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2014 Combine All-Personality Team: Defense

Posted Feb 25, 2014

The top defensive personalities of the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s only right to continue tradition. With more than 300 NFL prospects showcasing their talents – and personalities – at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, 49ers.com has once again put together a list of the top characters from the week in Indy.

We present our fourth annual “All-Personality Team.”

Past selections on the 22-man team include 49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2011 and 2013 draft picks, Eric Reid and Marcus Lattimore.

ALL-PERSONALITY TEAMS: 2011 | 2012 | 2013

Whether it’s for their noteworthy quotes to the media or their creative posts on social media, we’ve taken notice of the most impressive prospects during the week that was the 2014 combine.

The 40-yard dash, bench press and three-cone drill standouts can be examined in another post.

For now, let’s get to the memorable defensive characters from the combine. And as always, we’ve selected a 4-3 defensive scheme to fit more of the top defensive linemen in this collection of players.

Defensive End - Dee Ford - Auburn
Mic drop. That’s essentially what Ford did after offering the best quote of the combine. The Auburn senior didn’t bite his tongue when he was asked about Jadeveon Clowney, a player widely considered to be the top defensive prospect in the draft. Ford said he believes he’s flat out better and said Clowney plays like “a blind dog in a meat market.” Burn. It took a lot of swagger for Ford to say how he really feels. The Auburn star, however, wasn’t able to back up the talk in combine drills. He was held out due to medical precaution stemming from a back procedure in 2011. Even so, Ford was a first-team All-SEC performer and recorded two sacks in the BCS title game. He continued his solid play by dominating the 2014 Senior Bowl. Next, he will look continue solidifying his draft status at his upcoming pro day workout. Perhaps there he can offer another notable quote.
Defensive End - Michael Sam - Missouri
Impressive. All eyes were on Sam in Indy, the first openly gay NFL prospect. The SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year handled himself in an adverse moment just fine. Sam was surrounded by the media and did not duck a single question. When it came time to discuss his production on the field, probably the toughest football-related question he fielded, Sam stressed that he’s a pass-rushing specialist. That’s where he wants to make his name in the NFL, not because of off-the-field talk. Sam’s most memorable quote dealt with his production in 2013. When asked about being inconsistent at times, Sam took it in stride. “Winning is hard, buddy,” he replied. “There’s going to be games when I might not get a sack. Throughout the games I did have some inconsistency there, but for the most part we as a defensive line did put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, made them uncomfortable in the pocket to have to go and run away or throw the ball out of bounds.” Solid answer.
Defensive Tackle - Aaron Donald - Pittsburgh
Like Ford, Donald boosted his draft stock with a solid Senior Bowl effort. The 6-foot, 285-pound lineman also posted linebacker-type combine stats to back up his play on the field. Donald posted the best 40-yard dash time for defensive tackles with a 4.68. He also put up 35 reps in the bench press and rushed through the three-cone drill in 7.11 seconds, both marks also as the best among defensive tackles. With that type of power and burst, Donald could have been cocky during his press conference. He wasn’t. When asked how high he could be drafted, Donald, a first-team All-American and All-ACC said all the right things. “All I can do is do my part and keep trying to open up eyes with what I did on the football field,” he said.

Defensive Tackle - Will Sutton - Arizona State
Soft-spoken off the field and disruptive on it – that’s the best way to describe the two-time reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. Sutton’s weight and speed were questioned during his senior season, but nobody can knock his quickness. Sutton entered the combine focused on proving his weight was not an issue. He got up to 320 pounds during the season and quieted those concerns by weighing 303 in Indianapolis. Sutton could have left school early and entered the 2012 draft. – why didn’t’ he? The answer was telling of his character. “I only had a semester left in school and graduating is something I promised my parents,” Sutton said. “Having only a semester left and knowing that we (the Sun Devils) could accomplish something great. Those were the leading factors.”

