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College Football's Top Pass-Rushers for the 2013 Season

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst IMarch 22, 2013

College Football's Top Pass-Rushers for the 2013 Season

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    Jarvis Jones, Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, Dion Jordan and Alex Okafor are just a few of the prominent pass-rushers who have left the college ranks and moved up to the NFL level this offseason.

    It's sad to see them go. Luckily for college football fans, however, there's a new group of up-and-coming potential star pass-rushers that's definitely worth getting excited about. 

    Obviously, no pass-rusher in the country can compare to South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, but there are still plenty of other players to watch out for this fall. 

    Here's a look at college football's top 20 pass-rushers for the 2013 season.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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    What's left to say about Jadeveon Clowney that hasn't already been said? 

    He's without a doubt the best player in college football.

    Somehow, he's managed to live up to the unprecedented amount of hype he received as the No. 1 overall prospect of the 2011 recruiting class. In fact, you can even argue that he's actually exceeded expectations.

    After putting together a sensational sophomore campaign, in which he totaled 13 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles, the supremely athletic 6'6'', 272-pound physical freak has solidified his status as the overwhelming favorite to be the top pick in 2014 NFL draft.

    Clowney is college football's most feared defender. He's the type of rare game-changer that you just don't see on the college level very often.

Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

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    When Devonte Fields arrived at TCU last summer as a highly touted 4-star recruit out of nearby Martin High School in Arlington, Horned Frogs fans were expecting him to make an instant impact right away. However, no one could have foreseen that Fields would be so dominant so quickly.

    Fields took the Big 12 by storm during his debut season. He led the conference with 18.5 tackles for loss and ranked third in the league with 10 sacks. His outstanding performance helped him earn the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year award.

    The 6'4'', 240-pound sophomore appears to be a perfect fit for Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defensive scheme. The disruptive defensive end should continue to create plenty of chaos in 2013.

Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

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    No Aaron Lynch? No problem. 

    The Notre Dame defense may have lost Lynch, its sack leader from 2011 who transferred to South Florida during the offseason, but fortunately, the Irish had another young budding star pass-rusher in Stephon Tuitt who they could rely on. 

    Tuitt stepped up in a big way in 2012, leading the team with 11 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. 

    The monstrous 6'6'', 303-pound former blue-chip recruit out of Georgia possesses the combination of size, explosiveness, power and sheer toughness that will surely make NFL scouts salivate. 

Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU

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    Ezekiel Ansah is the BYU pass-rusher that NFL draft fanatics are going crazy for right now. However, Ansah wasn't actually the top impact player on the Cougars defense in 2012. 

    Instead, LB Kyle Van Noy outshined Ziggy, his former roommate and close friend, this past season. 

    Van Noy totaled 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles and five pass breakups. 

    Like his former teammate, the highly athletic 6'3'', 235-pound senior clearly has what it takes to be a first-round NFL draft pick.

    Even though he won't have Ansah in front of him to occupy blockers in 2013, Van Noy should once again be one of the top sack artists in college football during his swan song season.

    The word "beast" gets thrown around too often in sports these days, but the BYU 'backer is a player who truly deserves such a label.

Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

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    If Jackson Jeffcoat didn't suffer a midseason torn pectoral muscle last October, we'd probably be talking about the explosive edge-rusher as a surefire first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft right now. 

    Instead, however, Jeffcoat will be back to lead a Texas defense that will be looking to make a big improvement after a lackluster showing in 2012. The Longhorns clearly missed the presence of the 6'5'', 245-pound former 5-star recruit.

    The son of former first-round NFL draft pick Jim Jeffcoat has totaled 12 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss since becoming a full-time starter in 2011. 

Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

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    Anthony Barr tied for the lead in the Pac-12 with 13 sacks in 2012.

    None of those sacks were as memorable, though, as the painful, smashing hit that knocked QB Matt Barkley out of the UCLA-USC game.

    Barr's huge hit on Barkley in front of a national audience gave college football fans around the country a taste of what Bruins fans were treated to all season long.

    The powerful and physical 6'4'', 235-pound former fullback proved to be a natural fit on the defensive side of the ball last season. 

    Expect many more punishing sacks from Barr in 2013. 

Adrian Hubbard, LB, Alabama

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    Replacing LB Courtney Upshaw, who led Alabama's stout defense in sacks during each of his final two seasons in 2010 and 2011, was shaping up to be a tough task for the Tide. But luckily, the team found a more-than-capable replacement for Upshaw in Adrian Hubbard.

