LB Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma*

6’3” – 240 lbs.

Background:

Redshirted three games into his freshman year, then took over a starting role midway through the following year, finishing with a line of 43-6.5-3.5. Went 32-10.5-8.0 over ten games in 2020, then declared after a junior campaign in which he posted 39-15.0-7.0.

Positives:

Comes with two years of impressive production at a major program. Very impressive athlete who gets up to speed in a hurry when playing downhill. Bends a pretty smooth arc to the passer as an edge rusher. Creative player who mixes up his rush approach regularly. Some ability to convert speed to power because of his leverage and explosiveness; comes in low and does a nice job of staying on course through contact, keeping his legs driving to walk back opponents. Active with his hands. Does a nice job of getting low and dipping his shoulders around the edge, or when working through traffic in the run game. Nice inside moves to disrupt rushing attempts in the backfield. Gets good extension with his arms to lock out blockers. Flashes the ability to maintain outside leverage and funnel runners back inside. Has sideline-to-sideline range in pursuit and is capable of chasing down opposing ballcarriers from the backside. Looks very smooth making spot drops in zone coverage, and was asked to drop regularly; fluid hips when changing directions.

Negatives:

On the light side for a rush linebacker in an odd defensive front. Wasn’t really asked to do much as a true off-ball linebacker or out of a three-point stance. Contact balance in the run game leaves something to be desired; gets jolted too easily. Can be sealed inside by chip blocks. Tends to win with his initial move and can struggle to disengage. More likely to over blockers than to scrape down the line when playing the run. Spin move looks inconsistent in terms of control/balance. Coverage responsibilities were pretty much limited to zone during the games reviewed.

Summary:

A stand-up edge rusher who’s very well-suited to the modern game because of his explosiveness, flexibility, creativity, and ability to drop into coverage, he has the look of a threat on passing downs, particularly for a team which prizes disruptiveness in a scheme with one-gap principles. Could conceivably play the weakside linebacker spot in an odd front or work as a rush linebacker/Leo in an even front, although he may have to add a little bit of bulk if teams want him to work out of a three- or four-point stance.

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