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The book on: DT Shamar Stephen
University of Connecticut Huskies
Brookville, New York
Long Island Lutheran High School
One of the few bright spots during a 2013 campaign that saw his head coach replaced, Stephen had perhaps the finest season for any interior lineman wearing a Husky uniform in recent years. Statistics do not tell the true story of his dominance in the middle, as opposing ball carriers were limited to just 0.96 yards per carry on 43 running plays he was directly involved in.
Stephen has drawn comparisons to the New York Jets Muhammad Wilkerson, as he is a physical two-gap run stuffer with very active hands that he uses frequently to lock on and push blockers back into the pocket. He hits with a thud and uses his raw power and long reach to grab and drag down rushers trying to cut back before Stephen can deliver the impact hit.
Stephen has the lower body power to hold ground firmly and a physical hand punch that allows him to have good success splitting double teams or occupy combo blockers long enough for another Husky, often middle linebacker Yawin Smallwood, to make the play.
He is a strong bull rusher who not only can shock and jolt with his hands, but knows how to time his leaps to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage.
The Long Island Lutheran High School product was a two-sport standout at the school, lettering in football and basketball. He earned All-American Lutheran Team honors after guiding the squad to a 7-2 record during his senior campaign. That season, he recorded 57 tackles with 12 sacks and also blocked two field goals while serving as team captain.
While red-shirting at Connecticut in 2009, Stephen was named Scout Team Player of the Week three times and the staff was excited to get him on the field the following season. He moved into the starting lineup at weak-side defensive tackle by his third game, going on to record 27 tackles that included two sacks and four stops behind the line of scrimmage.
For some mysterious reason, the coaches displaced Stephen from his starting assignment in 2011, shifting him behind All-Big East strong-side tackle Kendall Reyes. Even though he was part of the rotation, the red-shirt sophomore's limited snaps on the field resulted in a career-low 17 tackles to show for the season.
With Reyes having graduated, Stephen seized the strong-side tackle spot during 2012 spring drills, but when he returned for August camp, he was injured during the first week of practice, suffering a level-2 knee sprain and underwent an MRI to see the extent of the damage.
Stephen would miss the first two games on the 2012 schedule with his right knee sprain, but returned to start the final 10 contests. He produced 26 tackles (14 solos) with a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage and deflected four passes. He gave some thought about leaving school and entering the 2013 NFL Draft, but wanted to improve his draft stock at Connecticut in 2013.
While the team stumbled to a 3-9 record, Stephen was dominating in 2013, as the All-American Sleeper Team and All-American Athletic Conference choice delivered a career-high 60 tackles, third-best on the team. The team captain also made three sacks and paced the Huskies with ten stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Stephens' 2013 performance earned him an invite to close out his career at the 2014 Senior Bowl. Even though he may be raw in some areas, he's blessed with size and athleticism.
Stephen's voice was barely audible, but a smile soon emerged as the Westbury product began talking about the NFL defensive tackle he hopes to emulate in on-field production. The selection of Suh might seem like an odd choice for the laid-back and seemingly reserved Stephen. But it makes perfect sense, he said.
Stephen started 30 of 46 games at Connecticut – 22 at strong-side defensive tackle and eight on the weak side…Delivered 130 tackles (55 solos), five stops for minus 28 yards and seventeen stops for losses totaling 53 yards…Also deflected six passes.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.