How have 5-star defensive ends panned out over the last decade?
All great defenses start with a pass rush and the end spot has been put under the microscope in recent years as a necessity to compete in college football against spread, uptempo offenses. Here’s a list of 247Sports’ five-star defensive ends over the last decade and how they’ve panned out at the next level.
We’re grading them in one of three categories — bust, average, star — depending on their impact. Players who are entering their junior seasons in 2015 still have too much football left to determine a final grade and have all been labeled emerging.
2005 — 1 Strong-side DE
Melvin Alaeze, Maryland/Illinois (bust): Rivals’ No. 4 overall recruit in 2005, Alaeze signed with Maryland but didn’t qualify academically. After being granted a release by then-coach Ralph Friedgen, Alaeze spent a season at Illinois in 2006 but didn’t play a down after being dismissed for missing classes. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on Christmas Eve of that season for his role in a first-degree assault. He has two years left on his sentence in Cumberland, Md.
2006 — 2 Weak-side DE, 1 SDE
Eddie Jones, Texas (average): Played in 50 career games with eight starts over five years for Mack Brown at Texas out of Kilgore High in the Lonestar State. Jones was an all-conference honorable mention in 2010.
Ricky Sapp, Clemson (average): An ACL tear during his junior season at Clemson in 2008 derailed an otherwise stellar start to his career as the primary backup behind the late Gaines Adams. A fifth-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010, Sapp re-injured his right knee during rookie camp and never was the same, explosive pass rusher despite several attempts at a comeback.
Maurice Evans, Penn State (average): Slated to be the standout replacement for Aaron Maybin at Penn State following a stellar sophomore season in 2007 as a Hendricks Award finalist, Evans was suspended for three games in 2008 after being cited for marijuana possession alongside teammate Abe Koroma. He skipped his senior campaign for the NFL and played two uneventful seasons in the pros.
2007 — 1 WDE, 3 SDE
Martez Wilson, Illinois (star): This three-year starter with the Illini moved to linebacker at the college level and flourished on the outside in coverage and off the edge, earning All-Big Ten status is 2010 as a junior before bolting early for the NFL Draft.
Everson Griffen, USC (star): Griffen became the first true freshman defensive lineman to start an opener for USC in 21 seasons and was selected to the FWAA All-America Freshman Team that season. After a victory in the 2009 Emerald Bowl over Boston College, Griffen skipped his final season to enter the draft. Griffen currently plays for the Minnesota Vikings, the team that picked him up in 2010 at No. 100 overall.
Carlos Dunlap, Florida (star): Earned a starting job by his junior season in Gainesville and flourished as one of the SEC’s most feared pass rushers and special teams players (four career blocked kicks), acquiring first-team All-SEC status in 2009. Dunlap was named defensive MVP of the 2009 national championship game, a 24-14 victory over Oklahoma. His 19.5 career sacks ranks 10th all-time at Florida. Dunlap now plays with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Ben Martin, Tennessee (bust) — Martin played five years in Knoxville as a situational pass rusher turned starter by his junior campaign. Martin missed the 2010 season due to injury and tried to regain his form as a senior the following year but wasn’t the same player.
2008 — 2 SDE
Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson (star): The near consensus top prep player in his class in 2008, Bowers earned a reputation quickly in the ACC as one of the league’s most outstanding athletes, tallying 37 tackles as a true freshman. An injury slowed down his sophomore campaign before Bowers earned first-team All-America status and the ACC’s defensive player of the year award as a junior in 2010 after accumulating 26 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks. Bowers was drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2011 during the second round.
R.J. Washington, Oklahoma (bust): With seven sacks in 40 career games, Washington never was the player most expected him to be in Norman as one of the nation’s most sought after pass rushers out of Fort Worth, Texas.
2009 — 2 WDE
Devon Kennard, USC (average): Never the can’t-miss prospect in Los Angeles that his prep resume reflected, Kennard tallied more than 150 career tackles for the Trojans as a end/linebacker hybrid. He currently plays linebacker for the New York Giants.
Donte Paige-Moss, UNC (average): Paige-Moss skipped his senior season for the draft after tearing his ACL during the Tar Heels’ bowl game in 2011. His best season came as a sophomore when made 49 tackles including seven sacks.
2010 — 1 WDE, 5 SDE
Ronald Powell, Florida (average): The top recruit nationally accoording to ESPN and Rivals, Powell played the Buck position for the Gators but was never the explosive phenom he was touted to be coming out Moreno Valley, Calif. He injured his knee twice in 2012 and missed the season. Powell was selected in the fifth round by the New Orleans Saints in 2014.
Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (star): This five-star pass rusher bookended his career at Texas from 2010-13 with a freshman All-American honor as a rookie and a consensus All-American award as a senior as the Big XII’s defensive player of the year. Jeffcoat also won the Ted Hendricks award as the nation’s top defensive end.
Sharrif Floyd, Florida (star): Relatively quiet at defensive end during his first two seasons in Gainesville, Floyd made a splash as a junior after moving back to his natural defensive tackle position, earning All-SEC and All-American accolades. He skipped his senior season in 2013 to turn pro, landing with the Minnesota Vikings as a first-round pick.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA (bust): Eligible for the 2015 Draft as a fifth-year senior, Odighizuwa missed the 2013 campaign following hip surgery. He started just two games — combined — during his sophomore and junior seasons after starting six as a freshman in 2010. Scouts say he could be a Top 100 pick after a breakout final season for the Bruins.
