Defensive tackle is yet another position in flux for the Cowboys after losing both starters. Vincent Taylor announced that he would be foregoing his final year of eligibility and entering the draft. In may he was taken in the sixth round by the Miami Dolphins. Motekiai Maile, last years starting three-technique, also has exhausted his eligibility. That leaves the onus of playmaking to fall on players without any meaningful starting experience. However, as likely the deepest position group on the roster, they should have no real trouble.
Here I will break down the defensive tackle position:
Darrion Daniels (JR.)
A former four-star recruit, Daniels has been in the rotation since his freshmen year. For a position that takes a lot of body development that is most impressive. Even more impressive is that he’s taken it in stride and continuously contributed. Now with the starting job his to lose, it’s time to grasp his obvious star potential. With his skill-set and measurements, he should warrant a draft pick.
Daniels chose the Cowboys over the likes of Ohio State, Miami and Oklahoma. He said he wanted a path to early playing time and to “make a name for himself”. He has a chance to do that this year. Daniels has played in every game he’s been eligible and has recorded four tackles in a game on two separate occasions. With taylor gone Daniels is almost a sure thing to start on the inside.
Dequinton Osborne (R-SR.)
A JUCO product, Osborne was one of defensive line coach Joe Bob Clements biggest gets. Literally. Osborne packs 311 lb’s into his six foot frame and he looks every bit of it. The surprising thing about him is his athleticism. To see Osborne move in open space is almost surreal.
That open-field athleticism was on display last season when Osborne dropped back into coverage and picked off a ball. He ran it about 25 yard’s before being downed at the two-yard line (and crushing some kid from Kansas, possibly to death). He managed to beat their entire team to the edge, really impressive from a man his size.
Osborne was responsible for 12 tackles (3.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks last year. As a one-tech he saw somewhat limited action behind star Vincent Taylor. This year he’s ready to take over the starting job. Osborne’s ability to pressure the quarterback as a one-tech is fairly rare and extremely valuable. He’s poised for a big year before he loses his eligibility.
Vili Leveni (R-SR.)
Leveni has been on the cusp of a big year for awhile now but has had his hopes derailed by injuries the last two years. He missed all of 2015 with an achilles injury then the last four games of 2016. When healthy he’s extremely useful and can play all over the line. With ability to pressure the quarterback from any spot on the line, he’s a rare sort of depth. While he would be called average in run support, he’s well above average at penetrating the line. If he can stay healthy this year he should be a key contributor.
Enoch Smith Jr. (R-JR.)
A former Michigan State tackle, Smith Jr. decided to transfer to OSU after Michigan State’s playoff semifinal loss in 2015. He spent a year redshirting and is immediately eligible. Smith was a four-star prospect and adds yet another solid rotational player to the mix. He’s explosive, strong and quick enough he could play on the outside if he wanted to. After a full year sitting out and adding muscle he should be ready to compete for reps immediately.
Fua Leilua (JR.)
Another JUCO addition, Leilua is ready to contribute immediately. On many teams he would be a solid second-stringer, but with the depth and talent he’ll likely be headlining the third team. After leading a solid unit at Snow College, he should be ready to take on an even larger role after this year with two graduations in front of him. Expect Leilua to compete for the starting job in 2018.
Next time I will cover the defensive ends.