In a time where the country nears recession, the term "stock rising" is certainly one that turns heads. In the football circles, it means the 2008 NFL Draft is around the corner. For former Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston it means, "Show me the money!" Gholston's stock has sky-rocketed, following a standout senior season, as well as impressive showings at both the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine and Ohio State's Pro Day.
Initially recruited as a linebacker in 2004, Gholston was converted to defensive end shortly after arriving in camp. He didn't see much action his freshman year, while a broken hand in 2005's season opener eventually led to being granted a medical hardship and redshirted. In 2006, as a sophomore, Gholston finally received a chance to strut his stuff. He started in 13 games, where he finished second on the team with 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 7.5 sacks while also amassing 49 tackles. His efforts earned him Second-Team All-Big Ten honors.
Last season he was a key component in a Ohio State defense that led the nation in total defense (233 yards per game), scoring defense (12.8 points per game) and pass defense (150 yards per game) while finishing third in rushing defense (83 yards per game). His 14 sacks set a single-season team record, while it tied for third in the nation. One of the best defensive players in college football last season, Gholston was named to the Associated Press' All-American second-team.
At 6-foot-3, 266 pounds, he has decent size and certainly brings a high level of athleticism to the table, but it's his strength that really sets him apart. A hard worker off the field and an absolute machine in the weight room, Gholston bench pressed 225 pounds a whopping 37 times at the combine - the most among defensive ends and six more than his nearest competitor (University of Southern California's Lawrence Jackson). He also demonstrated his blazing speed by running the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, a number he bettered (4.58) at Ohio State's Pro Day. It is that combination of speed and strength that set him apart in this year's draft.
On the field, Gholston was one of the most feared pass-rushers in the game last season, demonstrating a diverse array of moves to get to the quarterback and not just relying on straight bull or speed rushes. Despite his size he was able to engage and anchor against most offensive linemen, though that may prove more difficult at the next level, and he is not afraid to go one-on-one with larger blockers. He plays with a good motor and is adept at anticipating the play.
Despite his phenomenal strength, Gholston is a bit undersized as a defensive end in the NFL and could stand to pack on some additional pounds to help him hold up against the superior linemen he'll be facing at the NFL level. Due to his size he currently projects as more of a "tweener," a hybrid defensive end/linebacker in the mold of the Baltimore Ravens' Terrell Suggs.
Gholston is still a work-in-progress when dropping back into pass coverage, as he tends to have a slow step from backpedaling to breaking on the ball. This could stem from a slight technique issue, which some scouts have attributed to a lack of experience as he played sparingly in his first two years at Ohio State and wasn't asked to drop into coverage often.
Expected Draft Placement
You can just about bet your last penny that Gholston will be among the first 10 players selected. While it seems likely that the Miami Dolphins will steer toward the direction of University of Michigan tackle Jake Long with the No. 1 pick, Gholston is one of two or three other names being tossed around for the first selection. If the Dolphins pass on Gholston, he could go almost anywhere in the next seven selections - though the Atlanta Falcons and Kansas City Chiefs seem unlikely - with perhaps the most probable landing point being the New York Jets with the sixth pick. Were he to fall to the No. 10 spot, look for a team to make a move to trade up and get him.
About Charles Roberts
Charles Roberts has been a KFFL contributor since 2006.
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