Posts Tagged ‘Linebacker’

BYU defensive end/outside linebacker Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah (47) intercepts a tipped pass against San Diego State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA on Dec. 20, 2012. The Cougars defeated the Aztecs 23-6.

BYU defensive end/outside linebacker Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah (47) intercepts a tipped pass against San Diego State in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA on Dec. 20, 2012. The Cougars defeated the Aztecs 23-6. (Source: patriots.com)

Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah is not the typical NFL prospect. The 6′ 5″, 271 pound BYU Cougar originally hails from Accra, Ghana and grew up playing basketball. When Ziggy came came to America and Provo, Utah, specifically, he ran track for the Cougars for one year and tried and failed twice to walk on to the basketball team. From there, Ansah discovered football and convinced head coach Bronco Mendenhall to give him a chance. Ziggy became a special teams player in his second season in Provo and was starting on the defensive line last season, his senior year.

His full story can be found in these two videos from 2011:

Here are Ansah’s stats from BYU:

Career: 31 games played, 72 total tackles, 39 unassisted, 33 assisted, 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 7 quarterback hits, 9 passes broken up

2012: 13 games played (13 starts), 62 total tackles, 35 unassisted, 27 assisted, 13 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, 6 quarterback hits, 9 passes broken up

Ansah, who originally dreamed of playing in the NBA, is now headed for a career in the NFL and it is time for me to evaluate him. My evaluation will consist of these categories: Agility, Bull Rush, Speed Rush, Run Defense, Speed/Burst, Strength, Pass Defense, Tackle, Read and React and Health.

AGILITY: 

Honestly, Ansah has some of the best natural agility that I have seen in this year’s crop of defensive linemen and linebackers. He can change direction as quick or quicker than just about anybody, and when he is engaged with a lineman (or any type of blocker, for that matter) he throws one of the quickest and best spin moves that I have seen. This spin move is flat out dirty and it is one of Ansah’s best assets. He is not as balanced as I would like to see, but that is because he is still learning and getting comfortable in his pads. 9.0/10.0

BULL RUSH: 

Ansah doesn’t have the strongest bull rush, but that is mainly due to the fact that sometimes he doesn’t stay low and that is a horrible thing for a defensive lineman to do. One of the main thing that coaches preach to defensive linemen is to “Keep your pads low!” When a D-lineman is lower than his offensive counterpart, then he can get leverage and push the o-lineman backward. Now, during my third year of football, I wasn’t very good at this either, but I also am no comparison to Ziggy Ansah. But, Ansah seems extremely coachable and I bet that we will see improvement in this when Ansah takes the field in September for his first NFL game.  7.75/10.00

SPEED RUSH:

When Ansah is lined up in his typical defensive end or outside linebacker spot (he also lined up at nose tackle and defensive tackle at BYU), he has a pretty dang good speed rush. He stays outside and then cuts inside, usually using his spin when he sees that the quarterback has handed the ball off to a running back on a draw or that the QB is setting up to throw the ball. He doesn’t always get inside (notably during the Notre Dame game), but when he does, he causes a ton of disruption for the offense, and if you don’t believe me, check out the Utah State highlights throughout the videos. 8.5/10.0

RUN DEFENSE: 

Ansah is a naturally good tackler, which helps him a ton in his run defense. He’s not the greatest at diagnosing the play (but who is after only three seasons?), but when he does see it, he uses the speed and burst that I will talk about in the next section to catch up to running backs and throw them to the ground. I am honestly hugely impressed with Ansah’s run defense. 8.75/10.00

SPEED/BURST: 

Ansah ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the Combine in Indy on Monday, sixth best among all the defensive linemen at the event. His speed and burst are even more impressive on the field. As I said in the last section, Ansah can chase down running backs who have gotten past him. There were times in his tape when he would come out of nowhere to make a tackle. He also has an insane burst when he sees a lane on a play. For example, in the Notre Dame game, Ansah was lined up at OLB and was left unblocked on a draw play. Ansah bursts through a lane on the Notre Dame line and takes Irish RB Theo Riddick down to the Notre Dame Stadium grass. That play shows Ansah’s burst more than almost any other. 8.75/10.00

