2016 Senior Bowl Preview: North Defense, led by Vernon Butler and Tavon Young


The North Roster offers three potential first-round prospects on the defensive line, a host of quality linebackers and the Senior Bowl’s best cornerback, even though he may not be well known yet. 

By: Eric Galko, OS Staff

Defensive Linemen

  1. Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

One of three Louisiana Tech prospects at the Senior Bowl, Vernon Butler has a real chance at being the school’s first first-round pick since 1993. Possessing great bend, lateral burst and an awesome motor, Butler plays a lot like former non-Power 5 conference defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson, and could earn a first-round grade with a strong Senior Bowl.

  1. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State

A second team all-conference selection at the tackle spot.  He is a big time player, 6’4″ and 290 pounds, has the size and skill which NFL teams will be looking at.  Compiled 7 tackles for loss and 4 sacks this year, was a very disruptive force in the middle to compliment Joey Bosa on the edge.  He is extremely quick on the snap of the ball which really puts the offensive line at a disadvantage early on.  Very stout at the point of attack and rarely gets pushed off the ball.  Another early round prospect for the Buckeyes for the 2016 draft.

  1. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame

A player in the Aaron Donald mold, playing with exceptional explosive quickness and burst off the ball. He’s able to knife through the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays in the backfield with the ability to bend and change direction throwing lineman off balance. He’s a high motor player who will track down the ball on every play. However, his lack of size leaves him vulnerable to anchor against the run, particularly against double teams. He’ll need to add play strength in order to hold up against bigger stronger players in the NFL. Although he’s had a laundry list of injuries, we do expect him to at least go day 2 in the draft.

  1. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State

The nose tackle on a talented Penn State defensive line, the graduated redshirt junior is a bit inconsistent in his pad level and motor on the interior. However, when he is playing at a high, active level, Johnson offers plus-hand strength, focus on the backfield runner and lateral control to finish around him. His inconsistent pad level and exposing of his chest-plate may be an issue in some drills, but look for him to win many one-on-ones during individual drills during practices.

  1. Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
  2. Jason Fanaika, DE, Utah
  3. Lawrence Thomas, DE, Michigan State
  4. Jihad Ward, DE, Illinois


  1. Josh Perry, Ohio State

The unquestioned leader on the Buckeyes defense, Perry possess the size and speed of today’s outside linebacker prospects, he is 6’4″ and 254 pounds and extremely athletic.  Perry earned first team all-conference honors this year, which was well deserved. He does not rely solely on his size and athleticism, but he plays whistle to whistle with a non-stop motor.  He will not allow blockers into his body and easily sheds and pursues and makes a lot of plays for the Buckeyes defense.  Will do things a lot of other players can’t do because of the way he plays and size and athleticism.  Sometimes the way he plays will actually hinder him and takes himself out of position, but does a good job of regrouping and getting back into the play.  Not as highly graded as some of the other players on the defense but he is definitely a mid-round prospect at the least.

  1. Kyler Fackrell, Utah State

Fackrell has great combination of size (6’5″, 250) and speed and is an excellent athlete overall athlete. He was asked to do pretty much everything for them through the course of his career and made the first team all-conference this year in his fourth year as a starter. He is athletic enough to play in coverage as well as a pass-rusher, and offers plus-upside as an in-space linebacker. His relentless motor and range will be on display for scouts in attendance.

  1. Blake Martinez, Stanford

Martinez is yet another intelligent linebacker to hail from Stanford. His diagnoses of plays is almost always speedy and accurate. He takes steps toward the playside as soon as the ball is snapped, which helps him mask his average athleticism. Martinez is also valuable as a coverage piece because he is able to quickly decipher route concepts and lock onto the correct receiver. Mentally, Martinez is superior to most every linebacker in the nation, but his average athleticism does not always allow him to capitalize on that.

  1. Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
  2. Tyler Matakevich, Temple
  3. Jared Norris, Utah
  4. Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia


  1. Tavon Young, Temple

One of my favorite defensive back prospects in the 2016 draft, Young has been under-appreciated on a Temple defense that also boasts two other Senior Bowl invites, including Bednarik winner Tyler Matakevich. But Young’s poise against top talents and comfort ability to anticipate—not guess—on routes are what allows him to be a truly special vertically protecting cornerback prospect. Young had awesome success against Notre Dame’s Will Fuller, and will look to do the same against vertical threats in Mobile. Don’t be surprised if he leaves Mobile with top-50 expectations.

  1. Will Jackson, Houston

A long, lean cornerback who fits the NFL’s new ideal prototype, Jackson looks the part and flashes NFL-starter talent. He plays away from his frame well in underneath coverage and when working vertically, and doesn’t mind getting physical as he works downfield. But he’s still a bit delayed, hesitant and/or indecisive in his hip turn and route anticipation, and he’ll be susceptible to double moves in the NFL and, more pressingly, in Mobile. He could have a fantastic week, but it’ll be about keeping the big mistakes at bay that scouts should look for.

  1. Maurice Canady, Virginia

Possessing highly impressive vertical speed in both big-play prevention and vertical coveage, Canady offers adequate length coupled with bump-and-run vertical speed that makes him a plus-fit for NFL teams hoping to follow the Seahawks defensive lead. He’s seemingly unwilling to engage contact in run support and too often allows for perimeter runs or after-catch big-plays. But with his vertical capabilities and patience in off-coverage, look for Canady to really impress in practice matchups with the vertically-stretching receivers in attendance.

  1. Deiondre Hall, Northern Iowa
  2. Eric Murray, Minnesota
  3. Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State


  1. Darian Thompson, Boise State

Thompson finished a productive career as the Mountain West conference’s all-time leader in interceptions.  Named to the All-Mountain West First Team, Thompson was truly deserving of this honor after his highly productive and impacful senior season.  A jack of all trades player as he doesn’t excel in any one area, Thompson is rangy, aggressive, and a real ballhawk.  He plays fast, but he will tend to make a mistake due to his high motor.  Thompson is a player with great size and ability that teams will likely find intriguing come draft day.

  1. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah

Miles Killebrew boasts awesome power as an open-field tackler, standing up runners on a consistent basis at the second level. A physical, feisty tackler, Killebrew can be caught waiting and having runners work through him.

Killebrew offers some bounce to adjust and evade blockers, giving him a clear path to finish in the run game, certainly his best and most translatable skill set transcending his “level of competition” concern. But he tends to rely on strength as a tackler too much, can be evaded or worked through and is a bit stiff when reading and reacting from a midfield alignment. He physically looks and flashes the part of an NFL strong safety, but he’s not without warts that may inhibit his NFL upside.

  1. KJ Dillon, West Virginia
  2. Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
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