Cliff Avril #56 DE
Height: 6-3 Weight: 260 Age: 28
Born: 4/8/1986 Jacksonville , FL
Experience: 7th season
High School: Clay HS [Green Cove Springs, FL]
Selected By: Detroit Lions
Pick (Overall): 29 (92)
Purdue has become very proud to be known as the "Den of Defensive Ends."
In recent years, the Boilermakers' program has produced future NFL pass-rushing specialists Akin Ayodele (Dallas) Rosevelt Colvin (New England), Ray Edwards (Minnesota), Rob Ninkovich (Miami), Chike Okeafor (Arizona), Shaun Phillips (San Diego) and Anthony Spencer (Dallas). Many scouts feel that Cliff Avril will soon take his place with those former Boilermakers in terrorizing NFL quarterbacks.
Some teams have projected Avril as a rush end, but due to his lack of bulk and size, he could shift back to strong-side linebacker. Much like Shaun Phillips, Avril relies on his impressive foot speed and ability to shed blocks on the move to be a constant nuisance in the backfield. Since moving to defensive end two seasons ago, Avril registered 30 of his 35.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 12.5 of his 13 sacks from the left end position.
At Clay High School, Avril earned second-team All-State honors as a defensive end during his senior year, yet, he was rated the 37-best outside linebacker prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was named to the Florida Times-Union Super 24 team and twice earned All-Conference accolades.
As a senior, Avril led the team to an 11-2 record. That year, he registered 80 tackles, nine sacks and eleven stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also deflected four passes. In addition to competing on the gridiron, he lettered in basketball, track and field and weight-lifting.
Avril enrolled at Purdue in 2004 and saw considerable action as a true freshman. He appeared in 12 games, starting four contests at strong-side linebacker. He was in on 36 tackles (23 solo), as he assisted on a sack and made three stops for losses. He also caused a fumble and batted away one pass.
Avril played in 10 games as a sophomore, as a midseason back injury that was later diagnosed as a fracture, hampered him the rest of the year and forced him to sit out the Wisconsin game, in addition to being limited in spring drills the following year. He made 33 tackles (21 solo) with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while starting four contests in 2005.
As a junior, Avril made several changes, switching from jersey No. 85 that he wore his first two seasons to No. 32. He started the first four games at strong-side linebacker, but then shifted to left defensive end for the final 10 games. He went on to rank ninth in the Big Ten Conference with 15 stops for losses. He registered 84 tackles (51 solo), third-best on the team and tied for second on the Boilermakers' defense with six sacks. He caused two fumbles, recovered another and picked off a pass. He also deflected six other tosses.
In 2007, Avril was named first-team All-Big Ten Conference by The NFL Draft Report and second-team by the league's media. He started all 13 games at left defensive end, where he led the team and tied for tenth in the conference with 6.5 sacks. He again paced the Boilermakers with 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage, the ninth-best total in the Big Ten. He caused four fumbles, recovered three others and broke up five passes. He also returned an interception for a touchdown.
In 49 games at Purdue, Avril started 35 contests, with 12 starts coming at strong-side linebacker and the other 23 at left defensive end. He ranks 12th in school history with 13 sacks for minus-79 yards and finished 11th in Purdue annals with 35.5 stops for losses of 137 yards. He caused seven fumbles and recovered four others while also deflecting 12 passes. He intercepted two passes, good for 48 yards in returns, including one touchdown.
Avril is the next Purdue pass rusher capable of making an impact in the NFL. He has great burst off the snap and because of his strength, hustle and strong hand play, he can be an effective 4-3 defensive end.
Despite his burst off the snap, however, Avril isn't a natural pass rusher. He lacks creative moves and only 6.5 of his team-leading 15 tackles for loss this past season were sacks. Avril is a good enough athlete, however, to play in space, and has developed into a cerebral defender potentially capable of making the switch back to outside linebacker -- a position he played his first two seasons for Purdue.