Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trevor Moawad Talks About Freddy Adu

All photos courtesy of IMG Academies.

Since he entered MLS as the youngest American athlete to sign a contract with a professional sports team, a lot has been said about Freddy Adu—some of it good, some of it bad. Adu has had some highs, and some seemingly low lows. He’s bounced around from club to club, unable to establish himself anywhere.

Still, he’s only 21-years-old, so there’s still time for him to make his mark. During the winter transfer window he was loaned out to Rizespor, a club in the second level of Turkey’s soccer system. With this new opportunity, another chapter in Adu’s career begins.

I had an opportunity to talk to Trevor Moawad, Director of Performance at IMG Academy, who worked with Adu when he was a student at the Academy and still keeps in touch with him. Moawad has spent a lot of time working with Adu and watching him play. He choose to give his own personal opinion and insight on his experiences with Adu, what he thinks has happened to him in his career and what he thinks is still to come.

In what ways have you worked with Freddy?

I handled mental training for all the 1984 and 1988 teams and now I’m Director of Performance. I still do college and professional football and work with programs like the University Alabama and Florida.

I’ve known Freddy for 10 years and I stay in touch with a number of players that came through the residency program. There’s a lot of different things out there. My perception is don’t put a period where there should be a comma, whenever there are young athletes trying. I think the situation with Freddy is much more complicated than people know, and when you’re going on loan it’s a complicated process. I think there are a lot of teams that have had interest but it’s not always easy to get things done or sorted out when you’re dealing with the complex world of European soccer.

I think this kid still has a lot of opportunities to be successful. He came here to work out for three weeks and I saw the hunger, the desire, the athleticism. Christmas Day no one is in the weight room except for Freddy. He knocked out a three-hour workout. I don’t think he’s worried about anything other than trying to establish himself with a club in Europe.

I think he did a great job in Greece, but the economics in Greece affected the players on loan. He played a huge role for Aris to qualify for Europa. He was in a competitive league playing under a lot of pressure and I think if you just follow the Internet you see one step back after another and it’s a little more complicated than that. I think he’s headed in the right direction, for what my opinions worth. The past has been more complicated than people understand… I still think the story has a lot left to be written.

Why has Freddy struggled to latch onto clubs?

I think some of the teams, when you go to certain places on trial whether it’s Switzerland, Germany or Holland—some of these places he’s been in—it’s not necessarily that they don’t want him, but there are a lot of things that have to happen to play in a certain environment when you’re owned by a parent club. It has to also be the right terms of the deal. The team in Germany was extremely interested in him but they wanted him for a longer time than he could go. The Turkish team was excited to work with him for the next five or six months.

It’s tough because a young American soccer player doesn’t have a role model playing in Europe except for goalies, really. Michael Bradley has done an excellent job. Steve Cherundolo has done a tremendous job. The last few years Clint Dempsey has done exceptionally well. But over the least 15 years, it’s not an easy road. It’s not an excuse, but it’s not an easy road. The kid’s fighting and working hard, and he’s doing what he needs to do to continue his career. He knows what people say about him, but he’s focused on controlling what he can control. It’s not an easy process for any of these guys trying to make it. Freddy’s career is in Freddy’s hands. He’s making his decisions. He’s got people that support him, but… he’s not a young kid anymore, he’s making his own decisions.

What role have the heavy expectations to be the “great American soccer player” at such a young age had on him? How has he handled those expectations?

I’ll just take, for example, at the academy they’re always looking for the next young Andre Agassi or the next young American Pete Sampras. Other people’s expectations are important, but there’s none more important than your own. For an athlete trying to make it to the next level, you cannot accept mediocrity and you cannot tell yourself you have time. If you’re saying I don’t need to make it now because I’m young, no. Once you start at the professional level…you start as a professional soccer player at 13, the clock’s on. You’re no different than a 22-year-old stepping in. It’s all about now and that’s difficult for a lot of young athletes. If they think I have time then they’re not going to put their best foot forward.