    In his first season as a full-time starter, Hubbard showed glimpses of greatness. He led the team with seven sacks, totaled 41 tackles—including 11 tackles for loss—and he forced three fumbles. 

    The 6'6'', 248-pound junior is the type of pass-rusher that can either overwhelm blockers with his size and strength or blow by them with his quickness off the edge.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

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    At just 6'1'', 267-pounds, Will Sutton obviously isn't the biggest defensive tackle in college football. But there are few other tackles who made as big of an impact as he did in 2012.

    The undersized interior lineman put together a big breakout season, totaling 12 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss and 40 solo tackles. 

    Following that fantastic performance, which earned him the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award, Sutton could have chosen to go make millions in the NFL. But instead, he'll be back to anchor an Arizona State defense that should be one of the best units in the conference.

Morgan Breslin, DE, USC

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    Going into the 2012 season, USC had plenty of questions at the defensive end position after losing star DE Nick Perry a year early to the NFL and then subsequently losing DE Devon Kennard to injury during the summer.

    Luckily for the Trojans, Morgan Breslin emerged as the team's new star pass-rusher. 

    In just his first year after transferring from Diablo Valley College, Breslin became one of the most productive defenders in the country. He tied for second in the nation with 13 total sacks, and he ranked 11th nationally with 19.5 tackles for loss. 

    It will be very interesting to see how the 6'2'', 250-pound senior fits in new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast's 3-4 scheme in 2013.

Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State

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    Morgan Breslin wasn't the only JUCO transfer who made a huge impact at the FBS level in 2012. Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence also made a name for himself in his first year after transferring from Butler County Community College.

    Lawrence terrorized opposing offenses, racking up 8.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and forcing four fumbles.

    The explosive 6'3'', 242-pound end is truly one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the country.

    If Lawrence can maintain his focus and avoid getting in trouble away from the field, there's no telling just how dominant he could be during his junior season in 2013.

Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia

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    Any time a team has to replace a dynamic impact player the caliber of Jarvis Jones, a drop-off in production at the position is expected. However, in Georgia's case, the Bulldogs may not end up missing Jones all that much if Jordan Jenkins ultimately develops into the dominant defensive force that he's capable of being.

    Even though he was just a true freshman, there were times during the 2012 season when Jenkins looked every bit as good as Jones did. 

    The 6'3'', 257-pound outside linebacker totaled five sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and eight tackles for loss during his first campaign. 

    With Jones now gone, Jenkins will have the opportunity to show that he's capable of stepping up and assuming the role as the defense's new leader in 2013.

Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

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    It's too early to start calling Kony Ealy the next Aldon Smith. However, this past season, he showed a few of the flashes that we saw from Smith during his short stint at Missouri a few years ago. 

    The extremely athletic 6'5'', 265-pound junior totaled 3.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and seven pass breakups in his first season as a full-time starter. 

    Ealy has the same type of rare size-speed combo as Smith. The only question is, can he make the most of his natural ability and produce at the same level as his predecessor did?

    If he does put it all together in 2013, Ealy's a player whose name could go flying up NFL draft boards.

Scott Crichton, DE. Oregon State

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    Oregon State's defense will be a unit to watch out for in 2013. Not only do the Beavers return eight of their top 11 tacklers from last year's defense, they also bring back one of the Pac-12's premier pass-rushers, DE Scott Crichton.

    Crichton played a major role in helping Oregon State rank third in the conference in total defense in 2012. He also ranked sixth in the league with nine sacks and ranked seventh with 17.5 tackles for loss. 

    The 6'3'', 263-pound junior will team back up with fellow edge-rusher Dylan Wynn to give the Beavers one of the best defensive end duos in the country in 2013.

Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, Georgia Tech

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    Georgia Tech will be switching from a base 3-4 defensive scheme to a new 4-3 system under new defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Though the team's top defender, Jeremiah Attaochu, was clearly a better fit for the previous scheme, he's the type of versatile athlete who should be able to adapt and still thrive.

    Over the past two years, Attaochu has totaled 16 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss. The scary part is, he seems like he's only now beginning to tap into his true potential. 

    It will certainly be very interesting to see how the 6'2'', 245-pound senior handles the switch from linebacker to defensive end in 2013.

Trey Flowers, DE, Arknasas

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    Since Arkansas endured such a miserable season in 2012, the performance of DE Trey Flowers seemed to go largely unnoticed. 

    Though he didn't receive a ton of attention, Flowers was quietly one of the top sophomores in the SEC this past season. He totaled six sacks, 11 quarterback hurries and 13 tackles for loss during his breakout performance. 

