DE Alex Highsmith, Charlotte

6’3” – 248 lbs. – 4.70

Walk-on who rotated into the defense as a freshman and finished with 17-2.0-1.0. Saw his role expand as a sophomore and ended up with 33-5.0-2.0, then stepped into the starting lineup the following year and went 60-18.5-3.0. Finished his collegiate career with a monster senior line of 75-21.5-15.0. Has adequate size for a pro edge rusher in terms of his height and length, but may be asked to gain some additional bulk, as he’s right on the fringes of what’s generally considered acceptable there. Usually lined up as the team’s right end, typically with his hand in the ground but occasionally out of a two-point stance.

The first things that stand out are his quickness and overall level of activity, traits which helped him to produce eye-popping statistics as a pass rusher this past year. Anticipates the snap count well and exhibits an excellent first step. Gets off the line pretty fast and can threaten the edge with his speed. Pretty creative player who varies his rush approach, showing opposing blockers different things. Tends to rely on a speed rush, working in his rip move to help get around the edge, but can also dip his shoulder and work back with an inside move. Has good balance and adequate bend around the edge, although he can often be worked too deep. Doesn’t have much of a power element to his game, rarely going to his bull rush or trying to convert speed to power; would probably need to add more bulk/strength in order to make that a viable element of his game. Can struggle to counter when his first move doesn’t work.

Shows a very good motor and the speed to pursue plays on rushing downs. Plays with patience when working as the read man or when pursuing from the backside. May not be able to walk back many linemen with his power, but does a good job of getting extension, staying light on his feet, and locating the football. Can sell out to get inside penetration and blow up plays in the backfield, but at times can be sealed inside when he tries to crash down. Looks more comfortable pursuing from the back end than he does when asked to hold the point of attack. Length leaves a little bit to be desired and can cause him to get stuck on blocks or miss tackles.

A small-school prospect with big production, an excellent motor, and a varied rush approach that takes advantage of his quickness and explosiveness, he will probably need to add some additional bulk and strength but has the potential to help a team’s pass rush and proved that he could hold his own against the offensive tackles at major programs when given the opportunity. Looks like he might be a mid-round pick; anything later than that would come as a surprise.

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