What I’ll say is the last time I spent significant time with him was before the 2007 U-20 championships. It was clear to me that he knew this tournament was unbelievably important for him and you could see it in the way he prepared and trained. He put himself to be in a position to be signed by Benfica. I saw that same kind of hunger and mentality for three weeks this winter. When he has that hunger he’s extremely capable.

I expect Freddy to do well. Every one of these teams he’s gone to on loan he’s gotten into the lineup and earned a starting spot. It’s just holding onto it. They’re not going to put a guy in there for fun. These are the environments. At Monaco it wasn’t easy but he made the roster. You gotta’ fight your tail off just to get on a roster. These are things he’s learning from, and he knows that. What he’s gone through has made him stronger, it’s made him tougher and he has a sense of urgency with his ability that is extremely positive.

I’m optimistic about his career path and I think I have a good volume of experience with a lot of athletes at a lot of levels. I expect him to take advantage of his situation in Turkey.

He’s not focused on anything other than finding a way to contribute in Turkey. Everything else takes care of itself. Being a pro soccer player in Europe is a tough road. I applaud the fact that for three years he’s hung in there.

What does he have to do to do more than just “hang in there”? What does he have to do to take the next step?

The keys to success is just staying on top of the details, maintaining that sense of urgency and keeping the expectations for himself extremely high. And that’s what I expect he’ll do. When he came here over the winter, I saw a young athlete who’s driven and focused. If the best parts of his career are ahead of him then he’s going to have to pay attention to the details. It’s not ok to take your talent and be average. The details relate to the nutrition and stretching as well.

Every place he’s gone there was no doubt he has the capability. There’s a reason he breaks into the lineup. It’s just the ability to sustain it. I think anyone that’s written him off has done so prematurely. And that doesn’t just go for Freddy. That goes for a lot of these guys: Jozy [Altidore], Eddie [Johnson]. Some guys have success for a little and they go on loan. It’s just an extremely complicated situation. I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for those guys… Coaches come in and go and it’s about reestablishing yourself. It’s a cutthroat environment. Anybody that writes him off, well those people clearly don’t understand the circumstances.

You say for the individual athlete, he or she should never say “I have time.” But on the outside looking in, Freddy is still only 21-years-old. There is still time in his career for him to develop and grow as a player, right?

The reality is there is still time, but from an athletic perspective when you’re a player, you’re a brand. And you have to treat yourself like a brand. When you go to places and don’t do well you’re damaging your brand, and if you do well you’re improving your brand. If you continue to go to places and aren’t performing, well you’re going to get less and less opportunities.

Freddy went to Greece and for large portions of that season he did very well. But he didn’t have control over Greece’s economic situation and what happened to those players on loan. [The club’s] priorities changed. At Aris last year he played well. I think he fully expected to continue playing there and the circumstances changed.

Some of the young athletes who Freddy worked with here, they said I might be 16 but there’s no reason I can’t win Wimbledon. You have to have that expectation that I’m going to come in and I’m going to make a difference. When he was 11, 12, and 13-years-old his expectations any time he was going out to practice or games, they were extremely high. I saw that to some degree before the Olympics. He was the player of the tournament in CONCACAF in the qualification for the Olympics. When he went to Monaco he had built up some momentum, but then he lost it after Monaco, and that was a complicated situation.

At the end of the day if you’re going to help a team win they’re going to play you, but there are also mitigating factors. His job is to go out there and establish himself in Turkey, just like he did in Greece. He’s got to establish him and be consistent.

That’s not something that Freddy’s dealing with alone either, that’s what a lot of athletes in sports are dealing with. It’s why a lot of NFL players don’t get two contracts, and even fewer get three. It doesn’t make you a bust, it just shows how much of a challenge it is. His whole focus is establishing himself as a club player.

As you said, he’s had some success at the international level, especially at the youth level. Is it frustrating to him to do well there but not for a club team?

I think mentally it’s a situation where, you look at it that way it could be frustrating but you should look at it as I know I can do it and what do I need to do to get there.

When there’s value attached to your name, you’re going to get more negative attention then you deserve and when you do well you’ll get more positive attention. Neither of those things are his fault but they are his reality.

