By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In recent months, the top small-school defensive prospect for next week's NFL Draft has, ironically, been on the offensive.
There's been little choice for Hampton defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis.
NFL teams covet his rare blend of immense size and athleticism. But he has had to address past transgressions off the field. They have prompted a wide range of opinions about Ellis, who seemingly could be drafted anywhere from the second to the fourth round.
The classic boom or bust draft selection?
Ellis thinks he will fill his potential and leave his past behind.
At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, Ellis was a major-college talent who played one season for coach Steve Spurrier at the University of South Carolina. He has quick feet and moves around well for his size, which makes it's hard for offensive linemen to push him off the line of scrimmage.
He returned to post a dominant senior season, racking up 94 tackles, including 15 for loss.
At the NFL Combine and since then, the Jamaican-born Ellis, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., has been open about his past. He admits he had character issues and discipline problems, but the 23-year-old believes he is now making better decisions off the field.
Ellis, who is a fan of gifted and similarly sized Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, could be a prototypical nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.
In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Ellis discusses how he fits into the upcoming NFL Draft.
Let's kick off:
TSN: Obviously, scouts are impressed with your blend of size and speed. Can you break down your style of play?
KE: I feel my style of play is just be aggressive. Be aggressive, just try to go through my progressions. Engage the guy in front of me, just shed the block and run to the ball.
TSN:What parts of your game still needs improvement?
KE: I definitely need to improve my technique. That's a major part of my game, to improve on just shooting my hands and working on that technique. It's the little stuff.
TSN: What do you think you did the best at the NFL Combine and the NFLPA All- Star game to impress scouts?
KE: Just being myself. The whole thing is about personality. I wanted to show everybody that I'm not a bad person. I wanted to show everybody that, obviously, I had some questionable tactics. I just had to talk to people, let them know that I made a mistake and I'm beyond those right now.
TSN: As you mentioned, you've been up front with teams about some of the off- the-field problems. What were some of those ideas that you expressed to the teams to ease their concerns?
KE: I just spoke from the heart, let them know that I'm not that person anymore.
TSN: Considering the NFL lockout, how have you dealt with that kind of uncertainty with the league as you're trying to embark on your career?
KE: As of right now, it doesn't affect me because I'm not in the NFL right now. The only thing I can do is just worry about what I can control, like working out and just making sure I'm on pace, doing everything I can control right now. I can't concern myself with things like that because I have no control over that. There's nothing I can do to make it speed up.