When asked at the Scouting Combine which NFL player he compares his game to, Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers gave one name: “Julius Peppers.”
Bowers is projected by many to be picked No. 1 overall in the upcoming draft by the Carolina Panthers, the same team that drafted Peppers. At 6-4, 280-pounds, Bowers is nowhere near the physical freak Peppers is, but there are similarities in their games.
Both players are outstanding when rushing the quarterback. Bowers had a sack in all but two games his senior season and finished the year with 15 total. Peppers has made a living harassing quarterbacks, earning him seven Pro Bowl appearances.
But just as impressive is their ability against the run. Both are able to hold ground against lead blocks and show a willingness to slide down the line and make tackles from the backside.
Yet where Peppers has been criticized for seemingly taking plays, and sometimes games, off, Bowers plays with endless energy. On many plays last year the 2010 Nagurski Trophy winner, given annually to the best NCAA defensive lineman, would hit the ground then rise up and chase the ball carrier down for the tackle.
When asked why he’s been so successful coming off the edge, Bowers said: “I watch a lot of film. I’m very fast, very powerful. I study [the opposing] offensive tackles a lot. I study their tendencies. I try to look at their feet. And just by being a student of the game.”
Some experts have compared his game to all-time greats Bruce Smith and Reggie White.
“Anytime somebody can put you in the same sentence as Reggie White and Bruce Smith, you must be doing something right,” Bowers said.
The adversity Bowers has faced the past year and a half has prepared him for the challenges that lie ahead. His father, Dennis, passed away suddenly last August and seven months earlier he lost his mentor Gaines Adams, former defensive end with the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and a Clemson alum.
“Gaines was like a big brother to me,” Bowers said. “We were very close. He was one of the reasons I chose Clemson. I was saddened real hard by his death.”
Bowers believes the loss of two people close to him has made him a stronger person.
“The diversity in my life helped probably more than anything,” he said. “I realized I had to step up and be a man, that I couldn’t depend on my father anymore, that I couldn’t depend on Gaines Adams’ advice. It motivated me to be a better person and a better player.”
Peppers can relate. He never had much of a relationship with his father and was also a highly touted player coming out of UNC, eventually being drafted second overall in the 2002 draft. It will be interesting to see if Bowers elicits his advice.
Da’Quan Bowers isn’t the only player at the combine talking about current Chicago players. His former teammate Jarvis Jenkins -- a 6-4, 310-pound defensive tackle -- models his game after Tommie Harris.
“Tommie Harris from the Chicago Bears, I’ve been watching him since he was at Oklahoma,” he said. “He’s a great run stopper, a great pass rusher. He battled knee injuries but that’s one guy I can say I can model my game after.”
Jenkins feels he can play nearly every position along the defensive line.
“I can do it all,” he said. “I played a lot of nose guard this year. I played a lot of shade. I actually played a lot of end too. I played three-technique, five-technique. There’s a lot of things I can move around and do because of my size and quickness.”
One thing he’s working to improve on is his ability to get to the quarterback.
“If I want to be an elite player in the NFL, I have to improve on my pass rushing because sacks get you paid, sacks get you in the Hall of Fame. So that’s something I’ve got to work on.”
Jenkins is projected to go in the middle rounds of the 2011 NFL Draft. If the Bears pass on DT in the top few rounds, Jenkins would fit well as a member of Chicago’s defensive-tackle rotation.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.