By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) - They are literally the first line of defense, the one group of players that controls the tempo of the game more than any other. They can completely negate skilled offensive performers with their tenacious play up the field, and the NFL simply can't get enough of them.
Below are the top FBS defensive linemen heading into the 2010 season.
ADRIAN CLAYBORN, IOWA
The top collegiate defensive end plays for the Hawkeyes. The 6-4, 285-pound
Clayborn is an every-down dominant force up front. He showed flashes of
potential in his first two seasons at Iowa but really burst on the scene as a
junior in 2009, racking up 70 total tackles, with an outstanding 20 tackles for
loss and 11.5 sacks, earning some All-American honors, as well as being tabbed
an All-Big Ten First-Team honoree. The Hawkeyes aren't the team to beat in the
Big Ten this season, but Clayborn should continue to excel and be a disruptive
force for the Hawkeyes week-in and week-out.
ROBERT QUINN, NORTH CAROLINA
This Tar Heel has overcome adversity to become one of the nation's premiere
ends. The 6-5, 270-pounder recovered from brain surgery as a high school senior
and has really developed in a short period of time. As a sophomore in 2009,
Quinn was a First-Team All-ACC selection, while picking up some All-American
accolades as well, finishing the year with 52 total tackles, 19 TFLs and 11
sacks. The Tar Heels are under fire right now regarding potential NCAA
violations, and while the team may not vie for an ACC crown in 2010, it won't
be because of the play along the defensive line.
JEREMY BEAL, OKLAHOMA
It may have been a down year for the Sooners in 2009, but that wasn't because
of a lack of effort from the 6-3, 267-pound Beal. This Oklahoma end racked up
an impressive 70 total tackles, with 19 TFLs and 11 sacks, picking up First-
Team All-Big 12 honors and Third-Team All-American status. His junior campaign
was a nice follow-up to his sophomore season (15.5 TFLs, 8.5 sacks), as he
continues to reach his potential. The Sooners will be back in the thick of the
Big 12 race in 2010 and Beal will be a centerpiece on the defensive side of
GREG ROMEUS, PITTSBURGH
The 2009 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, the 6-6, 270-pound Romeus
amassed 43 tackles, with 11.5 TFLs and eight sacks. He will vie for All-
American honors in 2010 and consideration for most defensive awards when all is
said and done. The Panthers should take another step towards the Big East crown
this year, and balanced play on both sides of the football could be the
difference. Romeus is an every-down end, who must be accounted for by offensive
SAM ACHO, TEXAS
Sergio Kindle has moved on to the NFL, leaving Acho as the premiere down-
lineman in Austin. A veteran end, Acho has played in 38 career games, with
14 starts. As a junior in 2009, the 6-3, 260-pounder finished with 63 total
tackles, 14 TFLs, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. He
will once again be a key contributor along the Longhorn defensive front in
2010. Texas will be among the top teams in the country, and Acho very well may
take the next step in his maturation as a dominant and disruptive force.
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Marcel Dareus (Alabama), Cameron Heyward (Ohio
State), Frank Alexander (Oklahoma), Cliff Matthews (South Carolina), Jonathan
Freeny (Rutgers), Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State).
MARVIN AUSTIN, NORTH CAROLINA
This Tar Heel is currently embroiled in an NCAA investigation, but that won't
keep him off my list as the top interior lineman in the game. Larger than life
both on and off the field, the 6-3, 310-pounder is as good as it gets. He was
a Second-Team All-ACC selection as a junior in 2009, as the outgoing Austin
finished with 42 total tackles, six TFLs and two sacks. A space-eater in the
middle, it remains to be seen if he will showcase his talents on the field in
2010, as the NCAA may hand down a lengthy suspension that could result in his
career in Chapel Hill coming to a close.
ALLEN BAILEY, MIAMI-FLORIDA
A chiseled 290-pounder, Bailey has the ability to play both inside and out at
the next level. An All-ACC First-Team selection as a junior in 2009, he led
the Hurricanes in both TFLs (11) and sacks (7.0). Miami will take another step
toward regaining its swagger on a national scale in 2010, and Bailey really has
a chance to emerge as a difference-maker along the defensive front, vying for
All-American honors in the process.
JERRELL POWE, OLE MISS
A mammoth interior lineman at 6-2, 320 pounds, Powe is a prototypical nose
guard. He saw action in 13 games for Ole Miss last season with 10 starts,
recording 34 tackles (25 solo), with 12.0 TFLs. He is very strong at the point
of attack and has the ability to handle double-teams, freeing up his teammates
to make the play. The Rebels won't win the SEC any time soon, but few teams
will find it easy to run up the middle on Ole Miss in 2010.
JARVIS JENKINS, CLEMSON
Jenkins has played in the shadow of some really good defensive linemen at
Clemson over the course of his career, but is ready to make a name for himself
in 2010. The 6-4, 310-pound Jenkins earned second-team All-American honors as a
sophomore in 2008 and followed that up with a solid junior campaign in 2009,
ranking fifth on the team with 69 total tackles, 11 TFLs and one sack. He will
be the centerpiece of the Clemson defensive front this season and should be a
productive player on a weekly basis.
JARED CRICK, NEBRASKA
Though perhaps best known for playing next to Ndamukong Suh, Crick carved out
his own little niche in 2009, earning All-Big 12 honors, after the 6-6, 285-
pounder racked up 73 total tackles, 15 TFLs and 9.5 sacks. Without the luxury
of Suh taking on double-teams, Crick will now be forced to prove he is not a
product of his environment. Still, it wasn't Suh alone that put Nebraska among
the national leaders in scoring defense (first), pass efficiency defense
(first) and sacks (second) in 2009. This is Nebraska's last season in the Big
12 and although the team is probably not ready to win the league title, Crick
will do everything in his power to keep the Cornhuskers relevant each week.
OTHERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Stephen Paea (Oregon State), Jurrell Casey (USC),
Adrian Taylor (Oklahoma), Cameron Jordan (California), Lawrence Marsh