Tennessee's Daniel McCullers Poised to be Next Dominant Defensive Tackle

By Joshua Cook

 Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee defensive tackle Daniel McCullers has a chance to become the SEC’s next premier force in the heart of the defensive line.

Over the past several years, the SEC has seen its share of dominant defensive tackles: LSU had Glenn DorseyAlabama had Terrence CodyAuburn had Nick Fairley and Florida had Sharrif Floyd. McCullers has an opportunity to join the likes of these great players. He has the size (6’6 377 lbs.) and the ability to close running lanes and collapse pockets by shoving offensive linemen into them.

Similar to Fairley, McCullers did not have a great season during his first year as a starter, but could follow in those footsteps and really be a force in year two.

McCullers was a junior college transfer in 2012, coming from Georgia Military College. Rivals ranked the nose tackle the number one junior college defensive tackle in the country and the sixth best junior college prospect. Although his statistical output has never reached the elite level (39 total tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack in 2012), McCullers is simply too big to be blocked by any one player. If his speed off the snap improves heading into his senior season then the SEC needs to put quarterbacks and running backs on high alert.

Making the jump from elite size and potential to outstanding production over a one-year period is something SEC defensive tackles are used to doing though.

Cody had 4.5 tackles-for-loss (TFL) as a junior and six as a senior en route to anchoring Alabama to a BCS Championship. Fairley’s improvement was far more drastic, improving from 3.5 TFL as a sophomore to 24 as a junior en route to his own BCS Championship victory. Floyd also improved from sophomore to junior seasons, going from 6.5 TFL to 13. Dorsey also upped his TFL total by four in his senior season.

The other trend that McCullers has the opportunity to follow is being selected high in next year’s NFL Draft. Dorsey, Fairley and Floyd were all early first round draft picks as a result of the dominance they displayed. This dominance does not always show up on the stat sheet however, but has always had a tendency to count for quite a bit in wins and losses; in Cody’s case in particular (who was selected in the second round of his draft).

His predecessors in the SEC have set the trend for drastic improvement from size and potential into dominance. Now McCullers must improve his own skills in order to follow in these footsteps. As the season unfolds this fall, the game tape will tell if he has made the jump into the premier category of defensive tackles.

Keep an eye out for McCullers this year, as there is sure to be several NFL scouts doing the same.

Joshua Cook is an SEC Football writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoCo217, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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