There’s big guys, and then there’s Daniel McCullers. The utterly gigantic defensive tackle for the Tennessee Volunteers is one of the most powerful players we’ve seen in some time, and the scary thing is, he’s still learning how to play the game. Imagine what he’ll be like when he figures out what he’s doing. That’s the thought going through everyone’s mind when they see McCullers while NFL players. But just being big won’t guarantee success, you have to have skill and technique, something McCullers has and is still working on.
- Truly a mountain of a man at 6-foot-6, 351-pounds. Unbelievable power and strength.
- Surprisingly a nimble athlete, considering his epic size.
- Has experience playing 0-and-1 shades in both even and odd fronts.
- Excellent occupying multiple blockers. Capable of blowing up double-teams.
- An absolute rock in the run game. Nearly impossible to move, even when the center or guard get help. Outstanding at the point of attack and very stout.
- Superb bull rush. Can overpoweringly collapse the pocket and push an offensive lineman back into the play being set up.
- Usually plays with pretty good leverage, which is surprising, considering his height and girth.
- Retains gap responsibilities down the line of scrimmage.
- Good awareness for cut blocks.
- Can powerfully cross-face to re-plug a gap.
- Does a good job of keeping feet chopping and moving.
- Doesn’t give up on plays and plays to whistle. Has made tackles downfield before, when most thought he had given up.
- Still learning the game. Hasn’t even broached his true potential yet.
- Still very, very raw. By the time he reaches the NFL, will have only had two years of experience at a high level.
- Will always be battling weight and conditioning issues.
- Needs to improve balance. Finds himself on the ground far too often.
- Not much of a pass rusher. Has a good bull rush, but little to no arsenal of pass-rushing moves after that.
- Not an explosive player and doesn’t fire off the ball well. Not a gap penetrator.
- Doesn’t offer much in terms of agility or lateral quickness, not surprisingly.
- Has long arms, but doesn’t regularly get good extension.
- Needs to use hands better. Doesn’t regularly give a good punch and too often finds his hands on the outside of the chest plate.
- Is he truly a three-down player?
2013 Season Outlook
McCullers should take a big step in terms of improvement this Fall for the Vols. After transferring to UT from the Georgia Military College, it took him a little while to get acclimated to life in the SEC. But make no mistake, he was showing signs of dominance by the end of the season. With another year in the weight room and another spring season to gain more experience, he’ll be much better equipped to make an even bigger impact for the newly re-designed Vols’ defense.
In terms of pro prospects, McCullers is an ideal fit for a nose in a 3-4 defense. Don’t get me wrong, he can play, and play at a high level in a 4-3, but his greatest value is to teams running an odd front. There, he’s a natural two-gap stuffer, something that’s hard to come by. He’ll have to prove that he’s an every down player, but he can immediately help an NFL teams rush defense. At this point, I have him as my second-ranked 3-4 nose tackle, behind Notre Dame’s Louis Nix, but could still find a home during Round 1.
2014 NFL Draft Projection: Late first round.
Film Watched: v. Georgia (2012), v. Mizzou (2012), v. Florida (2012), v. South Carolina (2012), v. Vanderbilt (2012).