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Owusu-Koramoah's versatility has him atop the NFL Draft's linebacker list

By Ashton Pollard | April 12
Owusu-Koramoah's versatility has him atop the NFL Draft's linebacker list
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

A former No. 40 player at his position coming out of high school is now the No. 1 linebacker prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Notre Dame linebacker and Hampton, Va. native Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, affectionately known as "Wu" by many of you, was the No. 40 outside linebacker in his class according to Rivals. This past year, he was a unanimous All-American, the 2020 ACC Player of the Year and the winner of the 2020 Butkus Award, the award given to the nation’s best defensive player. Talk about exceeding expectations.

The depth at linebacker in this year’s NFL Draft class is arguably the best in years. Missouri’s Nick Bolton and Texas’ Joseph Ossai are names that will likely be called Thursday evening or early on Friday. The name most commonly listed ahead of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is Penn State’s Micah Parsons. However, Wu’s pass rushing, tackling and coverage abilities demonstrate he is the most versatile linebacker entering the NFL this year.

Owusu-Koramoah has the pass rushing abilities of a traditional linebacker, and his speed allows him to cross the field quickly. Bursts like this keep even the most elusive players like former Navy quarterback Malcolm Perry in check. When the Irish played Iowa State in the 2019 Camping World Bowl, Wu sacked quarterback Brock Purdy, who is known for his footwork and ability to evade defenders, three times.

Wu can tackle. He only contributed for the Irish during two seasons in 2019 and 2020, as he sat out his freshman year, and he broke his foot early in the 2018 season before he recorded a tackle. Over 25 games in an Irish uniform, he recorded 142 total tackles, with 96 solo tackles. 24.5 of the total tackles were for loss, and he had seven sacks. He had six nine-tackle games over his career. Owusu-Koramoah hits so hard that The Athletic’s Pete Sampson wrote a piece on the physics behind it.

He forced five fumbles and recovered four fumbles, returning one of them for a touchdown against Clemson in November 2020 on a play that will forever live in the Irish history books.

Admittedly, Parsons has similar numbers in this category, with 191 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks over 26 games during his time in Happy Valley.

But where Owusu-Koramoah stands above other top picks at his position like Micah Parsons is in the coverage category. He can line up both at the line of scrimmage and in the slot and played both linebacker and safety in high school before moving to the rover position at Notre Dame. While he is only 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, a fact which NFL scouts are supposedly harping on, his size is actually an asset when it comes to covering quick wide receivers.

While at Notre Dame, he had seven total pass break-ups. He has the quickness and vertical abilities to break up passes, as is evidenced here by this pass break-up from a 2019 game against Virginia Tech. His 39-inch vertical landed him on Bruce Feldman’s 2020 Freakiest Athletes List, where Feldman touted his explosiveness. He recorded an interception in 2020 against Pittsburgh, while Parsons finished his career at Penn State without one.

In an NFL where offenses are quickly becoming very pass-heavy, it is crucial to have a nimble linebacker who can move laterally and essentially doubles as a third safety.

Clark Lea said it best: “I think that he is the evolution of the game at the second level. I think he is exactly the kind of guy that we’re seeing become more relevant and more coveted, both in college and in the pros.”

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah fits this profile better than any other linebacker in this draft, and his name should be called first among the position group on April 29.