yes, he plays in the MAC, but getting double and triple teamed in any conference should slow you down, right?

CLAUDE HARRIOT: The job of replacing Pittsburgh All-American end Bryan Knight was not supposed to be easy, but the emergence of the 6-4, 255-pound Harriott last year certainly bridged the gap. Harriott led the Big East and ranked second nationally by forcing a whopping seven fumbles in 2002. He also led the Big East in three additional defensive categories, including TFLs (21), sacks (9.5) and tackles amongst lineman (78).

WILL SMITH: Playmakers were not scarce on the defensive side of the ball for last year's national champions, but one of the few returning this year, could very well emerge as one of the best. At 6-4, 250 pounds, Smith showed the ability to play against the run (59 total tackles last year) and the pass (5.5 sacks) last season. An overzealous defender with a non-stop motor, Smith is sure to be a driving force for the Buckeyes in 2003 and could see his numbers increase significantly. Imagine how dominant he could be if he added about 15 pounds to his frame.

NATHANIAL ADIBI: It is a pick-your-poison decision with the Virginia Tech defensive line. If Adibi doesn't get to the quarterback, Cols Colas usually does. However, Adibi has the better package when it comes to size at 6-3, 255 pounds, thus getting the nod over his active counterpart Colas (6-0, 230). A terror on the outside for the Hokies, Adibi finished 2002 with 55 total tackles, with 15 TFLs, while sharing the team-lead in sacks with Colas at nine. He added 16 QB hurries, forced three fumbles and broke up two passes. A physical player, Adibi has the ability to line up on either side and still get to the QB.

*WILDCARD - GREG GATHERS: One of the premier pass rushers in the country in 2000 and 2001 (23 combined sacks), the Georgia Tech star had his 2002 season come to an abrupt end, as he played in just three games due to a kidney ailment. A two-time First-Team All-ACC selection and former All-American, the 6-1, 270-pound Gathers is already the school's career leader in sacks (31) and TFLs (57). Granted a fifth year of eligibility in 2003, Gathers could once again join the elite pass rushers in the country, if his strength and stamina return this season.

Others to Watch: Antwan Odom (Alabama), Bo Schobel (TCU), Dave Ball (UCLA), Kenechi Udeze (USC), Jason Kaufusi (Utah), Cols Colas (Virginia Tech), Bobby McCray (Florida), Bill Swancutt (Oregon State) and Andrew Shull (Kansas State).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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