I’ve seen four NJCAA national defensive players of the year in five years of covering the Jayhawk Conference – Butler linebacker Austin Panter (Michigan) in 2006, Butler defensive end Markus White (Florida State) in 2007, Hutchinson defensive tackle Eugene Kinlaw (Troy) in 2008 and Butler defensive end Cornellius Carradine (Florida State) this season.
Undoubtedly, White and Carradine had the most potential of the four because of the premium put on rush defensive ends at the high-Division I level and in the pros nowadays and because each one has the perfect physical acumen for the position. A guy that can get to the quarterback is worth his weight in gold, but a guy that is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds and can get to the quarterback can help you keep your job.
These two guys are freaks – here’s three ways to break them down:
TALE OF THE TAPE
They’re both 6-4, 260, like I said. I know Cornellius measured a 39-inch vertical leap in preseason testing and got quite a bit faster between his freshman and sophomore year – I’d guess he knocked a good 2/10th off his 40 time by living in the weight room, dropping him down to 4.5 range. Markus played the game so fluid, so naturally, that you never really questioned how hard he worked. Cornellius had a lot more work to do between his first and second seasons in my opinion, but it was just a matter of unlocking that potential. Markus made it look easy.
Both of these guys will fight an offensive tackle to the death. Their approach to big games at the junior-college level was always so focused and so concise that it made an impression on me as an uninvolved observer. Aware of their teammates. Aware of game situations like down and distance and tendencies, which you might scoff at but you might be surprised isn’t as common as you might think. And putting up numbers …. oh baby. White’s 50-plus tackles, 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss really blew me away this year considering all he’d been through. Carradine’s numbers on the junior-college level match up very similar to those of another Jayhawk Conference defensive end, Fort Scott’s Jason Pierre-Paul, who spent one year at South Florida before the NY Giants grabbed him in the first round.
Two distinct memories from these two, both involving the week leading up to their respective national championship games. We did a feature on White and the defensive line at Butler his sophomore year right before his title game – all four starters ended up Division I starters, including current Oregon nose guard Zac Clark. The crazy thing was that they’d lost Kansas State d-end Antonio Felder to a knee injury in the first game and each of these other three dudes had kind of adapted White’s persona that year because he’d kind of adopted them. Called them his brothers. They grew their hair out long, wore clothes that were a little too baggy … it was an interesting rebellion that they’d made amongst themselves with him as the lynchpin. Nothing that went against the team, just new-school bonding. And they won a national title.
My only knock on Carradine would be that maybe he was wound too tight at times. I remember before the national title game this year (which they lost) he was so consumed by the game plan and by the pressure being put on him to pick a school, that the coaches were having to check on him to make sure he was eating. This is a dude who will sell his heart and soul to put his team in a position where they can win. Football is everything to him … it wasn’t a surprise when I saw he chose Florida State because of his intense loyalty to his junior-college coaches and the high regard they held for White and the FSU coaching staff.
Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out.