Inside Linebacker - Shayne Skov - Stanford
“Nerd Nation” had a special enforcer in Skov. The playful defender off the field was responsible for making memorable plays on the field. The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Cardinal linebacker overcame a serious knee injury to be a third-team All-American and Butkus Award finalist in 2013. Beyond the accolades, Skov was upbeat throughout his combine interview session, graciously answering every question, including one about playing for his favorite team, the “Niners.” He played for San Francisco’s defensive coordinator Vic Fangio during the coordinator’s one-year stint at Stanford in 2010. Skov would like to be the first Stanford player drafted by Harbaugh. He also said, “If I had opportunity to put on the red and gold, it would be incredible.”
Outside Linebacker - Khalil Mack - Buffalo
A No. 1 overall draft pick from Buffalo? It could happen if Mike Mayock had his way. The NFL Network analyst practically stood on the table this week and said Mack is worthy of being the top pick in the draft. How did the 4.65, 40-yard-dash running linebacker handle the praise? “Mike Mayock is the man,” the Mid-American prospect said. “He's the man; I want to prove him right.” Mack backed up the praise with a 40-inch vertical jump, 128-inch broad jump and a 4.18-second mark in the three-cone drill – all three marks were best among combine linebackers.

Outside Lineback - Trent Murphy - Stanford
Combine measurables and performance aside, Stanford’s sack-leader (15) had a great tale to tell during his media session. It earned quite a chuckle from the gathered media. Murphy, a first-team All-Pac 12 selection, shared a story about his high school coach, Gary Galante of Phoenix’s Brophy Prep. “He would always tell us how cool it would be if you ran yourself so hard in conditioning that you passed out. He's like, ‘You're going to pass out before you die. Think about it, if you did die, how cool would it be to have that on your grave? Little Johnny ran himself to death.’ That was just his mentality. Talk about having a tough defensive coach.” Quality storytelling will always earn you a nod on this list.
Safety - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - Alabama
Hasean Clinton-Dix is not as cool of a name as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Thankfully the Alabama safety was given a sweet nickname by his grandmother. “Ha Ha, get over here,” the 6-foot, 210-pound play-making safety said, impersonating his grandma. “Everyone’s been calling me that since.” The Crimson Tide prospect could be called a first-round pick in a matter of months.
Safety - Calvin Pryor - Lousiville
The 49ers formally interviewed 60 prospects, and we know that Pryor was one of them. In fact, the Louisville defensive back was the person to share that nugget with the media. Pryor is considered to be one of, if not the, top safety in the draft. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound safety was a first-team All-American and recorded 75 tackles. He’s also been known to be a physical defensive back and doesn’t shy away from contact. “It’s mainly mindset,” Pryor said of his physical style. “It’s all about mindset and how you’re going to attack the guy. You want to deliver the hit; you don’t want to take the hit.” Sounds like Pryor’s in the Ronnie Lott mold.

Cornerback - Justin Gilbert - Oklahoma State
“Solid.” That’s how Gilbert described his game. The same word could be used for his 40 time (4.37 seconds) and his ability as an interview subject. The Oklahoma State cornerback had a smile on his face for most of his combine media session. He even shared a funny tidbit about his relationship with another top cornerback prospect, Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. The two defensive backs got along great at the College Football Awards, so much so, Dennard made fun of Gilbert for taking too many “selfie” photographs.
Cornerback - Jason Verrett - TCU
On the opposite side of Gilbert’s end of the spectrum, TCU’s standout cornerback was more buttoned up in his media session. The 5-foot-10, 176 pounds Verrett had more of a serious demeanor when speaking to the press. “Not everybody has ball skills, but I’m blessed to have that,” the second-team All-American cornerback said. “With my frame, I’m able to transfer from A to B with fluid hips and quickness. That just allows me to make more plays.” Verrett wasn’t worried about his size hindering him in the NFL. It sounds like his confidence makes up for what he lacks in height.

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