Nobody’s going to give him anything, nor does he want to be given anything. He just wants a fair shot and I think he’s going to get that.

What work do you do with the athletes?

I’m the Director of Performance at IMG. My job is to oversee a team of 50 experts, and that’s in strength and conditioning, athletic training, mental conditioning, life skills and communication training as well as vision training. I also work as a mental conditioning consultant for the University of Alabama and University of Florida football teams and the Jacksonville Jaguars football team. I work with athletes individually on their attitude, performance in pressure situations and their ability to recover from setbacks.

I’ve seen [Freddy] for a long time. I know his family. I’m not paid by him—he is a client of our when he comes down here and train—but I’ve been able to spend ten years watching this man and I believe what I saw this last three weeks in December, he’s poised to really take some positive steps forward. I was talking with one of his former teammates, Heath Pearce, and he was talking about how he saw a replay of the “60 Minutes” piece when he signed with MLS and he said people forget he was exceptional then. He started in the U-20 Cup at 13 years old. He earned those things. And just as he did then, he’ll have to do that now. And whatever happened in the past has helped prepare him to be better in the future.

And he’s a neat kid. I’ve probably talked to four or five of these kids a week, who are now coaches and firefighters. Some of those kids are still out there fighting and trying to compete. Some of them have had tougher roads than others and that’s ok. I went to Eddie Johnson’s wedding last week. I still keep in touch with John Spector. They may not be famous names now but they were important to what we did in Bradenton. I’m not involved in the world in soccer anymore, but I obviously care about these kids who came in and I wish them the best. I understand the road and it’s not an easy process.

I want to make it very clear that these are my opinions, they are my beliefs. I feel I have a fair perspective about the world of sports. I haven’t talked about [Freddy] in a long time.

How do you feel when you read negative pieces about Freddy?

It’s a little bit frustrating, and I also know the emotional toll it takes on an athlete to hear some of those things or read. But if you’re an athlete you’re responsible for it. We try to make them think “I may not perform well but that doesn’t make me any more or less of a person.” But at the same point you’re still human. It’s going to affect the athlete and when you invest a lot of time in someone you want them to do well. People will say you don’t have an argument because people can point to the facts, but I think the facts are complicated.

I watched him play two games in that Greek league with packed crowds, loud environments and I was extremely optimistic. It was clear to me that there was no doubt he can do that. There’s no doubt he can still do that. Everything is about looking forward and taking care of the details. I’m excited about the prospects for him. At the end of the day it’s about what you do not what you say.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Americans Make Big Moves During Transfer Window

The January transfer window was an active one, especially for members of the United States Men’s National Team.

Some big names made big splashes in the market, and many made moves in search of more playing time. Michael Bradley’s loan to Aston Villa was the most publicized of any change of teams for Americans and Freddy Adu has found another new team to try and break into.

Then there are the unlucky Americans, the ones who needed a change, or were rumored to switch teams, but nothing panned out for them.

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of the biggest American moves (and non-moves) that went down during the transfer window.

Jonathan Bornstein: to UANL Tigres, leaving Chivas USA

Pros: The Mexican league is slightly better than MLS. The teams are deeper and the rosters aren’t as restrictive as those in MLS. So playing against some tough competition should definitely help the left back.

It also helps that he gets experience playing in Mexico, a place the USMNT has a lot of trouble winning in.

Cons: Mexico isn’t that much of an improvement over the United States. For a guy who started a number of games for the USMNT in World Cup qualifying, the Confederations Cup and the World Cup the move isn’t one that gets a lot of people’s attention. You wonder how little did he showcase himself?

Verdict: Bornstein had done everything he was going to with Chivas and Tigres is better than some other suitors he’s had (Maccabi Tel-Aviv). He isn’t moving to a bad league by any means, and just changing scenery will re-energize him and make him compete just a bit more.

Eddie Johnson: to Preston North End via Fulham (loan)

Pros: Like a lot of guys on this list, playing time was a big factor in Johnson needing a move. He’s played in 11 games for Fulham this year, 10 of them as a sub. That number is three more than the amount of games he had previously played for the team since joining them in 2008.

