Every 3-4 defense needs a big man in the middle, anchoring that defensive line. Miami's two big men are both big question marks. Jason Ferguson is aging, coming off of a somewhat serious injury, and is suspended for the first eight games of 2010. Paul Soliai, meanwhile, is young and inexperienced. He has shown flashes. But he's still a long way from where he needs to be in terms of being the long-term nose tackle solution in Miami.
In the 2010 draft, there isn't a "big man" bigger than Alabama's Terrence Cody. He's projected to go anywhere between mid to late first round to mid second round. If the Dolphins trade down from pick #12 or recover the second rounder they lost when acquiring Brandon Marshall, he could be on Miami's radar.
To learn more about Cody, let's welcome one of the bloggers from Roll 'Bama Roll - SBN's Crimson Tide blog. His name is "outsidethesidelines" and his thoughts are below.
Height: 6'3 5/8" / Weight: 354
40: 5.72 / Arm: 34 1/4" / Hands: 11"
When Terrence Cody committed to Alabama in late November of 2007, I think it would probably be most accurate to say that he was a high risk / high reward prospect. The Alabama fan base was excited to see us finally signing such a massive player that had the raw size needed to anchor the interior of the 3-4 defense -- we had spent the entire 2007 season with the very undersized Lorenzo Washington (a true defensive end by build) manning the nose guard position -- but to the coaching staff it was probably more of a risky proposition. Notwithstanding the inherently unpredictable nature of the recruiting process, the general consensus with Cody was that he was probably in the neighborhood of 420 pounds, and he was going to have to lose a lot of weight to become a viable player in the SEC (which is to say nothing of any potential academic issues).
Again, Cody was a high risk / high reward prospect. Many probably tend to forget that now after his place in Alabama football lore has been firmly established, but the point remains. It should not be forgotten that Cody actually grew up a big fan of the Miami Hurricanes, and that late in the recruiting process it seemed like he would actually spurn the Tide and play his college ball in Coral Gables. Ultimately, though, Miami decided they didn't have a scholarship for him, and Cody signed with Alabama. Perhaps that says something about the evaluation abilities of Randy Shannon, but it does also showcase that Cody was by no means a guaranteed commodity. Nevertheless, we were desperate at the time and thus the potential reward justified the risk, so we took him.
When Cody arrived in Tuscaloosa, no one really knew what to expect. Fortunately, Cody worked very hard over the summer with the S&C staff, and when Fall camp arrived all of the 6:00 a.m. workouts paid off. He was dominant in the scrimmages and quickly earned a starting job. He was still a very big player -- realistically, probably in the neighborhood of 390 pounds -- but he moved extremely well for his size, and his stamina turned out to be much greater than we expected. Most Alabama fans were just hoping we could get 15-20 snaps per game out of him (mostly in short-yardage situations), but he greatly exceeded those expectations. Though UA does not release individual snap participation numbers, I would wager to say that in 2008 he averaged somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-45 snaps per game. Prior to his knee injury against Ole Miss, he literally destroyed every single center that he faced. The MCL sprain really limited him down the stretch, but even at his worst he was a serviceable nose guard.
In 2009, he generally continued his improvement. With the knee injury behind him, he continued the work in the S&C program, and the weight continued to drop. He remained a very big player, but he likely played most of the 2009 season somewhere in the neighborhood of 370 pounds. That may still sound large, but taken in the context that he probably lost 50 pounds over the course of two seasons, it's a fairly impressive body of work. Perhaps not surprisingly, he remained a dominant player inside, and was an immensely valuable asset for our offense in the Cody package that we used on the goal line (no one stopped that the entire year, to the best of my recollection). His All-America honors were clearly well deserved. Without doubt, he was the best interior defensive lineman that I have personally ever seen at Alabama (going to back to about 1990).
Now, moving forward to the NFL, admittedly I am a biased observer, but I would have a hard time finding a better fit for a nose guard in the 3-4 than Cody. He clearly has all of the raw size you need, but he's not your stereotypical lugging, immobile big man. We're talking about a guy here who, even when he was 400+ pounds, could dunk a basketball any way you wanted it, and someone that never really had any issue being a two-gap player in the SEC, regardless of what he happened to weigh at the time. Again, he's not a lugging, immobile big man, he has the requisite athleticism.
The biggest concern with Cody is clearly his weight, but I tend to not find that as an issue. He dropped a good 30 pounds his first year at Alabama, probably dropped another 20 his second year, and has apparently dropped another 20 pounds with ease since then. I cannot find any real reason to think weight will be a problem for Cody moving forward, and even if it is, he was still a dominant player on the collegiate level when he was a good 40 or 50 pounds heavier than he is now.
When I look at Cody, I see someone who had a very tough childhood and someone who had to overcome a lot of very bad mistakes he made many years ago. He grew up in a poverty-stricken environment as the oldest of nine children, and the entire family was supported by his mother working two jobs (a traveling nurse and a bus driver). His father died in an accident before he reached his teenage years. Things got bad enough at home that he eventually had to move in with the family of a teammate. Early on in his high school years, his academics were in very, very poor shape, and a lack of personal discipline saw his weight balloon to gigantic proportions. Clearly, he made a lot of mistakes during that period. But if you look at what he has done since then, it's impressive stuff. He turned himself into an outstanding player at the junior college level, got his academics in order, and stamped a ticket to a top college program. From there, he continued to get in even better shape, turned into an outstanding player, and then followed it up in his senior year where he did all of those things to an even greater degree. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has done more positive things with their life the past three or four years than Terrence Cody, and I see no reason to believe all of that would suddenly start going in reverse now.
To me, the real question with Cody is one of value. I do think he is the perfect fit for a nose guard in a 3-4 scheme, and I do think he'll be a productive nose guard at the next level to boot. He's a great kid, and I can guarantee you that there won't be a fan out there that won't just outright love the guy. Again, the real question is just how valuable a 3-4 nose guard can be in terms of a draft pick in the modern, pass-happy NFL. Can you realistically spend the #12 overall pick in the NFL Draft on someone who will probably only play 40% of the overall defensive snaps? And if you answer that question in the negative, will he still be available when the #42 pick rolls around, or is he valuable enough to trade back up to get him? I would have a hard time seeing him fall any further than the middle of the second round, but admittedly I would have serious questions to the feasibility of taking a player of his role in the top half of the first round.
And that is ultimately the issue for me. I do think Cody will be a good player at the next level, and he'll make whatever team selects him pretty happy in the long run. The real question, to me, is less about Cody as a player than it is about the true value of an exclusive 3-4 nose guard in the modern, pass-happy NFL.