STRENGTH:

If I were to say that Ansah is the strongest d-lineman in the draft, I’d be lying, but he is still really strong. He repped 225 pounds 21 times in the bench press test in Indianapolis and there are tons of plays where Ansah locks out 300+ pound offensive linemen to showcase how strong he really is. There is also a scene in the second video of Ansah’s story (above) that shows how strong he is. At one of BYU’s practices, Ansah lifts a blocking dummy (which, trust me, are not light) about six feet in the air and then throws it down to the ground as if it weighed nothing at all. That play showcased his strength to me more than any other. The best thing about Ansah’s strength is that there is more to come. He will benefit hugely from working with a NFL strength and conditioning coach to build a lot more strength in the weight room. I really cannot wait to see him in the NFL. 9.0/10.0

PASS DEFENSE:

Ziggy Ansah 2

Ansah knock as pass down against Washington State.

Ansah is about as good as it gets when it comes to defensive linemen against the pass. He broke up nine passes and even intercepted a pass this past season. I thought Bjoern Werner was about as good as it got for d-linemen here, but now that I have seen Ansah’s tape, I realize I was wrong. For Ansah, this all just comes naturally, and his pass defense is no exception. 9.25/10.00

TACKLE: 

I stated this earlier, and it seems like I’m saying this a lot, but tackling just comes naturally to Ziggy. He rarely misses a tackle and has learned well on how to form tackle from his coaches at BYU. He hits hard and doesn’t let players escape. If Ziggy gets ahold of a player, they are meeting the turf in some way. 9.0/10.0

READ AND REACT: 

This is an area where Ziggy could improve, but it really has to do with the fact that he’s only been playing the game for three years. It takes a ton of time to be able to read formations and linemen well, and Ziggy can do that, it’s just not as fast as I would like to see. But, I believe that he will improve with time in the NFL. So for right now my rating is 7.0/10.0, but I truly believe that he will improve and improve fast.

HEALTH: 

No injury problems currently, but with an inexperienced player, injuries are always a risk because of poor technique and learning how to defend different things that offensive players do (ex: cut blocks, a lesson I learned the hard way). 10.0/10.0

OVERALL:

If it’s not already obvious, I think that Ziggy Ansah is the best defensive lineman or outside linebacker available in this year’s draft. Overall, he got a score of I think that he has almost limitless potential. Here’s how I see it. If had his ability after only three seasons of football, then I would have a FBS scholarship and still be playing instead of sitting behind my computer screen writing about players. He is one of the most naturally gifted players that I have seen in a l0ng time, and I believe that with some coaching, then he will be an All-Pro defensive player. He is raw, but there is just a ton of potential there. Now as to where Ansah will be drafted. Various sources have him going anywhere from picks 6 to 19, and I believe really believe that he’ll be off the board quick at pick #6 to the Cleveland Browns. The Browns are still trying to build a competing team the likes of which they had before the old Browns moved to Baltimore. Ansah will help them out a ton on the defensive side of the ball and they will have the time to properly develop him to his true potential.

HIGHLIGHTS:

 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow us on Twitter! @J_Vinton52 @OnTheClockNFL

Tomorrow I will be previewing Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington!

By Jeff Vinton, blogger/editor On the Clock

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, above, had a horrible showing at the NFL Combine Monday that include a 4.82 second 40-yard dash, .17 seconds more than his pre-Combine time. Source: BleacherReport.com

The third day of the combine kicked off with linebackers and defensive linemen going through drills at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and all eyes focused mainly on one player. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

By now everyone knows Te’o’s story. Heisman trophy candidate (finished 2nd), winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Lombardi, Nagurski and Butkus awards, had to play the Michigan State game the week when his “girlfriend” (who later turned out to be fake, made up by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as part of a “catfish” scam) and grandmother died within hours of each other. He was on top of the college football world. Notre Dame was undefeated, #1 in the nation for the first time since 1993, and then, January hit.

