The 2015 NFL draft is right around the bend– well, in geological time, anyway. In any case, it’s never too early to take a look at some senior prospects. Our players today are both highly athletic defensive ends. Markus Golden was on my watch list before the season. He was the ‘other’ end on that incredible Missouri defensive line rotation which featured Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. Owamagbe Odighizuwa – say with me, OH-DIG-E-ZOO-WAH – leaped off my screen while I was leisurely watching UCLA open the season on the road against Virginia. I’ll start with him.
Thanks to Draft Breakdown for the videos, as always; none of this would be possible without their work.
Edge Rusher, UCLA
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (“Owa” from now on) missed all of the 2013 season with a hip injury that required surgery. He’s listed at 6’3″ and 270 lbs., and as The Daily Bruin put it in a profile last year, “His hands are the size of baseball mitts and his arms are bigger than most people’s legs.” His explosiveness off of the snap is extraordinary, as I’ll show soon. I watched UCLA’s opening game on the road at Virginia with the purpose of checking out quarterback Brett Hundley; but it was Owa who captured my attention. He plays again today versus Texas.
Look at his first few steps on this play. Watch it frame by frame from 1:16 to 1:18, if you can. That is an elite burst. What he fails to do there is rip or swim through the tackle and pressure or sack the quarterback. The opportunity is there, but the hand work is not. He chooses to dip around the edge and the left tackle does a great job taking Owa out of the play in spite of getting beat at the snap. The next play is textbook run defense. Owa immediately extends both of his arms right into the tackle’s chest, pushes him 3-yards in the backfield, and makes the tackle for a loss.
The play of the game happens soon thereafter. On this play our man uses those long arms on a pass rush to perfection. Once again he displays an elite burst off of the snap, and this time due to his hand work he’s able to attack the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. This allows Owa to free up his right arm; and he slaps the quarterback on the wrist right before the release. Interception. If you keep the tape rolling, the next play shows off his bull rush.
While spin moves usually result in making the pass rusher look ridiculous unless he happens to be named Dwight Freeney, Owa uses one beautifully here. His explosiveness is simply too much for Virginia to handle throughout the game. Here he uses a speed rush, and I want you to watch his left arm. That’s why he’s able to get around the edge. On this play we get to see him playing over a guard. Well, that was easy. If you keep the tape rolling he makes several more plays. You get the idea. The schedule for UCLA will get much tougher as the season rolls on. Keep an eye on him. Next up: Texas.
Edge Rusher, Missouri
As I mentioned in the introduction, Markus Golden made quite a splash for Missouri last year. He finished the season with 13 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and picked off a pass for a 70-yard touchdown. At 6’3″ and 260 lbs., he has good, albeit not incredible size, and can explode off of the snap at times. He’s another fifth-year senior with some experience at linebacker.
Golden is off to a hot start this year. We’re going to take a look at his game against Toledo. While Toledo is not the program that Missouri is, they have won at least 8 games in each of the last three seasons. In other words, this isn’t simply a team expected to roll over early in the season to the big, bad SEC opponent.
Golden relies almost exclusively on his speed. While impressive, he does not show any of the technical skill that Odighizuwa does. He gets blown off the line in the run game a number of times against Toledo. The tackle not only seals him off on this play, but drives him down the field as well. There’s a particularly ugly play on the goal line where Golden crashes inside only to have his back turned to the runner, who walks in for an easy touchdown. You need to be able to hold the point of attack in order to see the field on a regular basis in the NFL.
Nevertheless, there’s a reason why I decided to bring him up. His first step can be awesome. Here’s an example. Golden is two yards into the backfield by the time the ball reaches the quarterback. The play is completely doomed, an easy tackle for loss. On this play, it’s almost unbelievable that he is not offside. Even among top-tier pass-rushing prospects this kind of first step speed is rare. I mean, how many players can do this? How many tackles are thinking “no problem”? Not many. This next play is caused due to the quarterback inexplicably rolling out of a clean pocket, but I want to show it due to Golden’s closing speed.
If you watch the rest of that game, you’ll see him flash more here and there. He’ll also hesitate in spots where a play could’ve been made. Between these two players, Odighizuwa has better size, technique, and a higher football IQ. Golden possesses a more impressive first step, but that’s it. There’s a lot of football left to be played. Keep an eye out for both of these players as the season progresses.