Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh returns an interception for a touchdown during...

Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh returns an interception for a touchdown during an NCAA college football game against San Jose State in Lincoln, Neb. Suh started his senior year as the Big 12's preseason defensive player of the year, and his performances through six games have made him a front-runner for two major national awards, the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award. Suh's ability to disrupt the middle and force offenses into changes they don't want to make is reminiscent of the dominance shown by Rich Glover almost 40 years ago. Glover was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1972 and was called "the dominant play-wrecker of his time." Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Nati Harnik

Can't decide which blue-chip defensive tackle you prefer in this week's NFL draft? How about looking at theSuh-Gerald McCoy debate this way: You say tomato, and I say to-mah-to. You say potato, and I say po-tah-to.

Looking for a prototype inside presence with the strength to knock guards and centers on their keisters and drive running backs into the ground? Then Nebraska's Suh is your guy.

Prefer a quicker, more nimble tackle who can beat you with the swim move and get to the quarterback in a Peyton Manning minute? Then go with Oklahoma star McCoy.

Welcome to the biggest non-quarterback debate of the 2010 draft. How it works out Thursday will largely determine what happens after the expected selection of Oklahoma's Sam Bradford by the Rams with the No. 1 pick. And who knows? Even though the Rams figure to draft their quarterback of the future, there are no assurances that they won't opt for one of these hulking tackles to beef up one of the league's poorest defenses.

"We're open to all options," Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. Those options include taking Bradford (most likely), Suh (possibly), McCoy (perhaps) or trading out of the pick (not likely, but not impossible).

And if the Rams do take Bradford, then Suh and McCoy won't be on the board very long. They might go 2-3 to the Lions and Bucs, teams that can use a major boost along the defensive front.

Which one goes where? Depends on how you pronounce tomato and potato. Or, in this case, Ndamukong. (According to the 2009 Nebraska player pronunciation guide, it's En-dom-ah-ken Sue).

Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's highly respected draft expert, believes the real McCoy is . . . . well, McCoy.

"The reason I pick McCoy No. 1 is because it's a pass-first league," Mayock said of the 6-4, 298-pound tackle. "It's skewed tremendously to the pass side, and from a defensive perspective, I want the more disruptive guy. McCoy is more disruptive in the pass game."

But this is a very close call, Mayock acknowledges. "McCoy isn't as stout as Suh," he said. "He can push the pocket, but he's not as abrupt a penetrator."

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah, who plies his trade on, gives a slight edge to the 6-4, 305-pound Suh.

"First of all, it's those two guys up there by themselves at the position," Jeremiah said. "But I have Suh over McCoy. I grew to appreciate Suh's strength vs. McCoy's quickness. They played in the same conference, and Suh had twice as many sacks."

Suh had 12 sacks in 2009, McCoy six.

"McCoy is more of a quickness rusher and Suh is a guy with a lot of raw power,'' Jeremiah said. "There's great upside with both players, but there's a higher floor with Suh. Sometimes it comes down to which player is safer, and I think Suh is that guy."

Not bad for a guy who started off playing soccer. Suh, whose mother is Jamaican and whose father is from Cameroon, never did quite take to the lack of physical play in soccer, though. That and the fact that he weighed nearly 240 pounds by the time he was 12 made him a natural for football. That size and raw power were the perfect tools to develop into one of the most feared linemen in college.

And an epic performance in a 13-12 loss to Texas last December, in which he had 4½ sacks, 10 unassisted tackles and six tackles for loss, sealed his status as a top five pick.

"I got a lot of fouls,'' Suh said. "That's kind of the reason I moved away from soccer, because I got too many red cards."

Nice call, once he cleared it with his mother.

"She figured I'd be the one getting hit," he said. "I had to let her realize that I was the one attacking people and getting after the smaller guys."

McCoy took a more traditional route to the NFL, playing football while growing up in Oklahoma City. To be more precise, "South side Oklahoma City," he said. "Where I come from, we weren't provided with the best. We didn't have the most money. I always get teased, 'You came out of Southeast High School.' "

The facilities weren't the best. "We had a dirt track,'' he said, "and our goalpost was leaning and stuff like that."

McCoy is about to become a millionaire football player. The only question left is which team signs his check.

Suh or McCoy? Check back Thursday for the answer.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months