Picks to Pop: North Texas' Joe Ozougwu

The Ozougwu home is a land of linebackers, literally. Cheta Ozougwu played at Rice and parlayed that experience into a five year NFL career. Now little brother Joe Ozougwu (pronounced Ozougwu) is following in his big brother's footsteps, sort of. Ozougwu is a sophomore at North Texas, north of the Ozougwu's Alief area home. 

Cheta was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2011 NFL Draft but spent parts of five seasons with Texans, Bears, and Saints. Cheta played defensive end at Rice but moved to an outside linebacker in the League. Little brother Joe is already taller than his brother and quickly filling out thanks to Zack Womack's offseason regiment. Ozougwu added 30 pounds in two seasons on campus. 

Last season Ozougwu gave Mean Green fans a glimpse of his potential in a couple of games. His six-tackle performance against Louisiana Tech, spelling Joshua Wheeler. In four mid-season games, while playing at 217 pounds, Ozougwu made five tackles for loss in four games. 

Ozougwu may yet eat his way into a defensive end position but that 20 pounds from now if at all. In the meantime, his arm length makes him a tough get for tackles. It can make up for a lot of athletic deficiencies. We're not saying Ozougwu is deficient athletically, but let's say he's not fluid. 

Here's an example of Ozougwu using his get off and length to get into the chest of a tackle. 

This play looks like the nose, and the end run a twist game, the end crashes into the guard, essentially leading on him and trying to take the center out in his wake. The nose then comes around and fits the empty space. Meanwhile, Ozougwu makes a nice subtle upfield move before crashing into the vacated space. He attacks the tackles play side shoulder and uses his outside arm to punch or shock the tackle. The big edge protector can't recover, and Ozougwu is free to the back. 

Defensive line play is a space game; you want to close it down and get into the protector's chest by winning off the snap. If you can shoot your hands and get them off balance you can do all those fun swim moves the kids like these days. If you can close space and get into his chest, you can bull him. On the draw above, Ozougwu takes advantage of the space created by the end's crash and ATTACKS the green grass, closing space, dropping his shoulder and going where the tackle has no help. 

Life is fun when no one blocks you. Here's Ozougwu, unaccounted for and making a beeline for the ball carrier. 

Last Chance U star and all around "team first as long as I have my Auburn offer" quarterback John Franklin gets a high snap on this run. He makes what he can of it, but the timing is off. Ozougwu uses his get off to make FAU pay for leaving him unblocked. 

Now, far be it from us to critique but hey, we're here right? Two things make a player hesitate, lack of comfort/experience and fear. We don't think Ozougwu falls prey to the latter, but he does seem to chop his steps like he's got a bit of indecision at times. Offenses want that hesitation. Another season in Troy Reffett's system and understanding the speed of the game should alleviate some of that choppiness and get him moving with more purpose downhill. 

At Alief Taylor we didn't see that hesitance or choppiness, he was the classic see, hit ball defensive end. That's why you see him excel in calls that let him use his great anticipation and get-off to go upfield. He's lightening quick. 

Ozougwu was a project when he signed, but he has the frame and a nice set of tools to be a terrific linebacker in CUSA. If he gets more comfortable with Reffett's system, he can be a monster. Ozougwu's progress during spring ball indicates his comfort level is growing. 

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