It’s fun when you are able to watch and compare two players from the same conference back-to-back, like I was able to do yesterday with Kelcy Quarles from South Carolina and Ego Ferguson from LSU. With them being from the same conference, you can watch them against the same opponents, and that gives you a better perspective on their talent. Quarles and Ferguson play similar positions and are about the same size with Ferguson being the better athlete, but Quarles having far more production.
Kelcy Quarles – Defensive Tackle – South Carolina
Quarles plays defensive tackle in South Carolina’s four-man front. He will line up on the nose and also at as a one, two, or three-technique. The way the South Carolina defense is set up, the defensive linemen play in a rotation to stay fresh. What jumps out at me about Quarles is his sack production. Quarles is an inside guy, yet led South Carolina in sacks. Jadeveon Clowney is said to be the top D-Linemen in the country, yet he finished the season with only three sacks, Quarles had 9.5. That is a huge number for an inside player.
Quarles has good size at about 6040 – 300. He is thick and well-built for a D- Linemen and has the frame to carry 310 – 315 when in the NFL. He has good straight-line quickness and speed. I think he will time in the 4.95 – 5.05 range at the Combine. A concern I have is, he is a bit tight in his knees and can have a tendency to play straight-legged. Because of this, his lateral movement isn’t as good as it could be. At times, he will have trouble clearing piles when moving laterally. That being said, he is still a force at the line of scrimmage. He has good snap reaction and initial quickness. With his long arms, he can control blockers and he shows he can shed quickly. One person close to Quarles referred to him as being “country strong”, and that is a great description. Though he can get tall he does an excellent job holding the point. You almost never see him give ground to blockers and does a very good job versus double team blocks.
Quarles plays hard and competes. He has good awareness and can find the ball. He can be a force versus the run and his 13.5 tackles for loss attest to that. While he isn’t a great athlete, he makes a lot of plays including some “wow” plays. I like that he makes pursuit plays. He has some range and goes all out chasing the ball.
As a pass rusher, he is a bull rusher first but he can also put together some counter moves. He has a good burst coming off blocks to the QB.
Quarles can play a variety of positions at the next level. I see him mainly as an inside player in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. While he doesn’t have great nose tackle size, his strength and power more than make up for it. With his long arms and two-gap ability he could also play as a five-technique. I can see him being drafted in the later part of the first round or early in the second. He can start for many clubs as a rookie.
Ego Ferguson – Defensive Tackle – LSU
Ferguson is a fourth-year junior and this was his first year as a starter for LSU. As a redshirt freshman and sophomore, he didn’t start, but got a lot of playing time as a rotational player. He did not play in LSU’s Bowl Game and there are conflicting reasons given, so this has to be checked into. He has good size at about 6030 – 310, and he is a very good athlete. He has speed (est 4.90), change of direction, balance, and body control.
Ferguson lines up inside in their front and has real good snap reaction and initial quickness. He has good instincts and reactions and is consistently around the ball. He can be a force versus the run. He is both strong and powerful at the point of attack and has the quick hands to shed blocks. He gets penetration and can be disruptive. He has very good lateral agility, can clear trash, and make pursuit plays. I like that he competes and plays a physical game. One concern is his pass rush. In three years playing at LSU, he has only one career sack. With the athleticism he has, you have to expect more. On tape, he gets off the ball and shows he can get rid of blocks. He also has some counter moves. While I didn’t see sack production, I did see some pressures. In fairness, he gets close, but he just doesn’t make the play.
It will be interesting to see where Ferguson gets drafted. I would bet that his combine and Pro Day workouts will be very good and that will help push up his stock. When you watch tape, you have to like his run production and that will get him playing time as a rookie. With his athleticism, there is no reason why he doesn’t have more sack production. I can see him drafted as high as the second round but he will probably end up going in the third. He should be a solid NFL player because the talent is there.
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