With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. On Monday we shared our interview with Missouri’s Michael Sam. Today, we continue our series with another highly-touted defensive prospect, South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles.
The defensive lineman from South Carolina decided to forego his senior year and declare for the draft. Quarles is an early-round prospect that boasts a 6-foot-4 and 298-pound frame, and his combination of size and athleticism make him scheme versatile between a 4-3 and 3-4 defense.
Quarles is a South Carolina native who earned All-American and All-SEC first team honors for his dominant performance in 2013. He led the Gamecocks in both sacks with 9.5 and tackles for loss with 13.5.
Many draft analysts, like Rob Rang and Dane Bugler from NFL Draft Scout, see the athletic defensive lineman as an early day two prospect, but Quarles could even push himself into the end of the first round with good numbers at the NFL combine.
To learn more about Quarles we reached out to him, and he was gracious enough to take the time to answer our questions.
Q. With the college season over and the draft approaching in May, what will the next four months look like for you?
KQ: The next couple of months for me will be about training and working hard to be a first round draft pick this coming May. I will focus on getting faster, stronger, and more flexible. Not only that, but learn more about the game of football and soak up all the knowledge I possibly can.
Q. You decided to forego your senior season and enter the draft this year. What goes into a decision like that? Do you feel you’re ready to immediately contribute to an NFL team?
KQ: Before the season I set out a goal for myself. I said if I had double-digit sacks and tackles for loss I was going to go ahead and leave college after the year. God blessed me to have a great season. I ended up making All-American and finishing up with a great season with South Carolina. I always said I wanted to go out on top and I did.
Q. You had some breakout games against Clemson and Missouri this year. Was it important for you to showcase your ability against some of the best talent college football has to offer?
KQ: I felt that it was very vital to show that I could play with not only the best talent, but also on the biggest stages. Missouri was a great team and ranked very high. I was coming off of an injury, so I felt that was the perfect time to show that I could play hurt. The Clemson game is always a big game in South Carolina, and I felt like I had to do all I could for my team so we could have a chance to win. I felt I played hard every game this year. I just gave it my all for my team.
Q. You finished among the leaders in sacks among college defensive tackles with 9.5 in 2013. Is your ability to get after the quarterback something unique you bring to the position?
KQ: Yes, I feel that it is a very unique gift I have. I have a blend of power and speed that I use to get to the quarterback. Sometimes I just beat the man off the ball and most times I just use my strength to overpower my opponent. Most of all as my coach would always tell me, rushing the passer is all about attitude and want to. If you want to get to the quarterback you just have to want it bad and do whatever it takes to get back there.
Q. Anyone familiar with defensive scheme knows that defensive linemen are often the unsung heroes of the defense. Considering this, tell us some of the things you do well on the field to help your team win.
KQ: I feel I bring a lot of passion and energy to the field. All my life I have been known to be the loudest person on the field or seen doing something crazy. I feel that it rubs off on all your teammates and gets them on the same level as you. Playing football is all about love and passion and I feel I bring that to the table.
Q. Is there a part of your game you’d still like to work on improving heading into the NFL?
KQ: I would like to learn more pass rush moves and work on my feet. The biggest thing with me is working on my flexibility, and that’s a huge part that I am focusing on.
Q. The Packers will definitely be looking for defensive line help going into the draft. If they select you this spring, what would you bring to their defense? How would you feel about playing in Green Bay?
KQ: If the Packers select me I would be a very happy man. I use to watch Reggie White when he was with the Packers and the passion he played with. I try to model my game like his. They would have a relentless hard worker that is open to learn and make the team and the organization the best in the National Football League. I would also like to play beside big B.J. Raji.
Q. Is there a person in your life that has been influential on your journey to the NFL?
KQ: A person I would say has influenced me on this journey is my friend Dylan Thompson. He is a great Christian guy, always humble and willing to work. Through my years at South Carolina he has helped me become a better man and I thank him for that.
Q. Is there a player, past or present, that you try to model your game after or have drawn comparisons to?
KQ: I try to model my game after Warren Sapp. He is a big relentless pass rusher that will do anything to anybody. I always watched him on YouTube when he played at Miami, and he was a monster. I feel that I bring the same passion and energy that he brings to the game.
Q. Tell us a little bit more about Kelcy Quarles the person. What do you like to do in your free time when you’re away from football?
KQ: I am a big fisherman. I love to fish. People always know if I wasn’t on campus I was at a lake or pond somewhere fishing. I grew up a country boy. I don’t do too much. I like to grill and just chill out with friends and family. I enjoy the simple things in life.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you?
KQ: I would just like to say that in May I hope I am wearing the Green and Gold. It will be crazy because in high school I wore the same “G” on my helmet as the Packers do. It would be a tremendous honor and blessing to play for a great organization that is so rich in history and that is all about winning. It gives me chills. I can’t wait until May!!!
Career College Stats
• 2013 – 39 tackles, 13. 5 TFL, 9.5 sacks, and 3 QB hurries
• 2012 – 38 tackles, 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and a QB hurry
• 2011 – 28 tackles, 2 TFL, and 4 QB hurries
Film on Kelcy Quarles
Kelcy Quarles Highlights vs Kentucky
Kelcy Quarles against Tennessee: 4 tackles, 2 TFL, and a sack