LB Josh Uche, Michigan

6’1” – 241 lbs.

Appeared in four games as a freshman, then ten games the following year, mostly as a reserve linebacker and special-teams contributor. Posted 15-8.0-7.0 in an expanded role as a junior, then became a full-time starter as a senior and went 35-11.5-8.5. On the smaller side for an edge defender in terms of his height and weight, but arms measured a solid 33.5” at the Senior Bowl; came in an inch and nine pounds under his listed weight. Predominantly asked to rush out of a two-point stance off either edge, but also took a lot of his snaps as an off-ball linebacker or with his hand in the dirt. Was a productive pass-rusher over the past two years. More tenacious than quick or explosive in that role; effort-based rusher with tools that leave something to be desired. Struggles to win with his first step on speed rushes and isn’t a threat to collapse the pocket with his bull rush; relies more heavily on inside moves to generate pressure. Ultimately, it’s unclear whether a relatively undersized, underpowered rusher with what looks like average explosiveness will be able to make a big impact in that phase of the game. Despite a stat line which is more impressive as a pass-rusher, is probably at his most impressive on tape when working in coverage and ranks among the top edge defenders in this year’s class when it comes to making drops. When opponents bunched receivers tight to one side of the formation, would often play as more of an off-ball coverage ‘backer. Has adequate speed to carry opposing targets to the next zone, and plays with the discipline teams look for in that role. Gets enough depth in his drops, and has the closing speed to plant and drive on a spot when working zones or when spying opposing quarterbacks. Also does a decent job as a run defender, mostly by giving good effort in pursuit and maintaining discipline when working on the backside. Plays low and keeps his shoulder square, but is lacking the type of power to walk back opposing tackles and reset the line of scrimmage. Has active hands, but got glued to blocks too often during the games reviewed. Seems a little bit like a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none who can line up in different spots on the field, doing an adequate job as both a pass-rusher and run defender because of his tenacity and discipline, and who was also comfortable handling pretty extensive coverage responsibilities.

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