DE Joseph Ossai, Texas (6’4”, 253)

Background:

Rotated into the defense over twenty games as a freshman, going 20-1.0-1.0, before taking over a starting role the following year. Put together a 90-13.5-5.0 line, adding two interceptions. Followed that up with 55-15.5-5.5 as a junior over nine games before declaring for the draft. Also has five career forced fumbles, three of which came last year.

Positives:

Comes with two years of solid production for a major program. Big, thickly-built weakside rush linebacker in the Longhorns’ odd defensive front, giving him experience operating out of a two-point stance. Had a very impressive pro day, showing off his explosiveness with an incredible 41.5” vertical and 10’11” broad jump. That carries over into his play on the field; is capable of using his speed to blow past opposing tackles as a speed rusher, or to convert speed to power and generate pressure with his bull-rush. Closing speed is very impressive when he finds a lane; could be very effective on a team that schemed him paths to the passer on twists, etc. Shows a nice straight-arm/swim on occasion. High-motor guy who shows impressive speed and effort when working in backside pursuit. Flashes the ability to lock out defenders in the run game, locate, and shed in time to make a tackle, racking up a ton of stops over the past two seasons.

Negatives:

Production was inflated by getting a lot of clean releases into the backfield, and still didn’t post amazing sack totals in either season. Reaction times to the ball being snapped seem slightly slow. Contact balance leaves something to be desired. Still something of a one-trick pony; a speed-rusher/speed-to-power guy who still needs to polish his technique and diversify his approach before he’s ready to produce at the pro level. Can struggle to maintain balance on the edge in run defense, or when turning the corner as a pass-rusher. Doesn’t bend the tightest arc back to the passer and can end up running himself out of position, getting too deep into the backfield. Emphasis on speed rushing from wide alignments created some big holes for opposing backs to run through. Wasn’t really asked to drop into coverage during the games reviewed.

Summary:

A fast, explosive, and well-built edge defender who gives consistent effort in both the run game and on passing downs, but who is still raw at this point, being overly-reliant on speed rushes and speed-to-power approaches. Looks like a second-day project with considerable upside for a team which is willing to give him time to develop additional rush moves/counters. Will also have to show better balance on contact and when pursuing in the run game to avoid being a situational pass-rusher type. Consequently, draft stock will probably depend on how coachable teams think he is.

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