The defensive line is a unique group of athletes. I'll say that. You're talking about guys as big as offensive linemen with the athleticism of linebackers most of the time. They're remarkable human beings to play the defensive line at a high level.
College coaches are looking for specific things. The first thing, whether you're 320 pounds or 260 pounds playing defensive line, is first step quickness. You have to be able to get off the ball quick enough to keep the offensive linemen away from you. Keep their big old paws off you, so that you have a chance to get to where you've got to be. And you may just be in gap protection. Or you may be a three technique, six technique getting up the field and rushing the passer. Or getting as deep as the ball and chasing.
You have to understand that the faster you are off the ball, you're watching the ball all the time, boom the ball's snapped. First step, get into the offensive lineman. Knock his hands off you. Get into your position. Spin, turn, strike, bull rush, whatever you've got to do, grip, all of the things that you do.
You're not just going to have one move. You're going to have several. So think about it. You talk about preparing for a game as a defensive lineman. You may have to think more than others, because you have to adjust every time to the offensive lineman. Because one move may not be enough. What's your next move? What's your third move?
Once you get into that position that coach wants you, then it's about reacting. Can you stick your foot in the ground, redirect and chase the football? Do you have the quickness to get that running back that's going in the B gap and you're in the A gap to make that play? Can you redirect and get to the sideline?
You know, the characteristic that I love in defensive linemen more than anything is effort. It's hair on fire, nasty, chasing the ball sideline to sideline, and never ever giving up. That's a defensive lineman. You may not be as fast as the next guy, but you have that effort and you can make plays.