He’s done alright for Fulham in the limited action he’s gotten this season and hopefully he can ride a little bit of momentum to Preston.

Cons: He just hasn’t had any luck in Europe. He’s bounced around a lot, not ready to become a full-time member for Fulham and not good enough that any of the teams that he’s been loaned out to have wanted to keep him.

He did ok in Cardiff City, playing in 30 league games (25 as a sub), scored two goals and added four assists. Those numbers aren’t great though. He just hasn’t been able to really catch on anywhere.

Verdict: Johnson burst onto the USMNT scene scoring four goals in his first two appearances, but since his breakout year of 2005 things have gone incredibly slowly for him, mostly because of his unsettled club situation. Who knows if he’ll ever get on the field—let alone score—with any regularity, but Preston doesn’t seem like a bad place to try.

Kenny Cooper: to Portland Timbers, leaving 1860 Munich

Pros: Since arriving at Munich in 2009, Cooper made only 15 total appearances for the club across all competitions and he got on the field only seven times as a substitute when he was loaned to Plymouth Argyle. Over those 22 games he scored only three times.

In MLS he will not only be playing regularly once again, but he returns to the league where he was one of the hottest scorers. In 90 league appearances with FC Dallas he scored 40 goals, including 25 goals in his final 45 games.

Cons: Cooper will be coming back to the States with much less confidence then when he left. Every situation is different, and Cooper’s trek to Germany didn’t go over well. It happens. But athletes have a sense of pride in their abilities and Cooper will be coming back having been served a bit of humility.

Verdict: Cooper made a good move to come back to MLS. At one point fans were clamoring for him to get a call-up to the National Team, but now they seem to have moved on. It’s time for Cooper to get back on track and he will get that opportunity in Portland.

Edson Buddle: to FC Ingolstadt, leaving Los Angeles Galaxy

Pros: His paycheck is much bigger now. Going from the salary cap-hindered MLS, to the free-spending scene in Europe, Buddle will earn much more for his services.

Also, Ingolstadt is a club struggling mightily on the offensive end of the field, so if he can keep up the scoring pace he had with the Galaxy in 2010, the team will need him on the field.

Cons: The German Bundesliga 2 is not in any way better competition than MLS. It’s actually a step below. Not only is the league not as good, but his team is in the relegation zone, so it’s a bad team in a league that isn’t that good. He’s lessening his value there.

Verdict: The allure of Europe is strong to any player, and sometimes you have to start in a lower division and move your way up. It looks like Buddle took advantage of maybe his only chance at a big payday in spite of the level of competition.

Robbie Findley: to Nottingham Forest, leaving Real Salt Lake

Pros: 2010 was a rough year for Findley. After finishing 2009 as the leading scorer for MLS champion Real Salt Lake, he lost his touch in 2010, scoring only six goals in 26 games. He was nagged by injuries throughout the MLS season, and even though he was selected for the World Cup roster, he could not find the back of the net, no matter how good some of his chances looked.

He struggled but has enough potential that he still was able to get a transfer to England.

Cons: If he doesn’t rediscover his scoring touch, Findley will wind up on the bench. At least in MLS he would’ve been given the opportunity to play out his struggles.

Verdict: His form hasn’t been anything to be excited about lately, but he does have the skills to bounce back. Maybe he’s been distracted by a potential move to Europe, and now that he has it he’ll be more focused.

Jermaine Jones: to Blackburn via Schalke (loan)

Pros: Jones went from the dog house at Schalke to being revered at Blackburn. He went from the bench to starting in his debut. The team had been looking for a defensive midfielder for some time and manager Steve Kean has praised him.

Also playing in England will allow Jones to sharpen his English, which will help him further integrate himself with the USMNT.

Cons: None.

Verdict: Jones may have secured the best move among American players this winter. He’s gone to a team that really wants and needs him and he’s performed well in the early going. He’s a tough player and should enjoy a good tenure with the club, which also has an option to buy him.

Benny Feilhaber: stayed at AGF Aarhus

Pros: He stays comfortable at a club for which he has shined for all season.

