Two gap space eaters are always in demand in the NFL. With almost half the league employing a 3-4 defensive scheme they're needed more than ever. Finding one that has the talent and work ethic necessary to succeed long term at the position is the hard part for NFL talent evaluators. There are a good share of big men in this year's draft class whose performance has a tendency to tail off as games wear on. Work ethic will not be an issue for Central Florida's Torell Troup.
A highly recruited prospect out of the state of Georgia, Central Florida head coach George O'Leary convinced Torell Johnson he would be a recognized name for the Knights in Conference USA. After two years of football however, he decided to change his last name to Troup.
"It was Terrell Johnson," said Troup. "When I was born my mother and father were young and I lived with my mom. My dad wasn't around."
Troup's father Tory Troup came back into his life when he was 13 and the relationship has grown since then. So much so that he chose to take his father's surname.
"I sat down with my mother and father and out of respect for my dad I decided to change my last name to Troup," he said.
The name change happened just as Troup's game was changing as well, and dramatically for the better. As a junior he started all 12 games and was a disruptive force playing the nose tackle role in the Knights 4-3 scheme.
By season's end he was the anchor of a run defense that ranked fifth in the nation with 12.5 tackles for loss. Troup would earn Second team All-Conference USA honors.
"The strength of my game would be my run defense," Troup said. "I've got great pad leverage, a good first step. I can finish right into the backfield. Coach O'Leary worked closely with me, helping me with my hands and pad leverage. You can't be a good defensive lineman without it."
This past season, Troup's impact play brought him more attention on the field as much as it did off the gridiron as he saw frequent double teams. Voted team captain, Troup again led a defensive unit that was tops in the conference in total defense and run defense. Again he received second team All-Conference USA honors.
"This past year my stats were down because I played a different role on our team," he said. "I was more of a guy who took on double-teams and let everybody else make plays, and everybody else did make plays. It feels good to get a little recognition. I don't play a glory position, so I don't expect that."
Troup realizes that the defensive tackles that play the three-technique position like Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy all have the opportunity to rack up statistics and notoriety. His satisfaction comes from shutting down the run and banging inside.
"I feel like if I was put in the same position I could do the same thing," Troup said. "But I wasn't. I was the nose. My job was to hold the point. You've got to love contact to play in the middle. You get hit every play. I love the contact in the middle. I love the nose."
Though he projects to a 3-4 nose tackle in the NFL, Troup (6'3" 314) doesn't believe the shift from his 4-3 college system will be an issue.
"I don't think it's going to be that hard," he said. "I know it's different. I can hold the point of attack,
I'm used to being double-teamed, I have good feet, so I can stay with the center. I don't think it's going to be a problem at all."
With a nose to the grind stone work ethic, Troup, considered a late second or early third-round prospect, successfully lost weight through the course of his college career. The result was more stamina and enabling him to make plays deep into the fourth quarter of games.
"When I came to college I was 350," said Troup. "Coach O'Leary wanted me to drop down. My sophomore year I played at 330, my junior year 320 and last year I played at 315. Coach O'Leary is all about accountability, and all the NFL coaches I've been talking to, all they talk about is accountability in the league."
Troup admits he would like to improve his hand technique with respect to his pass rush so he can disengage more effectively from his opponent and be a bigger factor in pressuring the quarterback, but he is well aware of what will ultimately get him drafted.
"I take pride in my rush defense; not just me, but my teammates," he said. "I take pride in helping out my teammates. I'm not a selfish person. I will bring a great attitude to any defensive line."