Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

2023 Combine notebook | Defensive linemen and linebackers take the stage

Alabama linebacker Will Anderson speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Alabama linebacker Will Anderson speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine has officially begun with hundreds of the best college prospects taking the next step towards joining the NFL. 

After two days of arrivals, registration and interviews with teams, prospects are making the rounds with media members. First up are the defensive linemen and linebackers, and they will be followed by the defensive backs and special teams players on Thursday; the quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends on Friday; and the offensive line and running backs on Saturday. 

Here's a look at what some of the top defensive linemen and linebackers said during their press conferences. 

-- We'll start with Alabama's Will Anderson, who Mel Kiper has as the second-best prospect on his big board and is believed to be a top three pick. Anderson, who finished his college career with 204 tackles and 34.5 sacks, knows that he will likely be one of the first players taken off the board, and he believes that kind of recognition shows that his hard work has paid off. 

He also feels that his time at Alabama helped him unlock his versatility. 

"When I dissect myself, I see myself as a very versatile player that can do just about anything. That's thanks to Coach [Nick] Saban. He trusted me a lot. He saw a lot in me. He saw the potential, and it helped mold the player I am today."

-- Speaking of top prospects, Kiper has Arkansas' Drew Sanders as the best linebacker in this year's draft. Sanders was a unanimous All-American after transferring from Alabama and received First Team All-SEC honors for racking up 103 tackles and 9.5 sacks. Sanders has already met with several teams, and they have discussed the possibility of using him in the middle or being off-ball and rushing the passer.

-- Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey, who is considered one of the best defensive tackles this year, has drawn a lot of hefty comparisons as he inches closer to the draft. One player that he often gets paired with is Aaron Donald, who also played for Pitt and is comparable in size to Kancey. It is unfair to say Kancey is on the same level as one of the best defensive tackles in league history, but he does watch tape on Donald.

"He's a great guy, a great mentor," Kancey said.

-- Iowa State's Will McDonald IV is an explosive pass-rusher who can line up at multiple spots near the line of scrimmage. He even lined up as a zero technique against centers at times because of how he could use his rare athletic traits to beat offensive linemen. McDonald is listed as an edge defender, but he is willing to play wherever his news coaches place him because he wants to maximize his talents.

"It's all about reaching my full potential. I don't ever want to look back and think there was more I can do."

-- Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Breese was one of the most dominant players in the ACC last season, and he has a powerful motivation that keeps him moving forward. He lost his sister, Ella, to cancer, but seeing her battle through all the hardships still serves as an inspiration for him.

"Just knowing what she went through motivates me every day. The fight that she put up and how much she loved watching me play, that definitely just motivates me to continue to work and do right by her."

-- Alabama linebacker Henry To'oTo'o has been doing the rounds with NFL teams, and they have already tried to test his football knowledge. That is something To'oTo'o views as one of his strengths, and one of his goals in the NFL is to wear the green dot that designates him as the play-caller. To'oTo'o was one of the most productive defensive players on Alabama's roster with 94 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

"You're getting a chill guy, smart, chill guy, but somebody who loves football," To'oTo'o said. "I know my football, and I'm instinctive throughout the film that you watch."

Related Content