Alabama throttled Notre Dame in the National Championship game 42-14. Deadspin.com published the story about the catfish scam. Te’o began to drop down draft boards, and his life began to unravel.

What happened today is not going to help his cause. Today, Te’o posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.82 seconds. That is .17 seconds slower than his CBSSports.com Draft Profile had recorded for him on Sunday. And when one is in the middle of a field trying to catch a running back or keep up with a wide receiver, that .17 seconds can be an eternity.

Thanks to what Te’o is referring to as “the incident,” he was already a fringe first round pick, down from a top 10 selection in December. Now that he has posted that 40 time, it is unlikely that he will even be selected in the first round. John Harbaugh, coach of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, the team best suited to draft Te’o (and the team I chose as my pick to draft him in my preview Saturday) at the beginning of the day due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, looked disappointed and disinterested in Te’o during coverage of the combine on NFL.com.

After today’s performance, it is likely that some of the lesser known linebackers will have a golden opportunity to jump up and take Te’o’s position in the first round. Te’o may drop to the second half of the second round, and maybe even the third round if he cannot improve on today’s performance at Notre Dame’s pro day on March 26.

Outside of Te’o’s debacle, there were great performances put on today. Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden put in the top 40 time for the day with a time of 4.47 seconds. The top defensive lineman in the 40 was Trevardo Williams of Connecticut with a time of 4.57. Top draft pick Barkevious Mingo of LSU put up a time of 4.58 and Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah ran a time of 4.63.

Three defensive linemen led the pack in the bench press with Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern State and Margus Hunt of SMU benching 225 pounds 38 times and Akeem Spence of Illinois benching it 37 times. Bjoern Werner (whose preview can be found in the Florida State, Linebacker, or Player Preview categories) benched 25 times and Ansah benched 21 times.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday. Source: thebiglead.com

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh (right) was not impressed with the showing of Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, running the 40-yard dash (left) at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Monday.
Source: thebiglead.com

Conversely, three linebackers had the highest verticals today. Jamie Collins of Southern Miss jumped 41.5 inches, while Cornelius Washington of Georgia jumped 39 inches and Sio Moore of UConn jumped 38 inches. Mingo jumped 37 inches in the air and Te’o jumped 33.

A mix of linemen and linebackers led the group in the broad jump. Collins leaped 139 inches (11’ 7”), which was a Combine record, Gooden leaped 131 inches (10’ 11”), South Carolina defensive lineman Devin Taylor, Washington and Mingo all flew 128 inches (10’ 8”). Ansah and Florida linebacker Jon Bostic leaped 118 inches (9’ 10”).

Another story coming in to the day was that Utah defensive lineman and potential top five draft pick Star Loutlelei was pulled out of participating in drills due to a heart condition. That condition has yet to be specified and coverage on that and all other things NFL Draft will continue through April 27 on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.

Tomorrow, the defensive backs will take the field in Indianapolis for drills to close out the combine. On the Clock’s Bill Slane will have the coverage.

Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook! @J_Vinton52 @OnTheClockNFL

Notre Dame's Manti Te'o (5) and Zeke Motta (17) and Michigan's Jeremy Gallon (10) reach for a batted ball during the game between the Irish and Wolverines on Sept. 22, 2012. Te'o intercepted this pass and the Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.

Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o (5) and Zeke Motta (17) and Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon (10) reach for a batted ball during the game between the Irish and Wolverines on Sept. 22, 2012. Te’o intercepted this pass and Notre Dame defeated Michigan 13-6.