    Flowers never received any scholarship offers from the big prominent powerhouse SEC programs during his days as an under-the-radar recruit at Columbia High School in Alabama. Now, he's playing with the purpose of showing all those schools what they missed out on. He's going to make them severely regret overlooking him.

Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame

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    The loss of LB Manti Te'o was a big blow to the Notre Dame defense. But luckily for the Irish, they've got another potential star 'backer in Prince Shembo, who will be back to lead the way in 2013. 

    Shembo may have been overshadowed by Te'o this past season, but he still played a crucial role in the defense's success. The 6'2'', 250-pound senior totaled 7.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012. 

    The former 4-star recruit out of North Carolina clearly has the talent to be one of the top defensive standouts in the country in 2013. If Shembo plays up to his potential this fall, he'll have Notre Dame fans asking Manti who?

Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

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    North Carolina has had plenty of talented defensive ends in recent years, such as Quinton Coples, Donte Paige-Moss and Robert Quinn. Unfortunately, none of them ever truly reached their full potential during their time in Chapel Hill.

    It looks like the Tar Heels' current budding star pass-rusher, Kareem Martin, will break that trend in 2013. 

    Martin is coming off a solid junior campaign in which he totaled four sacks, eight quarterback hurries and 15.5 tackles for loss. 

    Like his predecessors, the 6'6'', 260-pound North Carolina native is a big, long and athletic edge-rusher who has the size, strength and speed to cause plenty of problems for anyone that tries to block him. 

Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida

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    One of the most intriguing storylines to follow during the 2013 season will be how former Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch performs during his first season on the field at South Florida. 

    Lynch, who led the Irish with 5.5 sacks as a freshman back in 2011 before leaving South Bend after the season, possesses just as much physical ability and pure talent as any defensive lineman in the country.

    The 6'6'', 270-pound sophomore is a former heralded All-American blue-chip recruit from Florida who was expected to eventually be Notre Dame's next big defensive star. 

    Instead, Lynch will now be looking to make a name for himself in the Big East as the Bulls' new prized player. 

    If he can shake off the rust early in the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see the big, powerful and explosive end put together a double-digit sack comeback campaign in 2013.

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech

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    Virginia Tech's offense was a disaster in 2012. However, the defense was as dominant as usual. The Hokies ranked second in the ACC in both scoring defense and total defense. 

    One of the key players for the unit was DE James Gayle. 

    Though his numbers dropped off a bit after a spectacular sophomore season in which he totaled seven sacks and 13 quarterback hurries, Gayle was still able to put together a solid junior campaign. He racked up five sacks, nine quarterback hurries and 11 tackles for loss. 

    The 6'4'', 269-pound senior will once again be one of the ACC's most disruptive defenders in 2013.

Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford

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    Shayne Skov is the Stanford linebacker who is going to receive all of the praise and publicity this offseason. However, it's actually Trent Murphy who is the real heart and soul of the Stanford defense. 

    Not only did Murphy play a key role in helping the Cardinal rank fifth in the nation in run defense in 2012, he also developed into one of the top pass-rushers in the Pac-12. 

    The 6'6'', 261-pound senior made plenty of impact plays behind the line of scrimmage. He totaled 10 sacks, six quarterback hurries and 18 tackles for loss. 

    Murphy should finally be able to step out of Skov's shadow and earn the national recognition he deserves in 2013.

Potential Breakout Star: Giorgio Newberry, Florida State

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    If you're going to judge Giorgio Newberry based solely on his 2012 stats, you're not going to be very impressed. Newberry totaled just 13 tackles and didn't record a sack last year. However, that had a lot to do with playing behind two standout future NFL first-round draft picks, Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, who hogged up most of the playing time.

    With Werner and Carradine now gone, Newberry will finally have the opportunity to prove just how talented he really is in 2013.

    The explosive and instinctive 6'6'', 273-pound former 4-star recruit has a chance to be one of the biggest breakout defensive stars in the country this fall.

20 Other Pass-Rushers to Watch

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    Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh

    Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State

    Brock Hekking, DE, Nevada

    Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas

    C.J. Johnson, DE, Ole Miss

    Dante Fowler Jr., DE, Florida

    Dartwan Bush, DE, Texas Tech

    David Gilbert, DE, Wisconsin

    Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State

    Derrick Mathews, LB, Houston

    Jonathan Newsome, DE, Ball State

    Josh Shirley, DE, Washington

    Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

    Leonard Williams, DT, USC

    Marcus Rush, DE, Michigan State

    Martin Ifedi, DE, Memphis

    Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon

    Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern

    Roosevelt Nix, DT, Kent State

    Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

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