Long before their multimillion dollar deals and signing bonuses Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, and Jevon Kearse struck fear into the hearts of quarterbacks.
In the world of college football these men kept offensive tackles up for nights, gave offensive coordinators nightmares, and made tight ends and running backs fret endlessly over their max protect assignments.
In 2008 there is an incredibly talented group set to terrorize backfields all over the country:
- Massive 6-foot-5, 292-pound beast Tyson Jackson at LSU
- The returning SEC sack leader Greg Hardy of Ole Miss
- Speedy Brian Orakpo of Texas
- The prototypical, yet often injured, Tim Jamison of Michigan
The two names that have been bandied about as the most impressive defensive end talents heading into 2008 are George Selvie of South Florida and Maurice Evans of Penn State. They boast two very different styles of end play that both produce tremendous results on the field.
Selvie and Evans, the 2008 Defensive End Battle at the Top.
Maurice Evans (6'2", 264 pounds)
In 2007 Maurice Evans led the nation's most sack-happy defense with 12.5 sacks, and in his 2008 junior campaign he looks to increase that number. Although the Nittany Lions will miss Sean Lee (the outside linebacker is out for all of 2008 with a torn ACL), Evans and the front seven return enough talent to truly wreak havoc on the Big Ten.
While the glamorous 12.5 quarterback sacks won Maurice his national recognition, his dirty work in the trenches is what has solidified his status among the elite.
He is a guy who is extremely stout in the run game.
For the Nittany Lions, Evans is not only capable of holding his edge to keep containment against sweeps and zone blocking schemes, but the junior also does a great job of closing down on the inside power run.
Maurice is powerful enough to push tackles back, getting separation, and quick enough to disengage from the block and make a sure tackle at or behind the line. This was evidenced in his 21.5 tackles for loss in 2007.
In the pass game, Evans is able to use that same combination of power and quickness to get to the quarterback. He has a good repertoire of pass rush moves and is reasonably adept at using the swim move, rip, and straight speed rush to force the issue.
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley does a great job in his use of Evans as well as the rest of PSU's front with his stunts, games, and blitz packages. Bringing Evans inside from the end position creates gaps the junior is able to exploit for sacks and tackles.
Evans' most spectacular play came on an inside slant against Indiana. He slanted left, inside from his right end position, getting a clear path to the quarterback through the A gap. He pushed up-field for the sack, forcing a fumble, which he promptly scooped and carried 55 yards into Hoosier territory.
Although the statistics are there in his tackles for loss (21.5), sacks (12.5), and forced fumbles (five), the junior is not without deficiencies.
Evans does a tremendous job of putting up numbers physically, but he's not as talented as many of the other defensive ends entering 2008. He's a very compact player with short arms and legs that, at times, hamper his ability to separate from blockers.
His lack of a true, consistent speed burst is a problem that presents itself against quality tackles in the pass game. Against the top four teams in the Big Ten (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio St.), Maurice Evans was only able to get to the quarterback twice (both against Wisconsin).
Evans is a force at defensive end, and though there are flaws in his game he is definitely the best end in the Big Ten.
George Selvie (6'4", 242 pounds)
While Evans lacks a true speed burst, the only accurate way to describe South Florida Bull George Selvie's pass rush is explosive. The lean junior blasted on to the college football big screen in 2007 with a nation leading 31.5 tackles for loss.
He also racked up 14.5 sacks, good for second in the country.
As the reigning sack master in college football, Selvie is a specimen. In college football lingo, he's a perfect candidate to be the first guy off the bus. Tall, athletic, and with plenty of room to grow, the sky is the limit for this kid.
Selvie's repertoire of moves isn't refined yet, but his spin move and swim are quite adequate for freeing him up to pounce on quarterbacks. He is also capable of running slants and stunts down inside to put quick pressure on offensive fronts and change the pace of the game.
With that said, George Selvie's best move is without a doubt his speed rush off the corner. On the snap of the ball he is shot from a cannon, running the hump before most offensive tackles have a shot at getting a hand on him.
Selvie is truly impossible to block one-on-one.
Although pass rushing is Selvie's forte, the junior is surprisingly strong in his run defense. He plays sound technique football; staying home against runs opposite him, squeezing down the line against inside runs, and holding his edge against runs at his end position.
His game is almost flawless; almost. Selvie's production began to taper off at the end of 2007 due to the excessive amount of double teams used against him and a newly found propensity for teams to run plays away from his position.
These two strategies combined to significantly lessen his impact, and after the UCF blowout Selvie was limited to only three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Still stellar numbers, but they amount to less than a third of his total production from over half his season.
When given the chance, Selvie is truly a monster, and he'll go into 2008 with weighty expectations atop his shoulders.
Maurice Evans, the high motor guy who at times seems powerful enough to run through a brick wall.
George Selvie, the dynamic athlete who makes a meal out of quarterbacks.
Both guys are special players, and essential to the success of their respective programs. Penn State seems poised to lead the nation in sacks yet again, while South Florida appears to be West Virginia's toughest Big East competition.
George Selvie is a truly talented player who is capable of getting to the quarterback at the drop of a hat, and his speed makes him a threat to disrupt on every play.
Maurice Evans is the anchor of a solid Penn State defense and he is truly a special player in the Big Ten for 2008. This Nittany Lion is definitely going to be spending ample time in backfields across the Midwest.
Despite having a strong sophomore campaign and a great motor, Maurice Evans can't truly be called the best defensive end in college football; not as long as Georgie Selvie lines up for USF.
Selvie is a great blend of size and speed and he is without a doubt the most threatening player to the opposition's quarterbacks. The junior mixes solid technical execution with outstanding physical traits to get the job done.
George Selvie is a great college football player and his blend of great pass rushing, quarterback destroying skills, and run stopping, scheme-specific performance make him college football's Best Defensive End in 2008.