It seems weird that a scandal the likes of which Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (6′ 2″, 255 lbs.) has gone through could effect his draft stock so much. In December, Te’o was a surefire top 10 pick, but Deadspin publishes a story and suddenly he’s either at the end of the first round or out of it completely. This could be because teams are questioning his intelligence (as I have, because, c’mon. Who gets catfished that bad?), or how the scandal could effect his performance, as it undoubtedly did in the National Championship game where the previously unbeaten Irish were throttled by Alabama 42-14 and the defense looked nothing like it had the entire season. But I cannot answer those questions, all I can do is evaluate his skills.

Here are Te’o’s stats from Notre Dame:

Career: 51 games (49 starts), 437 total tackles, 212 unassisted, 225 assisted, 34.0 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 12 quarterback hits, 17 passes defended, 10 passes broken up, 7 interceptions

2012: 13 games (13 starts), 113 total tackles, 55 unassisted, 58 assisted, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 4 quarterback hits, 11 passes defended, 4 passes broken up, 7 interceptions

My evaluation will consist of these criteria: Agility, Bull Rush, Speed Rush, Run Defense, Speed/Burst, Strength, Tackle, Read and React, and Health.

AGILITY: 

Te’o has decent agility. He can get juked, which is not good, but he also has the agility to get through the line and into the backfield to tackle running backs and wide receivers on screens. He can change direction to go to the ball carrier very quickly, his feet are always moving fast and his hips could use a little bit more flexibility, but just put him in some yoga classes and he’ll be fine. 8.0/10.0

BULL RUSH: 

Overall, Te’o doesn’t have the best bull rush. When he does take a lineman on head on, it’s usually a stalemate, and it’s broken when the ball carrier comes through Te’o’s hole. There are also times when I saw Te’o get driven because he was keeping his eye on the ball carrier and not on the man blocking him. On those plays, Te’o would be much higher in his technique than on most of his plays. He is most successful when he stays low, like he is before every play, so if he can stay low more often, Te’o will be very successful in the NFL. 8.25/10.00

SPEED RUSH: 

As an inside linebacker, Te’o has not had to use a speed rush very often. Most times he is rushing up the middle, and a speed rush is used on the outside. I’m sure with the speed and agility that Te’o has that if he was asked to use a speed rush in the NFL, he could and it would be pretty good. But I’m basing my rating here off of how I’ve seen him rush on the outside and his speed and agility. 8.0/10.0

RUN DEFENSE: 

Te’o is a great linebacker against the run. He diagnoses the run very quickly and deduces which side and what hole the run is head toward faster than just about any linebacker I’ve seen in awhile. Te’o attacks running backs, is not afraid to take on any lineman or fullback that tries to block him and he doesn’t let running backs escape tackles easily. Just look at his Michigan State tape. That was not a great game for Le’Veon Bell and Te’o was a large reason for that. 8.75/10.00

SPEED/BURST: 

When the ball is snapped and Te’o is blitzing, Te’o is off like a cannon. He runs a 4.75 40 yard dash, and can chase down just about anyone at the line of scrimmage. His speed and burst can best be seen in Te’o’s sack of Landry Jones in the Oklahoma tape. He also sprints to catch up to any running back or receiver that gets past the line of scrimmage, no matter how far from the play he is. Te’o has great speed for a linebacker and his burst is as good as anyone’s. 8.5/10.0

STRENGTH:

If one just looks at Te’o’s biceps they can tell that he is one strong dude. His strength can also be seen when he take on offensive linemen and fullbacks that try to block him. It’s not an easy thing to take a 300+ pound offensive lineman and stop him dead in his tracks and be able to keep him where he is. Te’o possesses that ability because he is so strong. I’ll have a more accurate measurement of how strong Te’o is after he takes part in the bench press test tomorrow. 8.75/10.00

TACKLE:

Te’o is a very strong tackler. In the Wake Forest tape, I did see him miss a couple of tackles, but normally Te’o is a very good form tackler who hits opposing players with a ton of force. Not many people can escape a tackle from Manti, which is one reason that he accumulated 437 tackles in his career. 9.0/10.0

