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NFL Scouting Combine Watch: Elijah Qualls

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Elijah Qualls

Elijah Qualls

It's probably beyond cliché to say that football is a game that is won in the trenches. Be that as it may, it's as close to a scientific theory as you can get in the sport. For that reason, interior linemen are hot commodities on draft day.

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Heading into the NFL Scouting Combine, one of the more interesting prospects at the defensive tackle position is Washington's Elijah Qualls.

The 6-foot-1, 320-pound wrecking ball was part of an interior line duo (along with Greg Gaines) that wreaked havoc on the Pac-12 all season, catapulting the Huskies into the College Football Playoff.

Despite his statue, Qualls penetrates the pocket and pressures the quarterback with the athleticism of a defensive end. He also excels at gap control, winning the hands battle with opposing offensive linemen and holding his ground to keep running lanes closed.

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Speaking of that hand-fighting that goes on, Qualls has a bit of an advantage over most opponents in that regard. He spent a year boxing while in high school and still works out at local MMA gyms in the offseason.

And as far as that athleticism goes -- the junior defensive tackle is not shy about putting it on full display. There are not many 320-pounders walking the earth who can pull off an Olympic-caliber handspring. Qualls does so with ease.

Keep an eye on how Qualls performs in speed and agility drills at the Combine. If his game film is any indicator, he'll be near the top of every one of those categories. It wouldn't shock me to see him near the top of the pack in the bench press, either. 

Most mocks and analysts have Qualls being drafted somewhere in the late second or early third rounds. Given the lack of any character issues and his aforementioned rare athleticism, I wouldn't be shocked to see him move up closer to the first round come draft day.

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.