Defenses have the ability to change the tide of games and there are a number of linemen that consistently make big plays for their teams. These are just four of the guys that are going to lead their squads:
Phidarian Mathis – Alabama – DT
When it comes to stuffing the run, few defensive linemen are as impactful as Crimson Tide DT/NT Phidarian Mathis. With exceptional size at 6-4, 320 pounds and length with his 34 1/2” arms, the Louisiana native routinely displays elite ability to stack offensive linemen, create separation to key & diagnose, and then shed to make the tackle. But Mathis is more than just a cog in the middle of the LOS – with rare speed and range for his size, the redshirt senior regularly demonstrates great effort pursuing ball carriers out of the stack, and flashes the ability to be an upfield penetrator with his initial quickness and getoff. Unsuspecting quarterbacks also fall prey to his long wingspan’s ability to affect passes at the LOS — something he successfully accomplished three times in 2020.
Chauncey Manac — Louisiana – DE
In the NFL, versatility is key, and Ragin’ Cajun Chauncey Manac has demonstrated for multiple years now his ability to perform a number of roles defensively. After beginning his collegiate career at Georgia, the 6-3, 251-pounder found a home at Louisiana where he has wreaked havoc on Sun Belt opponents while aligning at outside linebacker, defensive end, and even as a stand-up rusher over the guards in sub-packages. One of the best assets of this slippery defender is his ability to play with his near 34” arm length, keeping blockers from getting latched onto his body and providing separation as a rusher to execute a rush move. Coupled with his strength to hold up against the run and it’s no wonder why Manac is squarely in the sites of NFL talent evaluators.
Zach VanValkenburg – Iowa – DE
As a first-year transfer in 2019, Zach VanValkenburg flashed for the Hawkeyes some of the ability that got him named 2018 Defensive Lineman of the Year in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. But in 2020 the former Hillsdale College star really ascended while starting every game for Iowa and showcasing his rare motor and stamina. What sets VanValkenburg apart from some other defensive ends is his rush plan along with counter moves primed in the event his initial move is stymied. His variety of moves was on full display against a good Minnesota OL last year when the super senior practically lived in the offensive backfield while recording three sacks, numerous pressures and factoring against the run. And he hardly left the field that day, a testament to his endurance and training, and a nightmare for the Gophers.
Jordan Jackson – Air Force – DL
Jordan Jackson is fun to watch. The Jacksonville, Florida native is a versatile defensive lineman with excellent size and length who goes 100 mph every snap. Prior to sitting out the 2020 season, Jackson recorded a whopping 17 career tackles for loss and eight sacks – a testament to his initial quickness, instincts, physicality, and non-stop motor. In the Falcons’ rivalry games versus fellow service academies in 2019, Jackson was at his best while recording a season-high eight tackles against Navy and then besting that feat with a nine-tackle performance versus Army, adding a sack in both games.
Just a few more days to go until the release of the full Big Board!