The Prospect Playbook: Marcell Dareus (DT/DE-Alabama)


In the first prospect playbook post, we looked at Julio Jones' production in the Capital One Bowl.  Today, we'll look at a performance in the same game by another member of the Crimson Tide: Marcell Dareus.

Dareus is No. 7 on the MTD top 200, compiled on Sunday. I've got just under a dozen plays to look at today, and with just one negative play out of the 11, there's not much to argue against that ranking. In these plays, Dareus shows an explosive first step, elite strength and great awareness. But that's me talking. Let's go to the tape and open up the playbook, and you can make your own assessment.

Let's do it (and just to help you out, Dareus is No. 57.  I'll point out what position he's lined up at for each play.)

5:44, 1st Q - 3rd & 9 from the MSU 39 (Bama 7 - MSU 0)

After a 13-play drive put the Tide up by a touchdown, MSU countered with what seemed like an equal response.  Michigan State converted a 3rd and 9, eventually leading to this play - another 3rd and 9.  Dareus is going to line up at the LDE spot; I mention this, because Bama throws him all over their line.  Versatility?  Check.

Dareus flies inside of J'Michael Deane, the overmatched Spartan RT who we'll mention a few times throughout today's edition of the playbook.  He almost gets in position to block the pass, but QB Kirk Cousins has a wide open receiver, Mark Dell.

If you ask why we're looking at a play where Dareus neither registered a sack or a deflected pass, it's because plays like this set the tone for Michigan State.  Plays like this told the Spartans' coaching staff that they wouldn't have much time to pass.  They would have to work on short slants and quick ins and outs, because Dareus was going to be chasing down Cousins all long as Cousins could stay in the game.

3:09, 1st Q - 1st & 15 from the Bama 29 (Bama 7 - MSU 0)

You can draw a direct correlation from the previous clip to this one.  Dareus' pressure was negated by the quick throw; this time, he'll force Cousins to get rid of the ball for an incompletion.  It's going to get worse for MSU before it gets better.  Dareus is lined up at the LDE, but Bama's going to rush both of their OLBs.  Watch Dareus maul RG No. 62 Chris McDonald and then corner off No. 66 C John Stipek.  This is NFL-level pursuit:

Dareus is getting warmed up.  This is the kind of production that doesn't show up in the box score, but changes games early.  Already, the Michigan State passing game has to adjust to account for Dareus.  He single-handedly has affected the entire passing offense, and he hasn't even gotten a sack yet.  This last play of MSU's opening drive is a perfect example of how Dareus can create havoc without notching a sack.

2:32, 1st Q - 3rd & 18 from the Bama 32 (Bama 7 - MSU 0)

After a false start, an incompletion and a run for a loss of three yards, MSU is just trying to stay in field goal range.  Cousins is going to try to hit WR Keith Nichol in between the ILBs, but Dareus will force Cousins to tuck it and step up.  When he does move up in the pocket and try to hit Nichol after running past the RILB, sophomore CB Robert Lester is going to make the most out of the opportunity Dareus created:

So in these three plays, you get a sense of how important a disruptive force like Dareus can be.  Reshaping the entire flow of an offense to the point of a turnover, all without touching the ball or the quarterback.  Let's keep going through his Capital One Bowl, jumping to the second quarter.

12:04, 2nd Q - 2nd & 10 from the Bama 35 (Bama 14 - MSU 0)

This was the one play in the game where Dareus had an opportunity to make an impact and didn't.  At LDE, Dareus is going to try to roll outside MSU RT J'Michael Deane, but Deane slides well and his shoulder level is enough to hold off Dareus.  Marcell should have been able to either move around Deane, who is as slow-footed as any FBS tackle you'll find, or to get underneath him as he's playing too tall and hits Dareus with his upper body and little lower body anchor power.  Cousins gets rid of the ball rather quickly and TE Brian Linthicum makes a great catch which highlights Dareus' lack of pressure on the play:

Not a huge failure, but one worth noting since it was the only opportunity I found in the game where Dareus didn't deliver.  Moving on.