Cons: Feilhaber needs a new challenge. Aarhus is only in Denmark’s First Division, so the competition isn’t as good. He’s proven himself on this level and he needs to move on.

Verdict: Feilhaber is falling on the midfield depth chart for the USMNT and he needs to be playing against better competition to continue to prove himself. He will most assuredly need to move on this summer.

Eric Lichaj: stayed at Aston Villa

Pros: Lichaj, only 22-years-old, is still young and has time to improve. By staying at Villa, he will get to train day-in and day-out with a good EPL side.

Cons: After enjoying a nice five-game stretch being featured in the team’s lineup, and playing pretty well, Lichaj has quickly moved back to the bench. The decision is a little curious. That being said, if Lichaj is going to continue to sit the bench, it would be better to have him at least loaned somewhere where he can get consistent minutes.

Verdict: He’s young, but promising. He’s shown well when he’s appeared for both club and country, so more playing time for him would be nice. For his sake, hopefully a loan can be worked out in the future.

Landon Donovan: staying at Los Angeles Galaxy

Pros: He finally gets to rest. Donovan has been playing nonstop for the past few years, playing for the Galaxy, for the USMNT (in the Confederations Cup and World Cup) and two winter loans. He’s been at it every month it seems, so it’s good for Donovan to take some time to sit back and recharge the batteries.

Cons: Donovan has proved to be one of, if not the best, player for both club and country. After two successful winter loans it’s time for him to take the next step—a full transfer.

Verdict: Donovan has said since the end of the MLS season he needed to rest and wasn’t going anywhere this winter. Expect a move this summer.

Oguchi Onyewu: to FC Twente via AC Milan (loan)

Pros: He finally escaped the Milan bench. He signed with the club in 2009 but has yet to make a league appearance for them (his patellar tendon injury in World Cup qualifying was brutal to his status at the club).

He started and played in his debut for the Twente, so as long as he’s healthy he’ll likely be on the field for them.

Cons: Twente played Onyewu at left fullback. While he did fine for the team, and the USMNT is definitely hurting for a player to man that position, there is no way Onyewu will be the answer there. He doesn’t have the speed to cover the fast wings on the international level, so while it’s nice he’s playing it’s not at a position that he’ll help his country at.

Also, he’s so rusty he injured himself in the second game he played at Twente. He says it is not a serious injury, but the man has a lot of cobwebs to shake out.

Verdict: The move was an absolutely necessary one. Many wonder if Onyewu is really in Milan’s plans, so it’s good he’s someplace else for the rest of the season. If he’s healthy, he’ll play and that really is the most important thing for him right now.

Brad Guzan: to Hull City via Aston Villa (loan)

Pros: Guzan escapes Brad Friedel’s shadow and finally gets his turn to start. He’s been the No.2 for the USMNT without starting a league game since he left Chivas USA in 2008. Now he’s started five games in a row for Hull City, and he’s fared pretty well.

Cons: The loan was originally only for a month, but it has since been extended for another month. That’s a short time to enjoy the spotlight of starting between the pipes. At the end of February he’ll be back to the back at Villa.

Even before then, previous starter Vito Mannone could return for injury and Guzan would have to compete with him for the starting spot.

Verdict: Guzan needed this move. The only other thing he could have asked for was for a longer loan. Friedel’s been rumored to be leaving the club soon though, so he may finally get his chance at Villa sooner rather than later.

Freddy Adu: to Rizespor via Benfica (loan)

Pros: He actually has a team now. Benfica didn’t want him. Aris, the team he actually was still on loan with, didn’t want him. He trialed with Sion, Randers and Ingoldstadt but none of those teams wanted him either.

So someone finally put him on their roster. That’s a plus in his career considering the way things have been going.

Cons: Rizespor is in the second level of the Turkish soccer—not a talented league at all. It’s an improvement he’s on a team, but he could’ve easily come back to MLS and been playing at a much higher level.

What made him think Rizespor was the place he needed to be is an interesting anecdote we’d all like to know.

