Just as Khalil Mack wasn't all that well known at this time last year as he played for Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference, Markus Golden isn't yet a household name as he was a substitute DE on Missouri last year, and despite garnering AP Honorable Mention All-SEC honors it was starters Michael Sam and Kony Ealy who received most of the attention as Sam was the Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC and Ealy became a 2nd Round Draft Choice of the Carolina Panthers.
While Khalil Mack was wreaking havoc in the Mid-American Conference scouts were unsure of just how good he was until the 2013 opening game for both Buffalo and Ohio State in what was supposed to be a tune-up game for the Buckeyes but in which Mack came away as National Defensive Player of the Week after a 9.5 Tackle, 2.5 Sack and 1 Interception returned for a TD performance. A lot of his great play was because he was lined up against a young unproven OT who was not ready for prime time, but who reputedly improved during the course of the year, but still Mack's quickness, speed, athleticism and playmaking ability were on display for all to see. His fame spread to the point where later in the season 81 scouts showed up for a Buffalo home game.
In similar fashion Golden is known but has yet to be elevated to Super-Star status in the main because of his limited playing time in 2013 and because prognosticators are more impressed with the great forty times that Vic Beasley of Clemson and Randy Gregory of Nebraska have run.
Golden played at Linebacker prior to 2013 when the coaches decided to move him to DE because of his quickness and athleticism which position is sort of a hybrid DE/OLB position where he sometimes played up and sometimes played with his hand on the ground. He and fellow backup Shane Ray (who with his exceptional quickness is also poised for a breakout year), would usually be substituted in together and taken out together and were just as impressive as the starters. The defensive stats for these four players who all played in 14 games were as follows:
K. EALY 30 Solo T's 13 Assists 43 Total 9.5 Sacks 14.5 TFL 1 I 6 PBU 14 QBH 1 FR 3 FF
M. SAM 31 Solo T's 17 Assists 48 Total 11.5 Sacks 19.0 TFL 0 I 2 PBU 9 QBH 1 FR 2 FF
S. RAY 27 Solo T's 12 Assists 39 Total 4.5 Sacks 9.0 TFL 0 I 0 PBU 11 QBH 1 FR 2 FF
M. GOLDEN 36 Solo T's 19 Assists 55 Total 6.5 Sacks 13.0 TFL 1 I 0 PBU 8 QBH 2 FR 1 FF
As the tackle chart shows, Markus Golden led in Solo Tackles, Assists and Total Tackles and was in the mix in the other categories but what is most impressive is that he only participated in 35% of the Tigers defensive snaps last year so what can be expected of him this year. The same thinking applies to junior Shane Ray who was a quickness and speed guy in 2013 while Golden also has the quickness but in addition also used power and showed that he can convert speed to power. Golden has also proven to be stronger in the run game and that one Interception that he had was when he tipped a pass in the air, caught it and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown.
Ja'Wuan James, ROT from Tennessee was a 1st Round Draft Choice by Miami (No. 19 overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft, and the main reason that I wasn't that high on him was because of how well the Missouri players, especially Markus Golden, played against him.
What separates Markus from many of the others is also what made Khalil Mack and C. J. Mosley special in that in addition to their pass rush skills and tackles for loss, they also make plays at the line of scrimmage and down the line of scrimmage sometimes referred to as in-line tackles. Quickness, speed, instincts, read and reaction, shedding or avoiding blockers, tackling ability, bend around the edge on the pass rush, converting speed to power, playmaking ability, agility and COD to play in space, tenacity and high energy are things that got Mack drafted No. 5 overall by Oakland and Mosley No. 17 overall by Baltimore (even though Mosley is considered to be an ILB), and as these attributes also apply to Golden the only question that remains is whether Markus Golden can have the same rise up the draft charts that Khalil Mack did and become a top ten draft selection.