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2010 FBS Positional Analysis: Defensive Linemen

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - They are literally the first line of defense, the one group of players that controls the tempo of the game more than any other. They can completely negate skilled offensive performers with their tenacious play up the field, and the NFL simply can't get enough of them.

Below are the top FBS defensive linemen heading into the 2010 season.

DEFENSIVE ENDS

ADRIAN CLAYBORN, IOWA


The top collegiate defensive end plays for the Hawkeyes. The 6-4, 285-pound Clayborn is an every-down dominant force up front. He showed flashes of potential in his first two seasons at Iowa but really burst on the scene as a junior in 2009, racking up 70 total tackles, with an outstanding 20 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks, earning some All-American honors, as well as being tabbed an All-Big Ten First-Team honoree. The Hawkeyes aren't the team to beat in the Big Ten this season, but Clayborn should continue to excel and be a disruptive force for the Hawkeyes week-in and week-out.

ROBERT QUINN, NORTH CAROLINA

This Tar Heel has overcome adversity to become one of the nation's premiere ends. The 6-5, 270-pounder recovered from brain surgery as a high school senior and has really developed in a short period of time. As a sophomore in 2009, Quinn was a First-Team All-ACC selection, while picking up some All-American accolades as well, finishing the year with 52 total tackles, 19 TFLs and 11 sacks. The Tar Heels are under fire right now regarding potential NCAA violations, and while the team may not vie for an ACC crown in 2010, it won't be because of the play along the defensive line.

JEREMY BEAL, OKLAHOMA

It may have been a down year for the Sooners in 2009, but that wasn't because of a lack of effort from the 6-3, 267-pound Beal. This Oklahoma end racked up an impressive 70 total tackles, with 19 TFLs and 11 sacks, picking up First- Team All-Big 12 honors and Third-Team All-American status. His junior campaign was a nice follow-up to his sophomore season (15.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks), as he continues to reach his potential. The Sooners will be back in the thick of the Big 12 race in 2010 and Beal will be a centerpiece on the defensive side of things.

GREG ROMEUS, PITTSBURGH

The 2009 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-6, 270-pound Romeus amassed 43 tackles, with 11.5 TFLs and eight sacks. He will vie for All- American honors in 2010 and consideration for most defensive awards when all is said and done. The Panthers should take another step towards the Big East crown this year, and balanced play on both sides of the football could be the difference. Romeus is an every-down end, who must be accounted for by offensive coordinators.

SAM ACHO, TEXAS

Sergio Kindle has moved on to the NFL, leaving Acho as the premiere down- lineman in Austin. A veteran end, Acho has played in 38 career games, with 14 starts. As a junior in 2009, the 6-3, 260-pounder finished with 63 total tackles, 14 TFLs, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He will once again be a key contributor along the Longhorn defensive front in 2010. Texas will be among the top teams in the country, and Acho very well may take the next step in his maturation as a dominant and disruptive force.

OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Marcel Dareus (Alabama), Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), Jonathan Freeny (Rutgers), Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State).

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

MARVIN AUSTIN, NORTH CAROLINA


This Tar Heel is currently embroiled in an NCAA investigation, but that won't keep him off my list as the top interior lineman in the game. Larger than life both on and off the field, the 6-3, 310-pounder is as good as it gets. He was a Second-Team All-ACC selection as a junior in 2009, as the outgoing Austin finished with 42 total tackles, six TFLs and two sacks. A space-eater in the middle, it remains to be seen if he will showcase his talents on the field in 2010, as the NCAA may hand down a lengthy suspension that could result in his career in Chapel Hill coming to a close.

ALLEN BAILEY, MIAMI-FLORIDA

A chiseled 290-pounder, Bailey has the ability to play both inside and out at the next level. An All-ACC First-Team selection as a junior in 2009, he led the Hurricanes in both TFLs (11) and sacks (7.0). Miami will take another step toward regaining its swagger on a national scale in 2010, and Bailey really has a chance to emerge as a difference-maker along the defensive front, vying for All-American honors in the process.

JERRELL POWE, OLE MISS

A mammoth interior lineman at 6-2, 320 pounds, Powe is a prototypical nose guard. He saw action in 13 games for Ole Miss last season with 10 starts, recording 34 tackles (25 solo), with 12.0 TFLs. He is very strong at the point of attack and has the ability to handle double-teams, freeing up his teammates to make the play. The Rebels won't win the SEC any time soon, but few teams will find it easy to run up the middle on Ole Miss in 2010.

JARVIS JENKINS, CLEMSON

Jenkins has played in the shadow of some really good defensive linemen at Clemson over the course of his career, but is ready to make a name for himself in 2010. The 6-4, 310-pound Jenkins earned second-team All-American honors as a sophomore in 2008 and followed that up with a solid junior campaign in 2009, ranking fifth on the team with 69 total tackles, 11 TFLs and one sack. He will be the centerpiece of the Clemson defensive front this season and should be a productive player on a weekly basis.

JARED CRICK, NEBRASKA

Though perhaps best known for playing next to Ndamukong Suh, Crick carved out his own little niche in 2009, earning All-Big 12 honors, after the 6-6, 285- pounder racked up 73 total tackles, 15 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. Without the luxury of Suh taking on double-teams, Crick will now be forced to prove he is not a product of his environment. Still, it wasn't Suh alone that put Nebraska among the national leaders in scoring defense (first), pass efficiency defense (first) and sacks (second) in 2009. This is Nebraska's last season in the Big 12 and although the team is probably not ready to win the league title, Crick will do everything in his power to keep the Cornhuskers relevant each week.

OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Stephen Paea (Oregon State), Jurrell Casey (USC), Adrian Taylor (Oklahoma), Cameron Jordan (California), Lawrence Marsh (Florida).

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

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