Will Gholston, Michigan State (star): A fourth-round pick in the 2013 Draft, Gholston was an All-Big Ten selection during his sophomore and junior seasons and finished 10th all-time on the Spartans’ career tackles-for-loss list (30.0). A wrecking ball at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, Gholston led the FBS ranks as a junior before turning pro with 10 pass-breakups as a defensive lineman.
Reggie Wilson, Texas (bust): Wilson never became a full-time starter with the Longhorns and managed just three career sacks in four seasons.
2011 — 3 WDE, 2 SDE
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (star): Widely-considered the most elite prospect at the position in a decade, Clowney entered college ball with an NFL veteran’s frame despite being just 18 years old. The Gamecocks’ most-hyped recruit in program history emerged as the best defensive player in the game after a sophomore season featuring a school-record 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles-for-losses. Despite a sub-par, injury-riddled junior campaign, Clowney was drafted first overall by the Houston Texans in 2014 after skipping his senior season.
Anthony Chickillo, Miami (average): A three-year starter for Al Golden with the Hurricanes, Chickillo was honorable mention all-ACC as a sophomore in 2012.
Ishaq Williams, Notre Dame (average): Suspended for the 2014 campaign for his roll in an academic scandal, Williams emerged as a junior into one of Notre Dame’s top pass rushers and is eligible to return for a fifth and final season this spring.
Aaron Lynch, South Florida (average): Following a transfer from Notre Dame after a successful freshman season in 2011, Lynch recorded 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 10 starts for the Golden Bulls as a redshirt sophomore. Three years removed from high school, Lynch jumped to the NFL and was a fifth-round pick in 2014.
Ray Drew, Georgia (average): Drew had the tools to become one of the SEC’s all-time best pass rushers but had several players in front of him just as talented competing for snaps. Drew managed 7.5 career sacks over a four-year span, all coming his final two seasons in Athens.
2012 — 5 WDE, 3 SDE
Noah Spence, Ohio State (average): Off-the-field issues including two failed drug tests ended a promising start to Spence’s career with the Buckeyes two years early after he was declared permanently ineligible by the Big Ten this season. Spence was an all-conference standouts as a sophomore in 2013 with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss.
Adolphus Washington, Ohio State (average): Part-time starter who is coming into his own for the Buckeyes, Washington made 10.5 tackles for loss as a junior on this year’s national championship squad to go along with 4.5 sacks.
Chris Casher, Florida State (average): Developed into a stater as a redshirt sophomore this season after returning in 2013 from a knee injury that ruined his freshman campaign.
Channing Ward, Ole Miss (average): Ward’s played in every game of his career on defense and special teams during his first three seasons with a nose for the football. He hasn’t broken into the starting lineup, but fills a necessary role as a rotational talent on one of the West’s top defenses.
Jordan Jenkins, Georgia (star): With 146 tackles over his first three seasons, Jenkins will be the veteran leader on next year’s defense at linebacker after recently announcing he would return for his final campaign.
Mario Edwards, Florida State (star): Edwards made a name for himself during the BCS National Championship Game as a sophomore, recording three tackles behind the line of scrimmage and a sack during a win over Auburn. As a junior this season, Edwards led the Seminoles with 11 tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles.
Jonathan Bullard, Florida (average): Transformed into a formidable threat as a junior this season after working his way into a full-time starting role along Will Muschamp’s defensive line. Bullard accumulated 52 tackles (8.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks last fall for the Gators and finished second on the team with 12 quarterback hurries.
Darius Hamilton, Rutgers (average): Hamilton led the Scarlet Knights with 9.5 tackles for loss as a junior and recently said he would return for his final season.
2013 — 2 SDE, 2 WDE
Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss: Pencil in ‘star’ beside this player’s name, a beast of a defensive tackle his first two seasons in Oxford. His numbers don’t reflect his greatness, but Nkemdiche’s been a pass-rushing terror every snap and will be a high-value lottery pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Chris Jones, Mississippi State (emerging): A freshman All-American in 2013, Jones was mysteriously quiet this season on Geoff Collins’ defense for the Bulldogs but remains one of Mississippi State’s key players heading into next fall on a unit playing without Benardrick McKinney and Preston Smith.
Jonathan Allen, Alabama (emerging): Finished second on the team as a sophomore in multiple categories including tackles for loss (11.5) and sacks (5.5). Allen made 33 tackles and is one of the Crimson Tide’s most important defenders returning in 2015.
Carl Lawson, Auburn (emerging): Expected to be the Tigers’ top pass rusher in 2015 on Will Muschamp’s new-look defense after missing last season with a knee injury.
2014 — 3 WDE, 3 SDE
Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (emerging): This rising sophomore is well on his way to stardom — and a first-round selection in 2017 — after a fantastic rookie season last fall. Garrett is a sack master and is one of the SEC’s most-hyped returning defenders.
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia (emerging): Developed into a vicious threat up front as the season progressed and made a name for himself during the final stretch. Carter will start as a sophomore and be a leader on Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.
Chad Thomas, Miami (emerging)
Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama (emerging): One of the nation’s highest-rated players overall out of Woodbridge, Va., Hand is still working his way into the rotation up front in Tuscaloosa entering his sophomore season in 2015.
Soloman Thomas, Stanford (emerging)
Malik McDowell, Michigan State (emerging)