A big debate on AP so it seems. There are a few real needs on this team. We need a FS for God's sake, we need some CB help. Some OL help couldn't hurt (ever). WR are what some people perceive to be a need. But I don't think it's too controversial to say we want a beast opposite Poe on the inside to make these nickel packages pop and let us drop more DB's back into coverage so that they can forget to help over the top or whatever.
The consensus 3-4 DE prospects this year are Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. The classic debate between resume and looking between the stat sheet, big school prospect versus perennial loser folk hero. Both have similar builds, somewhere from 6'6-6'7 to 311-325. These are massive defenders, who have made a name for lumbering around in opposing backfields. Exceptional length, strength, size, athleticism for such hulking individuals.
Tuitt has the stats for it. He flaunts 12 sacks as a junior and 7.5 as a senior, very uncommon for a guy in his role. Hageman's stats have never been terrific, although he's also never been around defenders like Louis Nix and Manti Te'o his whole career, which could've isolated him in opposing eyes. His explosion out of his stance for a man of his size has been compared to J.J Watt.
I will judge them on a matrix of how they perform in the following categories...
Play Recognition/Gap Discipline
Ability to Maintain Leverage
Alright yeah let's go sick awesome!
An important part of being an interior defensive lineman, quite obviously. Handle double teams, force linemen back into the pocket, separate yourself from offensive linemen forcibly. You know, the works.
Hageman has a very jarring first step and punch. Very rarely do you see a guy at that size who can shoot of his stance like a spring and then hit an offensive lineman so hard in such tight quarters that he knocks them to the ground... on multiple occasions. He's got an explosive lower body that gets him the first contact, and an extremely powerful upper body to stand up and bench press 300 pound men every play. His bullrush is incomparable, I think a big measure of looking at how good a lineman is on either side is to look at the line as a whole and see where there is a bulge or dent off the ball. Hageman is very often already a yard or two deep into the backfield within the first second of the play. I urge you to watch the plays starting at :47 and 1:10 to see the kind of explosive power this guy has in his arsenal.
That is not to say he cannot get overpowered, especially on double teams. He is susceptible to losing footing when doubled or when he doesn't get an immediate jump on the opposition. He can get stood up and pushed back during short yardage situation as well. Watch 6:30 of that same video. Overall however, Hageman can hold his own against any 1 lineman in a run situation (look at 3:22) and routinely bullies his opposition into the backfield with pure power. I'll go 9/10.
Tuitt is your more traditional power guy. Much more of an anchor than an attacker like Hageman. He is adept at stringing out plays and not giving ground, much like our very own Tyson Jackson. He holds blockers off of him with big, meaty paws and moves laterally deliberately to the ball, allowing LB's behind him to flow over the top. I urge you to watch 1:08 of this video:
His strength is not as easily demonstrated in the pass game as I thought it would be. He is not an extremely quick player, and gets moved into. He has a nice club and arm over move he used from time to time but his feet are much better at staying skill or moving side to side than pushing onwards. It's obvious that he does have a strong upper body because of how he keeps linemen at bay but you rarely see him manhandle anyone like Hageman does. I will go with a 8/10.
Hageman's hands are quick and deliberate, and his punches rock linemen back on their heels. His placement for the most part is impeccable, they form a nice bend in the knees and elbows simultaneously to bowl over the opposition when extended. When attempting a swim his hands can get wild, but they are always violent and he always takes advantage of those long arms of his. Watch 1:45 for a real treat. :17 from the Michigan footage is awesome, too. I'll say 9/10.
Tuitt has very violent hands as well, although at times he forgets to use them. For being such a massive man he has very quick hands and is relatively light on his feet. He can sense imbalances and over-extensions in the opposition and capitalize on them. very savvy with his hands, that will bode well for him. Watch 3:03 of that Tuitt vs. USC video to see a taste. 9/10 seems reasonable.
Play Recognition/Gap Discipline
Hageman's most glaring deficiency. On more than one occasion he has run himself right out of the play. Is it a scheme thing, or a personal thing? I cannot say, but I know that I've seen him get blown out of a play for a big gain. Watch :57 of the Michigan footage and it's a pretty obvious problem. He is also susceptible to counters and play-action, and at times his aforementioned problems with shooting improper gaps can lead to him becoming a non-factor on a lot of plays. A 6/10 seems a little forgiving, to be honest.
