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By Jim Corbett, USA TODAY
Should the St. Louis Rams select former Nebraska monster-truck defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh or menacing, havoc-wreaking former Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy?
That is the intriguing defensive tackle debate that could be facing the Rams, who are also considering McCoy's Sooners teammate, top-rated quarterback Sam Bradford, with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft.
In a quarterback-centric league that witnessed a record 10 4,000-yard passers during the 2009 season, the Rams have to take a long look at Bradford, the potential long-term answer as the face of their franchise.
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But if they pass on Bradford and his rebuilt throwing shoulder, they'll likely be weighing two high-motor, high-character monsters in the middle who can bloody and intimidate the faces of other franchises.
Making the right choice among the two-headed monster of "McSuh" is the pre-draft decision facing Rams general manager Billy Devaney and defensive-minded head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
"They're great players," Devaney said of Suh and McCoy. "They're going to be great players."
Former Rams defensive tackle D'Marco Farr, now a Rams radio analyst, was asked who fits Spagnuolo's 4-3 scheme better.
"Ndamukong Suh (en-DOM-ah-ken soo) just for the way he plays the game," Farr said. "There's more upside. I love McCoy, his get-off and motor as a three-technique guy.
"But Suh plays the more technically tight game, more like Minnesota Vikings (five-time Pro Bowl) defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who can play some defensive end.
"If I had my pick, I'd take Suh."
McCoy was asked whether quarterbacks should fear him.
"Should they be afraid of me? Probably," he smiled. "My plan is to kill them."
McCoy laughed, indicating that the comment was intended in the figurative sense. What about facing former teammate Bradford in the NFL?
"I'm going to kill Sam," McCoy cracked. "A lineman's dream is a clean move and a clear path to the quarterback. In practice, that happened a lot, but they blew the whistle."
Said Suh: "I want to be No. 1 (overall). So that's what I'm going to strive for.
"I'd definitely be happy for him (McCoy). But I'd definitely be disappointed with myself not getting it. I'm a competitor."
Suh didn't let his friendship with McCoy, forged on the college awards banquet circuit, get in the way of their rivalry.
Suh dominated in doing 32 repetitions at 225 pounds in the NFL scouting combine bench press.
McCoy did a disappointing 23 reps, finishing 35th among 50 defensive linemen.
But McCoy (unofficially) edged Suh 4.96 seconds compared with 4.98 seconds in Monday's 40-yard dash among defensive linemen.
"We're definitely competitive with each other," Suh said. "But we're good friends off the field."
Suh's mother, Bernadette, is a teacher from Jamaica, and his father, Michael, is a mechanical contractor from the African nation of Cameroon.
Suh was born in Portland, Ore., and was named after his paternal great-grandfather, who was 7-3.
His first name means "House of Spears."
It could mean "House of Pain" for NFL quarterbacks.
Suh's quick, smooth feet are the result of playing soccer as a youngster. "I don't get as tired as people my similar size," Suh said. "But I moved away from soccer."
Why was that?
"Too many red cards," he said, smiling.
McCoy was USA TODAY's 2005 high school player of the year out of Oklahoma City's Southeast High School.
"Where I come from, we didn't have much money or the best facilities," he said. "We had a dirt track and a goal post that was leaning."
McCoy, 6-4, 295 pounds, once had a dream of being a 238-pound running back. That was when he was a 12-year-old man-child.
McCoy once swooped in and tackled the entire backfield.
"One time in Little League, I tackled three people," McCoy said. "I came through, and the quarterback didn't know who to give the ball to. So I just grabbed everybody."
The Detroit Lions, owners of the second overall pick, would be thrilled to grab either defensive tackle who falls to them.
Jim Schwartz had current Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth as his tenacious disruptor when he was the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator before becoming the Lions head coach.
"The shortest path to the quarterback is a straight line," Schwartz said. "It's harder to find someone good at the defensive tackle position.
"A lot of young college defensive tackles don't have great use of hands. Suh and McCoy are exceptional that way, which allows them to be multidimensional players."
Both are strong, versatile and explosive with the ability to play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive scheme, according to Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith, who had Marcus Stroud and John Henderson as a dynamic defensive tackle duo when he was the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2003 to 2007.
"Both these guys have the girth to gobble up blocks and are fast and quick and can also penetrate," Smith said. "There's no doubt they can be productive for a long, long time.
"And when you have that inside disruptor, it ties up blockers and creates one-on-one, pass-rushing opportunities on the outside."
What better way to combat the popularity of the high-scoring spread offense in the NFL than to blow up plays by way of the shortest path to a quarterback, who is looking to step up in the middle of a collapsing pocket.
"Inside pass rushers are the closest guy to the quarterback," Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "A dominant player right there, especially for our defense, it makes our de-fense tick.
"It's the reason why we paid our defensive tackle (Tommie Harris) more money ($40 million over four years) than we have any other players on our team.
"It's very important to have a disruptive guy there that can cause havoc that will make teams double-team him.
"From what I am told and what I have seen, the two top players (Suh and McCoy) in the draft have that kind of ability."
Suh (6-4, 307) had 24 sacks in four seasons at Nebraska, including 12 last season when he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was mesmerized by Suh's 4½-sack, 12-tackle performance in the Big 12 championship game last season against Texas.
"Suh completely took the game over against the run and the pass," Frazier said. "There aren't a lot of defensive tackles who can do that.
"How Suh was so powerful that they just couldn't block him reminded me of Kevin Williams.
"Suh just refused to be blocked and made the 'Wow!' plays, causing that disruption Kevin Williams can.
"That effort showed he has the right mind-set to be a great player."
good article, but I don't like how it keeps trying (like a lot of other articles) to say how close Mccoy and Suh are in skill.. they are both great players but Suh is by far the best of the 2. The biggest argument that everyone was using for Mccoy being as good or better by Suh was his speed. Suh was slower.. but only by .02 seconds.