[Editor Note: Nothing gets Zoltan more excited than waking from a good Nostradamus like trance and writing what he saw. In this case, he had the Jaguars on his mind and forsaw the future of the draft. Read this entire article, it is an amazingly good piece of work. The only thing is you can’t disagree, he has seen the future. Enjoy! Terry]
In the last few weeks I introduced to the readers of Black and Teal 3 defensive ends who are generally considered the best 3 talentwise DEs in this draft. Although all have impressive upside potential, there is something about each of them which make us here at B&T very confident they will not be the Jaguars 10th pick of this draft. Gene Smith signed Aaron Kampman and with that move gave a boost (but not solved) the position. There is no need to rush in the first round for a new DE in the draft, they can pick their guy in a later round. I have looked into my crystal ball and with my Hungarian ability to foretell things, I think I might know the answer to who the Jaguars prefer to draft as a defensive end. So I introduce you; Austen Lane the senior defensive end from Murray State – my candidate as the next defensive end of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Now since you may not have my special powers, you might be asking who and from where? Yeah, the Murray State Racers playing in Division I-AA in the Ohio Valley Conference, he is from the small school. But wait a minute, I recall the Jaguars have a history to drafted gems from small school, so it wouldn’t be the first time. I remember Rashean Mathis from Bethune-Cookman, Justin Durant from Hampton, and last year Derek Cox from William & Mary, oh and Zach Miller from Omaha-Nebraska. Auten is a kid who is widely considered someone worthy of a 3rd-4th round selection, more likely in the 3rd. Reaching that status from a small school is more then remarkable. And having a season like he had in 2009 from a 3-8 team; is even more remarkable! And if I mentioned that he is considered as a pass rush specialist, you have all the reason to be excited about him. (Plus Jaguars have a BIG advantage with him; but I will write about that later). Let’s dig deeper about Austen!
Austen Lane is 6’6; 276 lbs senior, a big boy. At his high school Iola-Scandinavia (just down the road from my crystal ball reading school) he played basketball and football. He was 220 lbs coming out of HS. He played both offense and defense, DE and TE and WR. He recorded 14.5 sacks on defense and caught 31 passes for 717 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense his senior year. He earned all-conference and all-region honors for defense and offense and was selected all-state as a defensive end and all-state honorable mention as a wide receiver. Every school other then Murray State recruited him as TE; so he choose Murray State!
In his freshman year he started nine games at DE; made 3.5 TFLs; and 2.5 sacks and blocked 2 kicks (he blocked 5 punts in high school just in his senior year!). In 2007; he started 10 games at DE and was the team leader among defensive lineman in tackles with 48 stops 8.5 TFLs; and 3.5 sacks (with both he was second on the team). He made 2 of those sacks in his best game against SEMO, where he had 11 tackles , 10 solo! He also blocked a kick during his sophomore year! In 2008 (MSU played a 3-4 system then); he played in all 12 games; recorded 63 tackles; and was ranked second in the country with an amazing 22 TFLs; and set an MSU single season record with 12 sacks. Against SEMO (Poor guys…) he recorded 3.5 sacks in 1 game. To bring that into perspective: John Henderson was the team leader with the same number of sacks after 16 games in 2009. Austen was selected Associated Press Third-Team All-America and First-Team All-OVC that year. He started all 11 games (MSU played in a 4-3 system); recorded 64 tackles; 32 of them were solo. He had 19.5 TFLs; 11.5 sacks; 3 FFs; 8 QB hurries and 1 Interception. WOW!!!Of course this incredible season was not unnoticed: he was named Defensive player of the year of the OVC conference and of course All OVC conference first team selection. He was nominated for the Buck Buchanan Award (given to the most outstanding defensive player in the FCS – past winners include Jared Allen and Jaguars own Rashean Mathis). He received this recognition while on a relatively bad team (3-8 record); so that makes his performance even more worthy. And if you are worried he can’t compete with the athletes from the top schools, well he showed at the Senior Bowl that he can. He recovered a fumble and scored a TD for the North. And in the practice he left positive impressions about himself according to various draft sites. His time was on 40 4.88 at the combine.
Now let’s see his abilities: He’s impressive physically. He’s a fluid athlete, and he actually looked like a full 6’6. Lane has the lateral agility, balance and foot speed that all good DEs possess, showing excellent pass coverage skills that could allow some teams to line him up at strong-side linebacker on occasion. He also demonstrates that explosive first step, hand usage and urgency getting to the quarterback that players like Umenyiora has utilized in ranking with the elite sack artists in the NFL. He has the long frame with deceptive power and that keen sense for the flow of the ball. He played in 3-4(junior) and 4-3(senior) defense; and he performed very well in both! The Murray State defender shows that he is faster than a speeding bullet with his explosion into the backfield, more powerful than a locomotive with his ability to easily split double teams and able to leap unprepared offensive tackles with a single bound, Scouts also see an unassuming player with a team-first work ethic, one that has been a mentor for the Racers’ younger players to emulate. And he was a journalism major; so I hope he learned how to use the media well- and I mean hear all the posiitive reasons. Well Gene Smith will certainly see this as a huge plus –a talented player with attitude and high character like that.
Let’s see what the concerns are with him: Lane has to improve his strength and recognition (he repeatedly bit on the play-action and crashed down field, losing containment at Senior Bowl practices), but a year in an NFL weight-room could see this kid develop into a legitimate NFL starter.
Also coming from the FCS means that he is a bit of a raw player who lacks various pass rusher moves. Because he is so much more talented and physically gifted then the other players in his conference; then he can dominate with the bull rush only. But sometimes that alone is not enough even in the FCS. Against North Carolina State he had his struggles against Jeraill McCuller, a guy that is a fringe draft-able prospect. McCuller outweighs Lane by 60 pounds, so Lane’s bull-rush wasn’t nearly as effective.He is more than a promising prospect but he needs work and good coaching. Now with Joe Cullen the Jaguars have the right person to do that. In the early years; he was not an every down end (which is perfectly fine with Kampman and Harvey on board); but he can be developed into that. Until then he still means danger in the pass rush in 1 or 2 down when the team sends him into the field!
So what we got with Lane? A gifted; proven pass rusher from a small school who has high character and all the skills to become a successful passrushing DE. Now here comes the big advantage the Jaguars have on him, that I mentioned earlier. This year, the Jaguars hired to their coaching staff Matt Griffin,an offensive assistant. Well Griffin was the head coach of Murray State beween 2005-2009; the same time Austen Lane played there. So the Jaguars can hear firsat hand from the advise from Lane’s head coach for 4 years about him! That is a huge advantage in this case And the Jaguars are watching Lane. How do I know it? Do you need to ask? Jaguars Director of Player Personnel Terry McDonough said to Vic Ketchman at the combine that Austen Lane could be a sleeper of this draft: (http://www.jaguars.com/multimedia/default.aspx?3545 at 5:40) so the Jags have been watching Austen for awhile.
Seeing his abilities; the very good risk-reward level by picking him with the 3rd round pick; and knowing all the thing I just mentioned (Senior; high character guy; talented pass rusher; his ex head coach is a Jaguars coaching staff member); I think he has all the tools to be selected on April 23rd by the Jaguars. Personally I think unless there is a very high talented player falling that far down, the Jaguars can’t pass on Austen Lane in the third round. If they had a second round choice, I would be happy to see him selected then! I have looked into my crystal ball and see him as someone who can help fix the pass rush of the Jaguars.