Owamagbe Odighizuwa's playing career with the UCLA Bruins was unremarkable prior to 2014. He started six games as a freshman in 2010 under first year head coach Jim Mora Jr. accounting for four sacks that year.
He would start only two more games in the next two years before missing the entire 2013 season with a hip injury that required two surgeries to correct. The Bruins lost both of their starting outside linebackers (Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt) to the 2014 NFL draft and Odighizuwa was left in a good position to be the starter once again. Voted as a co-captain of the Bruins 2014 team he amassed 61 total tackles, tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 11.5 and finished with six sack. He was voted the 2nd team All-PAC-12 by the coaches of his conference for his efforts.
Odighizuwa has the look of an NFL player, boasting an incredibly muscular 6-foot-3.5, 266 pound frame (measured at Senior Bowl) with coveted 33.25 inch arm length and giant 11.25 inch hand size.
He was used the most as a 5-technique defensive end in UCLA's hybrid 3-4 defense but saw snaps where he went outside as a 7-technique defensive end, standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and even a few passing downs as the under tackle in a four man front. He is a versatile player and the main reason for this is because of the impressive power he displays.
Watching Odighizuwa on this play perfectly exemplifies what a player needs to do to be an effective run defender. Odighizuwa comes off the line low and quick, his hands are inside the offensive tackle, he generates power from his lower body, and extends his arms to create separation.
The result is Odighizuwa drives the 6-foot-8 350 pounds RT three yards into the backfield. He then is able to shed the RT and take the running back down for a loss.
His hand placement and leverage are consistently superior to many college defenders, which makes him a great run defender. This technique added to his natural power makes him a player who should continue this success in the NFL.
This is important for the Steelers because their outside linebackers (aside from James Harrison) have struggled in setting the edge in the run game and opposing teams have chosen to run at them in almost every game.
Odighizuwa isn't just a power player. He displays surprising quickness on inside move against the run as well. He also has a relentless motor as a pass rusher.
The biggest red flag on Odighizuwa's resume is medical. He missed the entire 2013 football season with a hip injury that required two surgeries to correct. Any team that is interested in Odighizuwa will have to get that injury cleared from their medical staff.
Odighizuwa displays only an average burst off the line of scrimmage. He won't beat even the worst offensive tackles in the NFL on his speed alone. He also doesn't look natural as a pass rusher. For as good as his hand usage is against the run, as a pass rusher, he needs a lot of work. Often times he just uses his power to beat college offensive tackles. The following play highlights this.
He gets off the line well, gets his hands into the offensive tackle, and gets separation which is great. After that... nothing. While he eventually swats at the ball with his long arms, hitting it causing an interception for a touchdown, he really could have done a lot better on this play.
He worked the tackle into a compromising position and should have capatalized on this dropping his pad level and ripping through him. Instead he just continued to drive into the tackle and pushed his way into position to make a play.
This is consistent with his film and makes it apparent Odighizuwa isn't developed as a pass rusher.
There are also some fluidity concerns with Odighizuwa, which may have something to do with being only a year away from hip injury. He also has no experience dropping back into coverage. With the concerns about his change of direction skills, he most likely wouldn't excel in this area.
Odighizuwa tore up Senior Bowl practices. He was roughly ten pounds lighter than the weight he played at in college and was too quick and too strong for the South linemen to block in practice. However, he still showed the same uncomfortable movement as a pass rusher in drills.
He will surprise people with his athleticism in the times drills. While he doesn't have the best burst off the line Odigihizuwa has the power and enough quickness to be a solid pass rusher if he can develop a couple of moves and learn to keep opposing tackles hands off of him.
He is a 8-10 sack a year player if he can accomplish this. His play as a run defender speaks for itself. Look for Odighizuwa to continue his climb as he becomes a late first round talent and a player the Steelers should definitely look into early in the draft.