Verdict: One has to wonder how far Adu’s career has slid so far down to wind up at Rizespor, but you can’t hate on it too much, it is a roster spot. Let’s see if they actually play him.

Jozy Altidore: to Bursaspor via Villarreal (loan)

Pros: Unlike Adu, Altidore wound up in turkey’s highest division, which is a very talented league. Bursaspor is a talented team and Alitdore has a good possibility to get a lot more playing time than he was at Villarreal.

Cons: Playing time won’t just be handed to him. Bursaspor doesn’t have the stable of forwards that Villarreal did, but they do have guys in the mix. They also acquired Scottish international striker Kenny Miller and they still have their previous forwards.

Altidore has played well enough, but he’s struggled to score at all levels since his loan to Hull City last season. He’s going to need to pick up the pace.

Verdict: If Altidore can secure more playing time, it’s a good move. He’s been steadily, quietly, improving, but it won’t mean anything until he’s scoring goals. The move is a good one.

Michael Bradley: to Aston Villa via Borussia Monchengladbach (loan)

Pros: Bradley leaves the basement of the German Bundesliga to the EPL. His career continues to move upwards and this is the latest step up. Aston Villa has had its troubles in central midfield so Bradley should get his opportunities, especially since manager Gerard Houllier has been interested in him since the World Cup.

Cons: It’s the biggest league in soccer and Bradley isn’t going to be handed anything. Aston Villa brought in Jean Makoun and still has Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker, despite their struggles. So he’ll have competition and he’ll have to push himself to come out on top and stay there.

Verdict: This is a fantastic opportunity for Bradley as he continues his rise to soccer stardom. He’ll have to work hard, but that’s never been an issue for Bradley. It’s an exciting move and a well deserved one.

Photo Credits.
Michael Bradley: AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Edson Buddle: AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Jermaine Jones: AP Photo/Martin Meissner
Oguchi Onyewu: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Jozy Altidore: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: Who Do the New England Patriots Pick with First 3 Picks?

AP Photo/Dave Martin

After playing to the best record in the NFL this season, the New England Patriots crashed-and-burned in the playoffs. They one-and-done for the second year in the row and will watch the Super Bowl from snowy New England.

The attention now goes off-the-field as the team prepares for the offseason. The source of great interest for the Pats fans is the 2011 NFL Draft. The Patriots hold three picks within the first 33 selections (Nos. 17, 28 and 33) in the draft.

The draft has some good offensive lineman and is loaded with talent along the defensive line. Coincidentally enough both will be positions the Patriots will look to upgrade this season.

Rushing the passer and helping Vince Wilfork along the defensive line are necessary. Also, the futures of Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal and Matt Light are questionable right now; whether any or all of them return to the team is up in the air. The team will need replacements immediately, and if they do return it can’t hurt to groom them because they are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning.

Who will the team consider to grab with one of their three top picks?

Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue

Kerrigan had a monster senior-year, leading the nation with 26 tackles for losses and recording 12.5 sacks. He also shows a tireless work ethic.

His stats prove that he can get to the quarterback. He does that through a number of different styles of moves along the line and gets at the quarterback from many different angles, something the Patriots defense in the years of the Super Bowl champion teams did very well.

Some believe he won’t put up outstanding numbers at the combine, but that shouldn’t stop teams from realizing what Kerrigan has done on the field, and what he can still do.

Brandon Harris, CB, University of Miami

When Leigh Bodden went down with an injury in the preseason, many youngsters were thrust into the position, possibly too soon. The position had some guys who did well, but overall the group wasn’t good or deep enough.

Bodden should be coming back, but that would give another youngster—hopefully—the proper time to develop.

Harris is rated as one of the top corners and could be available. In 39 games with the Hurricanes, he started 32 times. Two years ago as a sophomore he was named First-Team ACC and Second-Team All-American.

Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State

It’s well known that the Patriots like guys with strong football bloodlines, and Heyward has that. His father is former Falcons fullback Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. But he’s more than just a nice pedigree.

He’s another big 3-4 end (6’5” 255) who is an explosive playmaker. In his junior and senior seasons combined he made 94 tackles and 10 sacks. He’s played in a BCS Bowl game each of his four seasons at Ohio State, including an extremely strong Sugar Bowl against Arkansas in 2011.

