Sadly, few casual fans understand the importance of having a truly stout player in the middle. Quality defensive tackles are as hard to find as elite quarterbacks; evidenced by this years NFL Draft. The three quarterbacks taken in the first round equaled the number of defensive tackles drafted, perhaps even exceeded the number of defensive tackls as the Steelers are moving former Mizzou DT Evander Hood from DT to 3-4 end. This season in college football there are several first round caliber defensive tackles such as Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, Geno Atkins from Georgia, Marvin Austin of UNC and even Vince Oghobaase from the mighty Duke Blue Devils.
However the two most noteworthy man mountains on the block are Alabama’s Terrence Cody and the Sooners’ Gerald McCoy. They are two very different players who both get results that should boost them into the upper echelon of the coming NFL Draft.
Terrence Cody (6’5”, 365)
When the big man was being recruited from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College he was only the 45th ranked JUCO transfer in the nation. Despite the ranking the Tide’s Nick Saban looked at the man, who at the time was listed at upwards of 390, as the golden anchor he needed to make his 3-4 scheme work. Terrence became Mount Cody upon arriving in Tuscaloosa and from his first day on campus his legends grew while his waistline slowly shrank, to his current svelte 365.
There’s more to Cody than just his girth, the kid is surprisingly agile in his size and the power he brings to every snap more than exceeds his own massive physical stature. The Man-Mountain dominated within the SEC, he commanded double teams forcing centers and guards to account for him, disallowing them to reach Rolando McClain and the rest of the ‘Bama linebackers.
At times during the season teams needed a triple team to handle Mount Cody as he pushed piles back into the quarterback, clogged middle runs and showed a surprisingly agile ability to shed blockers and make tackles down the line. True Cody’s individual stats; 24 tackles, .5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss don’t scream high production. However, Alabama’s 74 rushing yards per game, 2.7 yards per carry and 3rd overall ranking speak to the impact of Terrence.
Gerald McCoy (6’4” 295)
On a light day Mount Cody is about an average third grader heavier than Boomer Sooner Gerald McCoy, but that doesn’t mean the OU tackle is any less of a player. McCoy is the real deal when it comes to being an active versatile man in the middle as shown by his impressive stat line: 30 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1 interception.
McCoy’s capable of playing the 3-technique, a 1-technique, nose tackle as well as shifting over to play the end in the Sooners 3-4 scheme. That versatility allows the rising junior to make plays from different angles as well as exploit mismatches; be they strength on a center or quickness when lined up over a guard. He does a great job of splitting double teams to gain penetration as well as running down plays from the back side of the formation.
The beauty of watching McCoy play lies in his energy and versatility. He lines up at multiple positions and plays both the run and the pass extremely well. The defensive tackle is so athletic that Brent Venables doesn’t think twice about dropping the surprisingly fluid man into coverage to bring zone blitzes. This paid off with McCoy picking off the Tebow-Child in the national title game.
Terrence Cody will very likely be a top five draft pick, men of his size don’t come around often and men with that size and athleticism are virtually impossible to come by. McCoy is a likely top fifteen draft pick as well since his ability to play everything from the under tackle to the defensive end in the 3-4 make him a very valuable commodity.
For this season, in college football, Gerald McCoy is the best in the nation.
Cody is a pure 3-4 defensive tackle; at most he can play the nose in a 4-3 scheme on first and second downs. McCoy wins this battle based not upon his stat line but rather on his ability to be more active, more versatile and contribute in multiple facets of the game. Cody often leaves the field on third downs while McCoy adds his speed and athleticism to the pass rush.
This season expect Alabama’s run defense to improve with Cody’s better conditioned body and the Tide growing into their roles in Saban’s 3-4 scheme. Out in Norman the Sooners look to improve on their 42 sack total from a season ago and McCoy will exhibit the skills that make him 2009’s Best of the Best.