READ AND REACT: 

Te’o can read any play and react to extremely quickly. In many cases, it looked like Te’o knew what the opposing offense was going to do before the snap and was just waiting for the ball to move so that he could react to the play. I really noticed that in the Michigan tape. It was mostly on run plays, but it just looked like Te’o knew exactly what Denard Robinson and the rest of the Wolverine offense was up to. This or his tackling ability is his best quality and one that I really enjoyed seeing on tape. 9.5/10.0

HEALTH: 

There’s no physical injuries to report for Te’o, but the whole Lennay Kekua incident could lead to some mental issues, especially when he gets to the locker room after he gets drafted. But, he should just go out on the field, show what he can do, and that should go away quickly. 9.5/10.0

OVERALL: 

Manti Te’o gets an overall score of 8.69/10.00 from me. I have had the pleasure of seeing Manti play in person (Stanford @ Notre Dame in 2010) and between his motor and everything I listed above, I believe that Manti can be an All-Pro linebacker in the NFL. The one aspect of Te’o’s game that wasn’t taken into account above is how good he is in pass coverage. He figured something out between the end of the 2011 season and the beginning of the 2012 season because Te’o went from 0 picks in his career at Notre Dame to 7 in the course of one season. Many of those picks came in crucial situations and I believe that this will be the ability that whatever team that drafts him will love utilizing. It is something he does better than any linebacker in the 2013 draft. Now who will pick him? Personally, I believe that Te’o will be available at the end of the first round, because of the Lennay Kekua incident and questions about him that have risen from that, and the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens will snatch him up. The Ravens are losing middle linebacker and  future hall of famer Ray Lewis to retirement and they really couldn’t do better than picking up Manti Te’o as his replacement. Te’o will learn a lot playing alongside Terrell Suggs, Dannell Ellerbee and Courtney Upshaw. It’s not very fun being the man replacing the man, as Te’o would do if drafted by Baltimore, but I believe that he’ll be up to the challenge.

HIGHLIGHTS: 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and follow me on Twitter! @J_Vinton52

Next, I will be previewing Matt Elam, SS, Florida!

By Jeff Vinton, Blogger/Editor, On the Clock

Offensive lineman Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff gets into his stance before running a NFL Scouting Combine offensive lineman record 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash this morning.

Offensive lineman Terron Armstead of Arkansas-Pine Bluff gets into his stance before running a NFL Scouting Combine offensive lineman record 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash this morning. (Picture courtesy of atlantafalcons.com)

The NFL Scouting Combine began today with groups one through three, which consisted of offensive linemen, tight ends, and special teams players, taking the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The primary story to come from the performances today was that of 305-pound Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead in the 40-yard dash. Armstead, the second lineman to run the 40 this morning, ran a blistering time of 4.71 seconds. To put that time into perspective, last year’s top performer for offensive linemen in the 40 (Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma) ran a 4.94, the average time for offensive lineman today was a 5.23 and top prospect Luke Joeckel from Texas A&M ran a 5.30. Armstead’s time is the new record for offensive lineman at the Combine.

Armstead had already begun to shoot up draft boards because of his performance at the East-West Shrine Game last month. His 40 time, along with his 31 reps in the bench press, vertical jump of 34.5 inches and his broad jump of 112 inches will no doubt help make him rise up draft boards even more.

Other top performers on the day were Stanford’s Zach Ertz and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, the consensus top two tight ends in this year’s draft class.

There has been much coverage by the media over these two, who are battling to become the top tight end taken in the Draft on April 25. And battle they did today, as they interchanged spots in the top performers group through the various drills. Eifert bested Ertz in the 40-yard dash with times of 4.68 seconds and 4.76 seconds respectively. Ertz toppled Eifert in the bench press test by two reps, 24-22. Eifert came back and beat Ertz by five inches in the vertical jump, 35.5-30.5. That trend continued in the broad jump as Eifert out leaped Ertz 119 inches-111 inches. Analysts from NFL Network said that Ertz looked more natural catching the ball, so the battle lives on.