Tuitt definitely has the upper hand here. He is very disciplined, always where he is supposed to be and never out of position, whether forced to be or not. His read and react technique is also more suited for sniffing out misdirection. It's hard to point out a singular play because it's most every play. 9/10.
Ability to Maintain Leverage
Hageman for being so tall is very adept at being the lowest man. He comes out of his stance like a python low and lean to shoot through gaps and make it hard for offensive linemen to get a hand on, with a cut under to try and rip off hands. I helps Hageman to have such long arms, able to snatch offensive linemen right out the gates and stand them up, which makes getting lower easy. But even still he is rarely stood up and moved. 8.5/10
Tuitt is not necessarily great at getting leverage and sometimes does indeed get stood up. But he's strong enough in his upper body and his assignment is so different from Hageman's that it doesn't seem as big or important. I would like to see how the two would do when swapped into the other's role. 7/10.
This is the fun part.
Hageman typically plays in two roles in his 4-3. As a 2-I nose tackle primarily mixed in with some 3-technique and the occasional 4 or 5 tech. He role does not change in any of these roles, they all culminate in "get upfield and wreak havoc in the backfield. His game against Wisconsin has him playing all over the line throughout the course of the game. 8/10.
Tuitt has even more of a wide resume under his belt. He's lined up primarily as a 5-4 tech in the 3-4 scheme, but he will occasionally bump into a 3 tech spot from a 4-3 under front and quite often is lined up as a 4-3 defensive end in the 7. For a man that big that is very impressive. 9.5/10.
Hageman has a motor than is very active and constantly whirring. If you'll remember correctly, Hageman was recruited out of high school as an All-State tight end with the intent of playing him there in college, and he ended up being a prolific lineman. Other examples of this conversion? Terrance Knighton, Sheldon Richardson, Randall McDaniel, Brian Waters, and Jason Peters. What does this mean? That conversion leads to athletic big men with high motors, always a great conversion. 8.5/10. Watch :39 or 2:24 of the Texas Tech footage.
Tuitt's effort is less memorable but not necessarily not good. He rushes the passer to the whistle and his hands and technique rarely falter or get lazy, not something that happens to often for a big man. He may not be as inclined to chase down a running back down the field but he gets at the QB until the ball is in the air or someone has his on the ground. 7/10.
Hageman's coup de grace. Very, very rarely is a man with such a gargantuan frame able to absolutely blast out of his stance. It's a combination of reaction time, natural athleticism, and lots and lots of agility training. When coiled up in his stance he's in perfect position to strike like a cobra, and his length and upper body can send pulling guards flying before they even turn the corner and can throw linemen to the ground like 320 pound ragdolls. The Nebraska footage especially demonstrated this, but it is not on YouTube and the Michigan footage can also show it.9.5/10.
Tuitt may be impeded by his scheme, but he in no way can be classified as an exceptionally explosive player. He comes out of his stance with a purpose, deliberately playing on the offensive lineman's every movement. He's quick in space and still very good with his hands and honestly like I said before, it would be interesting to see how fast he would be in Hageman's scheme. He seems to be attacking more aggressively in the BYU tape as well. 7/10.
Ultimately, it comes down to this. This is the difference between Earl Campbell and Larry Csonka. Randall McDaniel and Leonard Davis. Derrick Johnson and Andrew Wilson. Eric Berry and everyone else. Warren Sapp and Ted Washington. JJ Watt and Richard Seymour. Some guys play at a different speed than other players. They fly around, get in the way, make plays through any means necessary. And how often have you seen a defensive line bust have "Constant motor and extremely explosive jump" on his pros list?
Hageman wins this one, with a 83.57142857142857 out of 10 overall as opposed to 80.71428571428572 out of 10 from Tuitt. Hageman is my favorite, but Tuitt would be a hell of a consolation prize.
Stay tuned for my next pair of potential #23 5-techs, Kony Ealy vs. Aaron Donald.