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2017 East-West Shrine Game Prospects (Defense)

Who are the defensive prospects to watch at Shrine?

Will the Titans replenish the USC pipeline with Leon McQuay 3?
Will the Titans replenish the USC pipeline with Leon McQuay 3?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

EAST

1. Bryan Cox, Jr 6'3 269 DL Florida

- The son of long time NFL veteran defensive standout and current Falcons assistant coach Bryan Cox, Sr. Junior has been stuck behind several talented former teammates that gone onto the NFL. Character and work ethic are a major plus. Not the best athlete but works hard to get in position to make a play. Struggled in 2016 with injuries. Should at least get a look in camps somewhere due to impressive lineage.

2. Ejuan Price 5'11 245 DL Pittsburgh

- Yeah you read the measurables correctly. Price is a 5'11 defensive end standout for the revitalized Pitt defense. He has really blossomed under the tutelage of HC Pat Narduzzi (who coached at Michigan State for a long time). Not the biggest or fastest, he simply gets it done. Was one of the better ends in the ACC loaded with talent at the position. Character and work ethic are pluses. Inevitable pro comp (due to similar size): Elvis Dumervil.

3. Andrew King 6'0 235 LB Army

- King has been one of the defensive generals that led the United States Military Academy to an impressive 2016 season that saw Army finally sing second in December. He's a bit undersized for the position but seemingly is in the right position at the right time nearly every time. Obviously, questions about character and work ethic are irrelevant. He has a draftable grade but as with all service academy prospects, the question of service commitments are raised.

4. Marquel Lee 6'3 237 LB Wake Forest

- The hidden gem of the ACC's talented defensive crop. Lee led the Demon Deacons in virtually every category in 2016. He's a playmaker that can play both inside and outside. Frame wise, he isn't boxed into a specific linebacker position and can add weight if necessary. He was a monster against the big boys of the ACC so he proved that he can step up during the big games. Draft projection: 4th or 5th round. Classic Dick LeBeau redshirt rookie year and unleash as a sophomore type of 'backer.

5. Jamal Carter, Sr. 6'2 215 S Miami

- Carter is one of the better safeties in the ACC. He's a big hitter that's ideally suited for playing in the box moreso than center field. Underrated prospect due to the perpetually rebuilding state of the Hurricanes program. While a powerful hitter, he's prone to getting called for targeting as a result. One particular call against him happened late against Florida State that proved to be a key turning point. Limited athleticism will likely earn him a shot in camp at the least but not expected to play major reps.

WEST

1. Josh Tupou 6'3 345 DL Colorado

- Tupou is a run of the mill big body nose tackle that 3-4 teams will take a long look at. He's truly a massive mountain of a man. Led the Buffs to a resurgent 2016 campaign after being a dormant mid major program for so long. Tupou has a hidden arsenal of moves to get by the blockers that's itching to be unleashed. He does what is asked of his role (occupying space) and doesn't go stat hunting. Off field issues are in the background however.

2. Hardy Nickerson, Jr. 6'0 230 LB Illinois

- Nickerson 2.0 is the son of the longtime NFL veteran and current Illinois assistant Nickerson, Sr. Junior traveled a winding road to get to Champaign. He originally signed with Cal before transferring to Illinois to play for his DC father. Current Illini HC Lovie Smith briefly coached Sr. while serving under Tony Dungy's regime in Tampa Bay. N2.0 is a mirror image of his father in terms of scouting report. Both were undersized linebackers that get by on guile and instincts. The bloodline and coaching tree will certainly help him get a shot somewhere.

3. Leon McQuay III 6'1 195 S USC

- The much heralded former top recruit really went under the radar thanks to his more hyped secondary mates. The hero of the 2016 Rose Bowl when he caught a late interception that set up the game winning field goal. He has been a multiyear starter at strong safety for the Trojans. Athleticism is above average for the position. Character and work ethic are a major plus. It is said that he has one of the highest GPAs on the team and watches film like he's a movie critic on caffeine. On the field, he is best deployed as an in the box safety/linebacker in the mold of Deone Bucannon of the Cardinals. A pro football legacy as grandfather Leon McQuay Sr played for a bit in the CFL.

4. Weston Steelhammer 6'1 195 S Air Force Academy

- A member of the All Name team. His name just paints the picture of a military man. No really, Steelhammer is his last name. All name jokes aside, he's a good late round prospect. Can play both free and strong safety positions. Frame is good. Led the Falcons in tackles. Athleticism is above average.