Nate Solder, T, Colorado

Solder is a mammoth tackle, standing at 6’9” and weighing in at 315 pounds. Many scouts say he could start immediately, which may be a necessity if the offensive line is as depleted as it has the potential to be. Solder had a good showing at the Senior Bowl.

He’s got solid athleticism for his size and scouts say he has a lot of potential.

Allen Bailey, DE, University of Miami

For the past couple of years, the Pats have had difficulty rushing the passer. He would be a nice big end in the 3-4 defense that is powerful enough to create pressure.

The 6’4”, 288-pound end has increased his tackle totals each year and has sacked the quarterback seven times in each of the past two seasons.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa

Clayborn is known as a good pass and run-stopper. He’s very strong and is a good rusher from the edge.

He amassed 50 or more tackles in each of his final three seasons, and last year he was First-Team All-Big Ten and a consensus First-Team All-American by the NCAA, AFCA, and Walter Camp. His junior year he was also named the Orange Bowl MVP, showing he shows up and performs in big games.

Gabe Carimi, T, Wisconsin

Carimi, the Outland Trophy winner, is another lineman with plenty of size. The tackle is 6’7” and weighs 327 pounds.

The Badgers had one of the best running games in the nation. Part of that success is thanks to the strong offensive line anchored by Carimi. The team also allowed only 11 sacks to starting QB Scott Tolzien.

Carimi dominated all defensive ends he faced and would be a nice addition.

Jeremy Beal, DE/OLB, Oklahoma

Beal led the Big 12 in tackles for losses and was second in sacks. He was named the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.

He’s got decent speed, but he really just knows how to get to the quarterback. He started every game as a sophomore in 2008 and registered 11 sacks last season.

He hustles all over the field and creates some turnovers. When he can’t get to the quarterback he has good awareness and quick enough hands to deflect passes.

Cameron Jordan, DE, California

The son of former Vikings Pro-Bowl tight end Steve Jordan, Cameron is athletic and has a high-motor. He’s known for his speed rushing ability and drew a lot of double teams in college. If he were to go to the Patriots, teams would have to figure out how to defend Jordan (after some seasoning), Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo.

Jordan constantly improved at Cal, and he isn’t done yet. He had a great Senior-Bowl, which increased his value.

Stefan Wisniewski, G/C, Penn State

Scouts say he doesn’t have great size or upside, but that he does have good technique, a strong work ethic and a high football IQ. He also plays multiple positions, which is always a good thing for depth purposes.

Scouts say he would be a good fit for the Patriots at the position because of his intelligence and awareness and ability to compete against top competition.

Ben Ijalana, OL, Villanova

Rumor has it that Pats scouts have visited Villanova a few times this season and Ijalana could be the guy they were looking at.

He’s got good size—6’4” and weighs 320 pounds. He is known to have a mean-streak and good footwork. He can play either tackle or guard and does each well.

J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin

He’s big (6’6”, 292 lbs) and explosive. Last season, Watt’s junior year, he made 62 tackles and 21 tackles for a loss. He does a good job of getting to the ballcarrier and plays with a lot of energy.

The belief is that Watt gets better every year and should make a good transition to the pros. Part of that reasoning is because he is fairly new to the position, moving there once he transferred to Wisconsin after spending his freshman year as a tight-end at Central Michigan.

He won the 2010 Ronnie Lott award Defense IMPACT Player of the Year, given to a player showing great off the field characteristics—such as maturity, integrity and community service—in addition to accomplishments on the field. His character won’t be an issue.

Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida

His twin-brother Maurkice was drafted by the Steelers last year, and he has stepped into the starting center role immediately, helping Pittsburgh reach the Super Bowl. Many feel that Mike can also step in and start right away.

He’s got good size (6’4”, 310) but is also very athletic.

He’s versatile, something that a lot of these lineman, especially the interior lineman, have in common. He started at right guard for the Gators his sophomore and junior seasons before replacing his brother at center senior year.