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Projecting the Future: Danny O'Brien


RATINGS: Rivals 4* No. 12 defensive tackle No. 161 overall player in the nation No. 2 player in Michigan, Scout 4* No. 18 defensive tackle, ESPN 3* No. 56 defensive tackle, 247 4* No. 23 defensive tackle No. 6 player in Michigan. Chose UT over Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Alabama, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt.

STRENGTHS: A very strong defensive tackle, O'Brien was UT's top priority at DT for much of the past year, and he has stayed loyal to his commitment since he verballed to the Vols. He uses his hands very well shedding blockers, and he has the attitude that will fit in well in Knoxville. Despite the coaching changes, he has never wavered and continued to recruit for UT. He is a very athletic defensive tackle and looks pretty technically sound for a high school DT. He has good footwork as well, and he uses every move in the book to rush the quarterback. He also is a high-effort, high-energy player.

NEEDS WORK: It would probably help for him to gain another 20 pounds, which he can certainly hold on his frame. He may actually be able to redshirt, which helps any high school DT, and you wonder where he best fits in a 3-4 scheme. If he's going to play nose guard, it's essential he bulks up a bit more. Coaches like his versatility, but for this scheme, it's a matter of finding a place and shaping your body to fit it, which will be a challenge for O'Brien, but one that he'll probably meet head-on.

CREDENTIALS: Was dominant his senior year in leading Powers Catholic to a state championship. He was a three-time all-state player and has steadily improved every year. As a sophomore, he had 83 tackles, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. He had 89 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and two forced fumbles as a junior. Rivals mentioned he wasn't as dominant this season playing out of position at defensive end, which his high school team needed from him. He blew up the camp circuit in the summer. He finished with 98 tackles and three sacks this year.

OPTIMISTIC CEILING: It's possible O'Brien comes in and immediately competes for playing time. It actually would be better for the Vols if he was able to redshirt. UT actually has a surplus of defensive linemen for a change, and that can allow the already stout O'Brien to get stronger. He also can begin re-shaping his body if he's going to stay inside at nose guard. He is a very disruptive force who seems to find a way to get to the quarterback, and UT needs a pass-rusher type at defensive tackle. I think he'll have a very strong career for the Vols and hopefully play on the next level.