At this time last year, the online draft community was agog over Carlos Dunlap. The Florida defensive end appeared to possess the ultimate combination of size, speed, and strength. Todd McShay had Dunlap going 6th overall in his initial 2010 mock draft, and Dunlap debuted at #3 overall on Kiper’s Big Board.

However, the ‘09 season exposed some of Dunlap’s limitations. He failed to get through the season without raising beet red character flags, displaying inconsistent effort and getting charged with a DUI. In addition, he played with too high a pad level, didn’t improve his technique, and failed to prove he could threaten the edge against good offensive tackles. As a result, his draft stock plummeted; the once highly-touted prospect slipped to the 2nd round.

This year, another freakish defensive lineman from the state of Florida is the subject of pre-season hype. But instead of being a Gator DL, Allen Bailey is a versatile Hurricane who once killed a gator with a shovel. There are many differences between the two defensive linemen, but it’s possible that Bailey could be plagued by some of the same on-field issues that dropped Dunlap’s draft stock.

Much of the hype surrounding Allen Bailey is warranted. After playing linebacker earlier in his collegiate career, Bailey settled in nicely as a defensive lineman, notching 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in ‘09. The strong and explosive athlete played both tackle and end, walking back offensive linemen from both spots. With added experience, Bailey should be even more productive this fall.

However, Bailey also displayed some major deficiencies in ‘09. Despite being a freakishly strong athlete, Bailey struggles to disengage from blocks. The issue shows up most glaringly when Bailey lines up at defensive end. Like Dunlap, Bailey lacks the speed to threaten the edge, so he resorts to plowing back offensive tackles. He’s largely successful in doing so, but he’s also slow to disengage, allowing quarterbacks to step around him and complete unhurried passes.

As a result, Bailey likely is a better fit at defensive tackle or five-technique in a 3-4 defense, but he’ll also need to show improvement to be effective at those spots. To be an explosive penetrating d-tackle, Bailey will need to do a better job of timing his jump off the snap. In addition, he’ll need to expand his repertoire of rush moves. He looks awfully slow and deliberate when deploying his spin move; it’s like watching a slow motion clip of Gerald McCoy. And if he doesn’t use his hands better, he won’t be nearly as disruptive a defensive lineman at the next level.

Though Bailey can be impressively fast in a straight line, the former linebacker doesn’t always cleanly change direction. He slides well laterally but will at times struggle to redirect, shed, and make a tackle. If he doesn’t improve in this area, teams that run a 3-4 defense may have reservations about his fit as an end in their system.

At this point, Bailey still is a better athlete than football player, much like Dunlap was coming out of college. However, Bailey is worlds aways from Dunlap when it comes to character and work ethic. Bailey is clean off the field and plays with an ever-churning motor on it; he’ll eagerly pursue plays and lunge to plant his large frame atop the pile.

Because of his strong effort on the field, it’s likely that Bailey will put in the necessary work to improve his technique and on-field awareness. Ideally, Bailey would get to focus on playing defensive tackle, but it appears that he’ll be playing defensive end again this year. Hopefully, the coaching staff will let him kick him inside, which will allow NFL scouts to evaluate him at what likely will be his NFL position.

If he shows significant improvement in his game, Bailey likely will go in the top half of the 1st round. The athletic freak should amaze onlookers at the Combine; hopefully, he’ll be just as impressive on the field this fall.

Here are two clips of the Miami defensive lineman: one playing defensive tackle against Florida State, the other at defensive end against Wake Forest. Though he was disruptive in both games, he’s clearly more of a difference maker when given a chance to be a beast inside.