2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Cassius Marsh, DE UCLA


November 17, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans kicker Andre Heidari (48) kicks an extra point as UCLA Bruins defensive end Cassius Marsh (99) goes for the block in the second quarter at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

A combination of good timing by Jim Mora Jr. behing hired in Westwood as he inherited some good talent and combined that with a new scheme on defense has allowed the UCLA Bruins to develop a new attitude, especially along the defensive line.  They became far more of a competitive group, having to earn every rep and going all out when they get in there with a ton of energy and effort.  One of the players Mora inherited from the previous coaching staff who had their best year was Cassius Marsh, their defensive end and defensive tackle.  The Bruins’ hybrid scheme that features both even and odd fronts Marsh to try to put their players in the best position to succeed and keep the offense guessing and Marsh had 30 solo tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, two forced fumbles, two pass deflections, two blocked kicks, and a receiving touchdown in his junior campaign.  With another year of development and more comfort in the scheme, he could have a more productive senior year and expand what he can offer in the NFL.

Marsh was employed as something of passing down specialist who could also contribute against the run.  UCLA had a couple of star players in Datone Jones as another hybrid defensive lineman and then Anthony Barr, who came a stud Leo backer in his first year in that role.  UCLA kept everyone fresh in a defensive line rotation that kept their guys fresh, so Marsh always played as a high energy player who comes in and just out efforts and outworks opponents with an athletic skill set as an undersized player who can keep opponents off balance that enabled him to make plays against the run as well as put pressure on the opposing quarterback.  With Datone Jones now a member of the Green Bay Packers, it will be interesting to see if Marsh’s role in the defense is increased and if he can maintain that level of energy in an expanded role.

Marsh has a skill set that will make him an interesting role player in the NFL based on what he has done up to this point, but his senior year could work to make him increase his viability.  Right now, he appears to be a third day pick who looks like a rotational defensive linemen with scheme versatility, but if he can increase his weight without losing any of his athleticism and be more viable as a run player in the NFL, he could significantly improve his stock and potentially be a fringe top 100 player.

Vitals & Build

Marsh is listed at 6’3” 275lbs with good athleticism and solid functional strength.  His energy and activity level are always extremely high with a terrific motor and that is likely a large reason for his success.  He has above average speed and is extremely quick in short areas with impressive fluidity for the position.  Marsh appears to have the potential to continue developing physically and if he can continue to add strength while maintaining his level of athleticism, it could be big for him.  Marsh is likely always going to be undersized compared to the average but he is able to succeed because of his style of play.

Snap Anticipation & First Step

Marsh anticipates the snap well consistently and that obviously works to help him when it comes to getting advantage with his speed and quickness.  His first step is above average and while he does go forward and gain ground, he does it while standing up and gets too tall, giving away his leverage.  In those situations he either continues to play tall or has to read and then sink his hips to regain his pad level which is wasted energy and motion.  If he can have more of the motion going forward than going up, it will be far more effective and enable him to maintain a better pad level, which is important since he is an undersized player.  If he can stay low, it makes him look quicker and play stronger, which is going to be important at the next level.

Block Shedding

Marsh is able to shed blocks largely on his unpredictability, athleticism, and the level of energy he brings to the table.  He does a nice job of using his hands and keeping them always going to keep opposing offensive linemen off balance but he also seems to be capable of going in any direction at any time as well.

Because he is undersized for the position, he has to make offensive linemen scared of his speed and keep them guessing.  The Bruins defensive scheme also uses stunts to help their athletic linemen move around and put the opponent at a disadvantage.  Marsh is always going full speed and he is a natural athlete from the position, so he is not afraid to go to either side or even backwards to get out of a block, betting on his agility and speed to make up ground.  He has a good sense of judgment on when he can back out of a block and does not seem to do it when the play is being run at him.

In regards to stunts, Marsh is almost always the guy who is waiting and going around whether that is just crossing and using a stunt that looks like an ‘x’ or if he will go all the way around the tackle.  Marsh has the acceleration and speed to make up ground but it seems like he is waiting half a beat to a beat too long.  This is likely what he has been coached to do, but it seems like he could go earlier than he does to make the stunts more effective.

Marsh can also use his speed to open up his bull rush, can stack and shed as well as use a solid rip move.  He has been successful with all of them but part of the reason they work is the fact that he is confident and willing to use just about any of them at any given time.  The other is that he never gives up and will just keep coming, so he will make second and third efforts.

Run Stopping

Marsh can be stout at the point of attack, but he functions more on quickness even when it comes to the running game.  There are times when he will hold up, but he is far more effective when he is able to knife his way into the backfield.  The ideal scenario is for Marsh to get into the backfield and make the tackle obviously and he can do that, but even when he does not but is able to shoot the gap, it forces the opposing offensive line to collapse on him.