A story from off the field was also a large story during the first day of the Combine.

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o took to the podium at 2:15 p.m. EST, his first press conference since the Lennay Kekua incident and his first public appearance since his interview with Katie Couric. Te’o, whose press conference was called “a zoo” in a tweet by Miami Dolphins beat writer Ben Volin, was asked both questions about the incident and general football questions.

When asked if NFL teams had talked about the incident with him, Te’o said, “They all talked to me about it.”

Te’o also made it clear that he is done talking about the incident, first reported in January by Deadspin.com, and that he is moving on and focusing on football.

The NFL Scouting Combine consists of 11 groups each holding certain positions that take the field for drills over the course of four days. Group one has kickers, special teamers, and some offensive linemen. Group two is all offensive linemen, and group three is the tight ends. Groups four and five consist of quarterbacks and wide receivers, and the running backs are in group six. Groups seven and eight consist of defensive linemen and group nine has the linebackers. Groups 10 and 11 hold the defensive backs.

Tomorrow is the skill position day with groups four, five and six taking the field to participate in the various drills and impress NFL Scouts. Drills will begin at 9 a.m.

Coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine will continue through Tuesday, along with daily player previews on On the Clock: Your NFL Draft Destination.

You can call any position you draft a hit or miss proposition, but I think that a pass rusher is probably the most hit or miss position you can draft. Players can be absolutely dominating in college and come to the NFL and do absolutely nothing, i.e. Vernon Gholston. All a scout or general manager can really do is evaluate what they see on film and hope that he works out. With that in mind, Barkevious Mingo from LSU looks great on film and while it is still difficult to say whether or not he will work out in the NFL, I would be shocked if ended up being a complete bust.

Mingo is an intimidating human being; standing at 6’4” he has some great size for a defensive end and has a good wingspan. He has a great knack for batting balls down at the line of scrimmage, which is certainly a skill that NFL scouts will love to see when they watch his film. His length is something that not many human beings have, and it’s something any NFL team would love to add to their front seven.

Barkevious mainly played defensive end in LSU’s primarily 4-3 defensive scheme and did a great job of pushing the line back and creating havoc in the backfield. He also did a pretty good job in coverage when asked to spy on the opposing running back. I could easily see Mingo moving to outside linebacker in a 3-4 if he can continue working on his coverage abilities. It seems like Mingo is very flexible and defensive coordinators will fall in love with figuring out ways to use him their defensive schemes with exotic blitzes and coverages.

While Mingo didn’t have an outrageously high sack total this past season, only recording 4.5 sacks, he was a force in the Tiger’s defense. On nearly every play I watched, I saw him push back the offensive and create a new line of scrimmage, creating chaos in the opposing team’s backfield.  Mingo also plays the run fairly well; in three years for LSU Mingo recorded tackles for loss, a pretty impressive total.

One of the most impressive things I noticed about Mingo is his ability to take on double teams. Mingo was certainly known by other team’s offensive coordinators, so he had to deal with double teams regularly. Even with this hurdle, Mingo was still able to cause a lot of disruption, which is something that really impressed me while watching his film.

Mingo is just simply an impressive player to watch on film. He just seems like the kind of defensive player that can wear down an offensive line over the course of a game. He has great size, good speed, a good arsenal of pass rush moves, can play the run as well as the pass, and has some experience in pass coverage. I would have no problem taking Mingo in the top 10 and I think there is a good chance he makes an impact right away rushing the passer; that being said, there is no way I can be 100% that he won’t be a bust. I can only reiterate that I would be shocked if Mingo ended of being a flop of an NFL player.

Follow me on Twitter: @bill_slane

Highlights :