Nebraska’s 2014 defensive line is projected by many to be one of the best front lines the Huskers have had since the days of Ndamukong Suh.
If the front four of the Blackshirt defense is the latest college football group to be dubbed “The Four Horsemen”, sophomore defensive end Greg McMullen would be the last name mentioned.
While Randy Gregory is projected to be a top pick in next year’s NFL draft, defensive tackles Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins are also getting tons of preseason hype as breakout performers in the Big Ten.
Through only a few fall camp practices, McMullen is showing that despite his lack of national preseason praise, it would be unwise to overlook him.
On August 6, the defensive line was running a pass rush drill against the No. 1 offensive line. No one look more impressive than McMullen.
Using a combination of ferocious bull rushing and nifty hand and footwork, he repeatedly got the better of projected starting right tackle Zach Sterup.
McMullen’s work in the drill was particularly impressive considering pass rushing is seen as his weakest area. Part of the reason he is overlooked is because he split time with pass rushing specialist Avery Moss last season.
Since Moss was dismissed, the Big Red needs to replace that pass rush prowess.
While McMullen’s big for a defensive end, it wouldn’t be a lack of athleticism that would keep him off the field when the opposition’s signal-callers need to go down.
As was the case last year, the 6’3, 280-pound sophomore was asked to drop back and cover a running back coming out of the backfield on a specific play during the August 7 scrimmage
Running back Imani Cross ran that route, the quarterback saw the perceived “mismatch” and fired the ball downfield.
While Cross did have a step on him, McMullen caught up to Cross and broke up the pass with a fierce hit.
Another indicator of McMullen’s athleticism is the fact he played AAU ball in high school and is regarded as one of the best basketball players on the football team.
One of the best story lines to come from fall camp this season is safety LeRoy Alexander’s belief that he could round up some of his football teammates and beat the Nebrasketball squad in a game of hoops.
McMullen was a player Alexander was sure to include in his hypothetical squad.
Don’t be surprised if McMullen is moved inside to the tackle position on obvious passing downs, either.
According to Huskers.com, he’s comparable in size to defensive tackle Kevin Maurice (actually five pounds heavier), so a move to the inside makes sense. He was a stout pass rusher in high school as he accounted for over 40 sacks in his career.
Coming into the program, coaches could’ve easily placed him on the interior.
It’s McMullen’s status coming out of high school that makes his “unheralded” tag on the defensive line so interesting.
He was a stud according to many recruiting services that listed him as a four-star and Top 200-level prospect. He was even rated higher than any other of any of 2014’s projected starting defensive linemen coming out of high school.
In most cases, a player with that much spotlight coming in would be talked about as the next big thing.
However, as Nebraska continues to build its young defense and there are so many potential stars across the board, someone’s bound to get lost in the shuffle.
That someone appears to be McMullen. If he continues to play as he has thus far in fall camp, he may not go so unnoticed once the season begins.
My guess is most Big Ten running backs and quarterbacks will know his name by year’s end.
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