At Senior Bowl week in Mobile, quite a few defenders with NFL aspirations showed their stuff to scouts, coaches and executives.
EDITOR'S NOTE: *The following is part of HoustonTexans.com's 2010 Path to the Draft presented by FOX Sports Houston.
*A week after the practices wrapped at the 2010 Senior Bowl, it's time to review some of what went down in Mobile, with regards to the defensive side of the ball.
Biggest surprise: Tyson Alualu, DL, California
Playing at such a frenetic pace, the Golden Bear made the offensive linemen he faced look like they were playing in sand. Time and again his quickness enabled him to penetrate into the offensive backfield, and most walked away from Mobile last week impressed by Alualu.
As a senior in 2009, he recorded 58 tackles and seven sacks, capping off a career that saw him start 38 consecutive games, beginning his sophomore year.
In college, he played defensive end in a 3-4 alignment, and he played multiple spots on the line during Senior Bowl week. When asked about his preference of position in the NFL, Alualu said he's flexible.
"I've talked to a lot of coaches about that and wherever a team needs me or wherever a team picks me up, whatever position they need me at, that's where I'll be," Alualu said. "So many scouts and coaches just tell me to keep it up, work harder, continue to do the things I'm doing and I will be successful."
Interior decorating?: The defensive tackle position in Mobile looked to be well-stocked. The most notable name was also the heaviest player in attendance in Terrence Cody, who tipped the scales by packing 370 pounds on to his 6-4 frame. At times he looked sluggish during drills, but he was rarely blocked by just one man, and appreciated what that meant.
"It means they respect my ability to stop the run," Cody said. "It probably could be just the blocking scheme that they had, but it's a lot of respect when they double team me."
In 2009 he led the national champion Alabama defense to a number two ranking against the run, finishing with 28 tackles (six for a loss), and he also blocked a pair of field goals in the win over Tennessee.
Speaking of Tennessee, former Volunteer Dan Williams had a rock-solid week in practice, complementing his 62-tackle 2009. He's a projected first round pick in the April draft, and frustrated offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl all week long.
At 6-2, 329, the former Volunteer said he patterns his game after players like Darnell Dockett of Arizona, the Vikings' Pat Williams and the Patriots' Vince Wilfork among others.
Williams was impressive against the offensive linemen taking part in Mobile, but he still wasn't satisfied with his repeated penetration into the pocket.
"I always want more," Williams said. "I want to get in the backfield and also make plays. I get upset with myself at times when the running back runs past me and I don't make the tackle."
He also said he's a tireless worker and that he'll "find something wrong with my game, just to make myself better."
Another intriguing defender was North Carolina defensive tackle Cam Thomas (6-3, 331), and he found a way into the offensive backfield time and again during drills. With the Tar Heels in 2009, he tallied 23 tackles (2.5 for a loss) and blocked a kick in the win against East Carolina.
Thomas has been projected as a mid-round pick in the 2010 Draft, but more than held his own against the competition during the week in Mobile.
Heavy hitter: Southern Cal's Taylor Mays is a big safety (6-3, 231) and he said he patterns his game after the late Sean Taylor, because he was a hitter.
"Sean Taylor was my favorite player," Mays said. "I emulate him the most. If I could choose anybody to play like, it would be him."
Some scouts, however, were disappointed during a few practices when Mays went for the big hit instead of going for what would have been an easy interception. Plus, a senior season that didn't measure up to his 2008 highlight reel year has quite a few folks scratching their heads.
Mister Wilson: General manager Rick Smith has said before that the Texans never can have enough good cornerbacks. There were several talented defensive backs at the Senior Bowl, including Boise State's Kyle Wilson.
Wilson lined up at cornerback Thursday, but has been utilized as a safety at times as well. He said being able to play at various spots was helpful.
"I really just wanted to bring my versatility and my playmaking ability to the Senior Bowl," Wilson said. "It's a new learning curve, but with a little hard work and determination for it, you can pick anything up."
Wilson (5-10, 190) will play corner at the next level and doesn't lack for confidence when asked about his future in the league.
"They'll know me as a playmaker," Wilson said. "I just make plays out there in the run game and passing game, anywhere on the field. I just make plays."