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Thursday, November 7, 2013
Top five defensive end comparisons

By Craig Haubert

As each and every new evaluation period begins for our staff, we always try to use today’s college football stars and apply some of their best traits when describing the next generation of prospects. All prospects are different from one another, but many share similar characteristics that stand out in relation to their styles. In this edition of the series, we take a look at the top five defensive ends in the 2014 class and which college players they remind us of at this time.

Myles Garrett
Texas A&M recruit Myles Garrett has some of the same attributes as Jadeveon Clowney.
Myles Garrett -- South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney: Yes, this is a lofty comparison, and I hesitated to do it, but the dominant Gamecocks defender is the one who keeps coming to mind. I do think Clowney still rates ahead of Garrett at the same stage, and when compared I would defer to the potential top NFL draft pick each time. That being said, Garrett, a Texas A&M pledge, has an impressive combination of size, initial quickness and athleticism. As the top-rated DE in the 2014 class, he is a player capable of creating havoc as both a run defender and a pass rusher and he can be a difference-maker. While best suited as a 4-3 defensive end like Clowney, both are athletic enough to offer versatility in how utilized. This is a high bar, but Garrett has a wealth of ability in the mold of Clowney. The difference between the two is that while you can say Garrett’s ability is outstanding, in Clowney’s case the word rare would be more fitting.

Da'Shawn Hand -- Georgia DE Ray Drew: As the No. 2-rated defensive ends in their respective classes, both Hand and Drew possess great physical tools. Drew has a little better length while Hand has a little better bulk, but both have very good size at the same stage. Explosive players, they can both be stout run defenders and are athletic enough to quickly squeeze or be factor in pursuit. Drew currently leads the Bulldogs in sacks and Hand, with very good ability to convert speed to power, can develop into a disruptive pass rusher as well. Drew’s transition to the college level has been slow, spending some time at linebacker early on, but he is settling in at defensive end and beginning to come into his own now. Hand can offer some versatility and could see a move to linebacker as well, depending on scheme. He also possesses the same promising upside, and while there is still room for development, his impact could come a little quicker when he hits the college ranks.

Lorenzo Carter -- Alabama OLB Adrian Hubbard: The natural comparison for Carter is Hubbard, who also attended Norcross High School in Georgia. The comparison is not solely based on high school, though, as both are long, athletic players with basketball backgrounds. Hubbard was a late riser in the 2010 class, having focused on basketball early on, so Carter brings a little more experience at the same stage. As prospects, both brought promising upside with similar areas for development, like the need to physically fill out and learn to use their reach and hands better. Both move very well, although Carter’s speed is outstanding while Hubbard is arguably a little more fluid. Hubbard, a defensive end coming out of high school, moved to outside linebacker in college and Carter could very well make that move himself.

Lorenzo Featherston -- BYU DE Bronson Kaufusi: Featherston was a tough one, as he is a bit of a unique prospect. At around 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, he is a towering but lean defender with a massive wingspan. After some thought, Kaufusi seemed like a fitting comparison. Both possess immense stature, good athleticism for their size, and the ability to play with pad level and be tough, active defenders. Graduating high school in the 2010 class, Kaufusi, a coach's kid, carried more bulk on his frame, and taking an LDS mission allowed him more time to mature physically before hitting the field. He now tips the scales around 280 pounds. Featherston, who is a little more explosive but much leaner at this stage, will need some development time to add needed mass, but he has a promising future and a higher ceiling than the talented BYU defensive lineman.

Solomon Thomas -- Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt: The Fighting Irish defender is taller with the frame to carry more bulk, but outside of the size difference there are some similarities there. Thomas is still a good-sized prospect in his own right, with a little better first-step quickness. Both are capable of being tough run defenders, with the size and upper-body strength to set the edge. Neither are speed rushers off the edge with great ability to bend, but both can translate speed to power and create pressure. Thomas, like Tuitt, could also slide inside and be a disruptive interior rusher. You would not label either as dynamic, but both are good, tough football players with some d-line versatility. Like Tuitt, Thomas’ best fit could come as a 5 technique for a base 3-4, or he could potentially stay at defensive end in a base 4-3 as well as potentially develop into a defensive tackle.