By Shawn Spencer @Spencer_NFL on August 5, 2014
The American Athletic Conference has undergone many changes recently. This year, the conference welcomes East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa, while losing Louisville and Rutgers. Star quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles made headlines last year, but defense will be the strength of the conference in 2014. Here are the five most intriguing draft prospects on defense.
Jeff Luc, a Florida State transfer, will take on more of a leadership role this year as he moves from outside to middle linebacker. With Nick Temple and Eric Wilson on the outside, Cincinnati has the most talented LB corps in the AAC. As a senior, 2014 is the last chance for Luc to realize his potential and play to the level expected of him when he was recruited by the Seminoles. His potential and versatility make Luc a likely third day pick.
Compiling over 100 tackles as a freshman and then again as a sophomore, Tyler Matakevich has been the undisputed star of the Temple defense. Every team in the NFL needs a player like Matakevich -- a leader with the uncanny ability to end up in the middle of every play. He reminds me a lot of Larry Izzo, a Pro Bowl special teams player who can contribute as a rotational linebacker.
Tulane CB Lorenzo Doss may be the best in college football at baiting quarterbacks. This skill has resulted in 12 interceptions in two years for the Green Wave star. The play isn't over once Doss makes the pick either. He led the country in interception return yards last year, including two returns for touchdowns. Trying to bait quarterbacks in the NFL may hurt Doss, as will his size. Teams may consider moving him to safety at the next level.
Bearcats DE Silverberry Mouhon was the best pass rusher in the conference last year. He totaled 9.5 sacks and added two forced fumbles. Now a junior, Mouhon will have two more years to increase his sack totals. In that time, he also needs to prove capable of being more than just a pass rush specialist in order to be successful in the NFL.
Byron Jones made a smooth transition to cornerback last year after starting every game at safety in 2012. He's an outstanding tackler who uses his size to deflect passes. With Bob Diaco now leading the Huskies, Jones will have a season to learn from a defensive coach with a history of producing NFL talent. Diaco's first task should be improving Jones' play while the ball is in the air. Speed concerns will likely keep Jones out of the first round.
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