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Combine News And Notes: Pass Rushers

Posted Feb 22, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- When talking about pass rushers earlier this week, general manager Howie Roseman discussed the challenge of finding players who were 6-foot-4, 255 pounds with 35-inch arms and 10 1/8" hands.

There aren't that many in the world, let alone the NFL. There are some prospects who will come close to that here at the NFL Scouting Combine. Our news and notes package from Saturday's interview session begins with South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

CLOWNEY: EXPECTATIONS WERE UNREALISTIC

Clowney's monster 2012 season, punctuated with "The Hit" against Michigan's Vincent Smith, put him in the discussion of being the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The only problem was that there was an entire 2013 season to play.

Clowney had just three sacks although he did have 11.5 tackles for loss despite missing two games. Then again, Clowney had 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss in his monster sophomore campaign. Clowney remains in the discussion to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft despite the dip in numbers. The bar was set so high for Clowney that he felt the numbers he were expected to post were unrealistic.

"A lot of people expected stuff that was impossible, like 10 sacks a game, 30 tackles for loss. I knew that wasn’t going to happen of course but a lot of people expected it," said Clowney, who measured a shade over 6-foot-5, 266 pounds with 10-inch hands and an 83-inch wingspan. "I just went out there and played my game, hard and physical football like I played my last two years there. We won, like I said, we won, got a high ranking."

However, Clowney's former coach Steve Spurrier called out his former defensive end as having a questionable work ethic.

"I don’t really have anything to say about it. I believe I did work hard," Clowney responded. "You pull out any practice tape from last year, you’ll see that. That’s what I told them. I’ll tell everybody that. I will always be working hard. No matter where I end up I am going to work hard and give a team everything I’ve got.

"I was really trying to break the (career) sack record for us for the next guys coming in. There were a lot of ups and downs but we won 11 games, were 11-2, won our bowl game and finished No. 4 in the country for the first time in South Carolina history so I was pretty excited about the season. I wasn’t worried about my stats really. A lot of game changing went on when we played teams. Quick passes, two-on-one, opposite side runs, but that happens. I wasn’t really worried about my stats, I just wanted to win."

BRIDGEWATER STATES HIS CASE TO BE NO. 1

One of the players who is also in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick is Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Central Florida's Blake Bortles addressed the media on Friday. Bridgewater got to state his case as to why he should be the No. 1 overall pick on Saturday.

"I feel that I’m the best quarterback in this draft. I’m not just going to sit up here and say it. There’s obviously actions that have to back up these words, and I’m just confident in myself and my capability to be able to play this position," Bridgewater said. "I’m just going to go out there and prove that I’m the best guy.”

Bridgewater further added that his accuracy is what sets him apart.

"This past season, I was able to complete 71 percent of my passes. My third-down passing completion percentage was pretty much off the charts, my pocket presence, I’m a competitor," Bridgewater said. "Each day I go out there and I’m eager to learn, remain a student of the game, and I think that right there just separates me.”

In addition, Bridgewater points to the NFL-style offense he played in at Louisville as a plus.

"It just prepared me for some of the things that an NFL quarterback has to do nowadays with making the checks at the line of scrimmage, sliding the protection, IDing the Mike, getting the offense in and out of the right plays, signaling the hot routes to the wide receivers," Bridgewater said. "It shows how much trust that the coach had in me, (offensive coordinator and quarterbacks) coach (Shawn) Watson, and I’m glad that he put that trust in me.”

Bridgewater will not throw at the NFL Scouting Combine.

MAYOCK: I'D TAKE KHALIL MACK NO. 1 OVERALL

Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack has not been mentioned by draft experts as a contender for the No. 1 overall pick. Well, that isn't the case anymore.

On Friday, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said in a radio interview with KFAN that he would take Mack with the No. 1 overall pick. Mack responded to the high praise on Saturday.

"Mike Mayock's the man. I want to prove him right," Mack said.

Mack kept his No. 46 at Buffalo after the annual NCAA Football game made that number his overall rating in 2010.

"I knew deep down in my heart that I was better than 46," he said.

This past season, Mack had 19 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He measured in at 6-foot-2 and 251 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. The former two-star recruit from Florida acknowledged that Buffalo was an unlikely destination, but it turned out to be a wonderful decision for him.

"It was God's will," Mack said. "He placed me there and I'm in the position I'm in now because of Him."

ANTHONY BARR: PLENTY OF UPSIDE

UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr started his college career as a running back, but was convinced by head coach Jim Mora to make a position switch in 2012. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Barr is honest when he points out that he's still a work-in-progress - especially against the run - but the advancement he's made in such a short time showcases the upside the projected first-round pick has.

"I think moving backwards, going back in coverage, was something that was new to me. But now I feel comfortable with that," said Barr, who is expected to test off-the-charts in the timing and testing drills. "Just sort of getting used to the position. It’s still sort of new to me in a sense. It’s exciting. If I continue to work, the sky’s the limit."

Barr said that his experience as a running back still comes in handy even though he's now on the other side of the ball.

"I think I can kind of understand offensive schemes, how offenses want to attack you and the formations," Barr said. "Maybe a little tips and keys a running back gives away. He’s looking at you, peeking at you that’s he’s going to cut-block you, stuff like that."

PLENTY OF VERSATILITY ALONG THE D-LINE

As the top defensive line prospects met with the media, the ability to line up in multiple techniques was something that each of them wanted to boast.

"I played nose tackle, played a three-man front in the 5-tech, 3-tech. I moved around in college a lot, so being versatile the way I am, I feel like that's a plus for me," said Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald, who is only 6-feet, 288 pounds, but compares his game to Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, who has a similar build.

The Eagles drafted Bennie Logan in the third round out of LSU last year. Logan doesn't have what was once considered the typical nose tackle build at 6-foot-2, 309 pounds. Minnesota's Ra'shede Hageman is taller at 6-foot-6, but only 310 pounds. However, Hageman played all over the defensive line as well, including at the nose.

“I feel obviously you got to be tough to play a zero technique. It’s very claustrophobic just playing zero, but I feel like the people that standout just being the hybrid 3-technique and being able to play inside as well," Hageman said. "I feel like that’s definitely one of my strengths."

Florida State's Timmy Jernigan said that he, too, could play in a variety of fronts even at 6-foot-3, 299 pounds.

"I feel like I can play in any scheme, a three-man front which we did at Florida State. I can play in a four-man front as well," Jernigan said. "I can attack. I can two-gap. It really doesn't matter. I can play anywhere along the front."

No matter the shape or size, the mission is the same - can you stuff the run and disrupt the pass game?

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