We are now almost done with the first week of training camp and, knock on wood, we have only had one serious injury. Jonas Mouton tore his ACL and is going to miss the entire season after being placed on IR. Mouton was due to be one of the key backups for a fairly thin position at MLB. The starters are all but set in stone as Donald Butler and rookie Manti Te’o. One of the players fighting for one of the few spots behind them is UDFA Daniel Molls out of Toledo.
Dan was tackling fool in college. In 4 years at Toledo he totaled 422 tackles, 21.5 TFL and 7.5 sacks. Also, no slouch in coverage, Dan had 16 passes defended and 7 interceptions. Not impressed yet? He achieved those numbers while not starting any games his Freshman year (43 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT) and missing 6 games his Junior year (70 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 FR for a TD). So if he wouldn’t have been injured his Jr year, that would have put him on pace to have 450 tackles and over 25 TFL in 3 years as a starter. His Senior season Dan lead MAC (3rd in the NCAA) in Solo tackles with 86, 2nd in the MAC and NCAA in assisted tackles with 80, and lead both the MAC and NCAA in total tackles with a whopping 166.
Dan is a little undersized for the NFL, measuring in at 6’0″ 238 according to the Chargers official website. However, he is practically identical in size to both D.J. Smith, at 6’0″ 239, and Manti Te’0, at 6’1″ 241. He also isn’t the most athletic guy on the field, then again neither is Te’o. He also put up identical repetitions of 225lbs (21) to Te’o at their pro-days and ran .04 seconds faster in the 40 than Te’o, 4.71 vs 4.75. The similarities go beyond the physical stats. Both were vocal leaders of their teams and with superior instincts and football IQ, overcame their physical limitations to dominate on the field.
So with 2-3 spots available at MLB behind Te’o and Butler and Mouton being placed on IR, Dan stands a fighters chance at making the Roster and if not, a very good chance, in my opinion, of making the practice squad.
Dan was nice enough to take some time out of his very busy training camp schedule to answer a few questions for me and here is what he had to say:
@Boltfanindenver – You were a tackling machine in college. You aren’t the biggest, strongest, or fastest guy on the field but you still finished your senior season leading the league in tackles. How did you do it?
Dan - Leading the league and the nation in total tackles was something that I never actually thought about. One of my strengths as a player in my opinion is having a knack for finding the football. My goal going into every game was to do whatever I had to do on special teams and defense to give my team the best chance to win the game. Every opportunity I had to make a play I tried to take advantage of and often times I relied on instinct to get myself in a position to make tackles and plays on the ball.
@Boltfanindenver – Scouts said a lot about your football IQ and instincts being very high, in fact I read a few comparisons to last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL tackles leader Luke Kuechly and your new team mate Manti Te’o. Do you feel you compare favorably to them?
Dan - Luke Kuechly has already proven to be a great linebacker and player in this league and to be compared to a player of his caliber is very humbling. I watched as many games and as much film of him throughout college as I could and I would say that we are very similar when it comes to styles of play and I tried to take away as much as I could from his game to improve upon my own game. I am very confident in my abilities as a player and would say that these comparisons are favorable.
@Boltfanindenver – Which veterans have been the most helpful through OTA’s and mini camp?
Dan - There are a number of veteran players who have been a tremendous help throughout this process. Of them that stand out I would have to say Jarrett Johnson, an OLB for us. He really set the standard for us as to what it takes to play in this league and at this level. His work ethic, high energy, and effort that he puts into practice and the game really have had an impact on how I approach every day that I show up for practice or meetings.
@Boltfanindenver – What has been the biggest difference so far between college practices and NFL practices?
Dan - The biggest difference that I have noticed in practice from college to NFL is having the opportunity to practice out in front of a crowd of Chargers fans. It is quite a cool feeling to go out to a practice and have the stands filled up cheering us on. It really makes me anxious to see what a real game in Qualcomm stadium will be like! I would also have to say that the NFL practices are a bit more structured and have different points of emphasis.
@Boltfanindenver – What are your impressions of the coaches and how the practice sessions have been run?
Dan - In my opinion we have an outstanding group of coaches who have nothing but the best intentions for all of us as players. They have put together a plan for us that I feel is going to be very effective in the team, along with us players individually, having success throughout this season.
@Boltfanindenver – Did you know the Chargers were interested in you leading up to the draft process or was it an out of the blue kind of thing?
Dan - The Chargers were one of the first teams I heard from in the beginning of this process and I heard from a few different coaches on staff leading up to the draft weekend. They made it very clear that they were interested in me and showed a lot of interest, particularly on the last day of the draft. So yes, I did have a feeling that they were interested.
@Boltfanindenver – And finally, what did you do in your free time in between mini camp and the start of training camp next week?
Dan - Other than working out 4-5x per week in the free time leading up to training camp, I spent nearly all the time with my family and girlfriend Lauren. My family and Lauren are two of the most important aspects of my life and I would not be here if it weren’t for them. I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. We went to a few movies, a Toby Keith concert (huge country fan), and Lauren and I were even lucky enough to get away for a few days in a trip down to Nashville. Besides that we pretty much just hung out and relaxed with one another. I also made an effort to make a stop in Toledo to visit with some of my best friends and former teammates and coaches, who all played a role in me being here as well.
You can follow Dan on twitter @danmolls and show him some love and support as he battles through camp! Also if you are going out to practice or FanFest, Dan wears #49 so give him a shout out and let him know you read his interview!