10:48, 2nd Q - 2nd & G from the Bama 7 (Bama 14 - MSU 0)

Here's a great play for scouting Dareus.  It shows awareness, agility, acceleration and finishing.  Dareus is going to come untouched at LDE leaving the RB, Edwin Baker, to pick him up.  Good luck:

This was maybe my favorite play of Dareus' in the game.  He's just too talented to assign him to a RB.  Sure, Cousins gets the ball off for a 4-yard gain.  But who wants their QB taking that hit for four yards?  And how often is that Nichol going to be consistently open?  If I'm Alabama, I take this set up all day.

5:23, 2nd Q - 3rd & 20 from the MSU 10 (Bama 21 - MSU 0)

This is the Dareus effect in full view.  Cousins knows Dareus is coming, and despite having his helmet ripped off, Dareus makes good on that threat.  Nevertheless, before Dareus can get to him, Cousins gets rid of the between four Bama defenders.  The intimidation factor of Dareus on the offense creates this play:

Even when he doesn't make plays he makes a difference.  Two more plays from the first half left.

3:35, 2nd Q - 1st & 10 from the MSU 41 (Bama 28 - MSU 0)

At this point, Bama is running away with the game.  It would be easy to just coast, to just let the talent ride the game out.  But this is an effort play that is worth highlighting, because we all know a 28-0 game isn't done whether it's at the NFL, college or high school level.  So here's another unremarkable play.  Dareus lines up at the LDE.  The intent is for a motioned counter to let Dareus go inside so that WR Keshawn Martin can work the sidelines.  Instead, Dareus doubles back and takes out the lead blocker, LG Joel Forman, forcing Martin into a sea of Alabama defenders at the line of scrimmage:

On the box score, it just reads, "K. Martin rush for no gain to the MchSt 41."  It's more than that.  It's an overt effort by the Spartan staff to find a way to get around Dareus and the Crimson Tide defensive line, and yet again it doesn't work.  Let's look at one more play from the first half.

2:41, 2nd Q - 3rd & 8 from the MSU 43 (Bama 28 - MSU 0)

This is a pull screen, designed to pull the entire line into the pocket toward Cousins and let a speedster (in this case WR Keshawn Martin) beat the second level of linebackers.  Dareus, however, shows the awareness to hold his position and work back to the ball carrier and help make the tackle.  When the "lack of effort" tag is placed on defensive linemen (see: Carlos Dunlap, Marvin Austin), this is what that applies to:

That's the difference.  Bama ran this game out, and Dareus didn't get many snaps in the second half.  Still, when he did get opportunities, he made the most of them.

9:50, 3rd Q - 3rd & 33 from the MSU 36 (Bama 35 - MSU 0)

So now it's worse.  The tide's up by five TDs.  It's third and 33.  Want a laugh?  Check how Dareus schools RT J'Michael Deane with a juke like a running back and scares the hell out of Cousins once he's in the backfield:

Too easy.  Next.

14:14, 4th Q - 3rd & 10 from the Bama 21 (Bama 42 - MSU 0)

Cousins is out of the game at this point, and freshman Andrew Maxwell has taken over at QB.  With the freshman at the helm, the Spartans have picked up two first downs and moved the ball deep into Crimson Tide territory, with Dareus on the bench for all but one play.  On first and second down, Dareus sat down.  On third down, C John Stipek snaps the ball too low, and although Maxwell is able to scoop it off the ground, Dareus ensures he has no chance to make a play:

Even without Dareus, that play was blown up, but the fact that he got to Maxwell before anybody else is worth mentioning.  Dareus would play one more snap before watching the rest of the blowout.

13:30, 4th Q - 4th & 22 from the Bama 32 (Bama 42 - MSU 0)

If you've made it this far, you deserve the money play.  Dareus, lined up essentially at the LDT, is going to beat two linemen, get the sack, and take Maxwell out of the game.  If this doesn't impress you, you need help:

Dareus is a force.  His long legs provide the great power base d-linemen need, and he's quick enough to use his hands in different ways that many linemen can't.  And yes, this was just one game in which the MSU O-line was absolutely overmatched, trying to deal with Dareus and Courtney Upshaw who had a brilliant game as well; still, this should give people who haven't watched him specifically a good idea of what he's capable of.

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