Jesse Mahelona DT 6’ 311 Tennessee
By: Robert Davis
Jesse Mahelona left Hawaii to play JuCo ball at Orange Coast College in California, and immediately made a name for himself. Despite playing only two games as a sophomore because of a broken ankle, he had every major program after him, and Tennessee won out for his services. As a junior in 2004, Mahelona made a major impact on the Vols interior line. He had 42 tackles with 18.5 of them for loss, and 5 sacks. Prior to this season, he was named to the Playboy All-American list. His impact was not as big as anticipated this season, but that was because he got more attention from opposing lineman. He finished the season with 35 tackles, eight for loss, and two sacks.
Mahelona is the ideal 4-3 defensive tackle. He has a great burst off the line, and displays the ability to consistently penetrate the line. For a 300lber, he also shows great closing speed and the ability to chase down plays from behind. What makes Mahelona special is that he combines that penetration ability with great natural strength and the ability to hold his ground at the point of attack.
Other than lacking ideal height for a defensive tackle, there isn’t a whole lot to knock in Mahelona’s game. He doesn’t have a great deal of experience, as he only played one season at JuCo before transferring to Tennessee. At times he will also rely on his strength to take on lineman, and that will not cut it in the NFL. He needs to use his hands better on a consistent basis.
Mahelona entered the year with as good a shot as any at landing in the first round, but he didn't live up to expectations. He has the talent to be a very good interior defensive lineman, and teams still put a priority in the trenches. Mahelona could still hear his name called in the second round, but should be a Day One pick regardless.
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