If they crash down on him and are able to stop him in between the tackle and guard, they are not advancing and creating a running lane or a bubble down the field, so even though he is not necessarily stout in the true sense of the word, he is clogging up the line and creating opportunities for teammates to make tackles.  Datone Jones was phenomenal at this particular skill and his game primarily functioned on this concept last year.

Marsh also moves extremely well laterally both in terms of making tackles and moving down the line to chase down plays.  He also displays good angles when he is forced to cover outside to the sideline.  For teams that want to run option read type plays or stretch the field east and west, Marsh is well equipped.

Pass Rushing

Marsh’s style of taking on blockers and shooting gaps with his ‘by any means necessary’ style is more effective when he is rushing the passer because he does not need to worry about holding up in his gap.  Going backwards, left, right, or straight at them; as long as he is not getting in the way of his teammates, he has the freedom  to do basically whatever he wants to beat blocks and get after the passer.  And while doing some of these types of moves appears counterproductive like going backward, he is athletic enough to get away with it.  He is extremely agile and has good speed so he can get to the quarterback quickly and Marsh has demonstrated impressive closing speed, so there are times when he appears to be out of the play and is not because of his remarkable athleticism.

Special Teams

Not surprisingly, Marsh has also found a way to make an impact on special teams.  His quickness and speed combined with his ability to shoot gaps make him able to gain penetration and put himself in position to try to block kicks.  He was able to block two kicks this past year and could end up with a couple more this year.  The undersized and athletic defensive linemen can often be uniquely able to help on special teams and that could increase his viability at the next level.

System Fit

Marsh’s best fit is likely in a 1-gap 3-4 defense as a defensive end that would allow him to use his athleticism on the edge as well as use power to hold up against the running game.  He could also rush the passer from that spot or kick inside to be a rush tackle.  2 gap 3-4 teams might like him as well as a rotational pass rusher but he is not as well suited to play in a situation that expects him to try to take on multiple blockers and hold up on the edge, so his potential to start in the long term might not be great in that scenario.

4-3 teams could like Marsh to be an energy rotational player who can come in and rush the passer or play a few different spots on the line depending on the situation.  It is not impossible that they could also want to try him as a power end that can move around on the line.  His motor and energy level make him extremely attracted to teams that want guys who can come in and rusher the passer from the inside as so many teams go to an even front in those situations.

Regardless of which team selects him, he is likely to start out in a rotational role.  He has the potential to develop into a starter but he could find himself a nice niche just coming and rushing the passer in spots, getting a handful of sacks each year and giving teams more athleticism on the defensive line who can also help on special teams.


Sat, Aug. 31vs. Nevada
Sat, Sept. 14at Nebraska
Sat, Sept. 21vs. New Mexico State
Sat, Oct. 3at Utah
Sat, Oct. 12vs. Cal
Sat, Oct. 19at Stanford
Sat, Oct. 26at Oregon
Sat, Nov. 2vs. Colorado
Sat, Nov. 9at Arizona
Sat, Nov. 15vs. Washington
Sat, Nov. 23vs. Arizona State
Sat, Nov. 30at USC

Notable Games

The game against Stanford in Palo Alto is a great test for Marsh as it forces him to use more power and try to hold up against the run.  If he can get his quickness and speed to gain an advantage, that would be impressive against the Cardinal offensive line, especially since they tend to play with smaller splits in the middle of the field, so there is less space to shoot gaps.  The following week, the Bruins go to Eugene to play Oregon and this is a game where Marsh’s athleticism could really help him make an impact with his range and athleticism against the Ducks offense led by Marcus Mariota.  Two weeks later, the Bruins are again on the road as they play the Wildcats and take on Rich Rodriguez’s spread scheme.  Marsh will have to try to make an impact on the running game headed by Ka’Deem Carey as well as the way Arizona likes to throw the ball around the field.

NFL Comparison

Marsh’s game is similar to that of former Iowa Hawkeye defensive tackle Mike Daniels.  Daniels was selected in the fourth round by the Green Bay Packers, who perhaps not coincidentally also selected Datone Jones this past year.  Daniels was effective at being an undersized defensive tackle that could rush the passer and like Marsh, was able to collect a handful of sacks in college.  Both guys function on being high energy guys who thrive on being super active and contribute in as many places as they possibly can.

Draft Projection

Cassius Marsh is a guy coaches will love and teams can always use because he just never seems to quit and has a knack for making plays.  While he is likely only a third day pick based on what he has done to this point, he can be a contributor as a rotational defensive linemen who can rush the passer from a few different spots as well as special teams.  If he can continue to do those things while continuing to add strength without losing what he does and prove he can hold up against the run in the NFL, he could improve his stock significantly.  The post season All-Star games may be where he is really able to shine and show that he can stop the run or rush the passer.  With continued improvement and physical development, Marsh could be fighting for a spot in the top 100.