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Leonard, Nwosu lead pack of LBs who excel

Thu, Mar 01, 2018

Executive Director Phil Savage spent 20 years in the National Football League as a coach, scout, executive and general manager. Prior to the Combine, he will evaluate the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice sessions and game, position-by-position, for both the North and South squads. 

At the RSB, both teams are required to play a Base 4-3 front with an outside linebacker on the line-of-scrimmage (Sam) and two “box” linebackers as off-the-line defenders (Mike and Will). In Sub, a Nickel package can be utilized with the Sam becoming a defensive end or designated pass rusher and the two remaining backers defending the pass. Here is a breakdown of the standout “outside” and “inside” linebackers from the RSB week. 

Outside Linebackers/Edge Rushers

#42 Uchenna Nwosu/USC (S)         6020/245      H-9 2/8          A-33 4/8        WS-79
An under-rated prospect, Uhenna is an excellent football player, equally adept at defending the run or pass. He is big enough to set the edge as an OLB and has a knack for rushing the passer that includes his ability to bat away passes (as evidenced by his 13 breakups as a senior). Would expect him to become an NFL starter early in his career.

1-on-1 Pass Rush-                 Wins: 0           Losses: 2
1-on-1 Pass Coverage-          Wins: 0           Losses: 1 

Reese’s Pieces: As a two-year starter for the Trojans, Uchenna proved to be an impact player by accumulating 128 total tackles and 19 tackles-for-loss, including 12.5 sacks and 18 pass breakups.

#38 Marquis Haynes/Ole Miss (S)     6024/233      H-9 7/8          A-33               WS-77 5/8
This quick-twitched athlete has played all over the field for the Rebels during his career. He has legit burst off the edge and more power than his 233lbs would indicate. He is fast enough to play Will and chase plays from behind, but the opinion here is that he is best suited as an OLB in a 3-4 front. NFL teams will really want to know this prospect as the draft approaches because of his speed and upside potential.

1-on-1 Pass Rush-                 Wins: 4           Losses: 4

Reese’s Pieces: As a four-year starter, Marquis registered 172 total tackles and 47 tackles-for-loss, including 32 sacks (both school records). He was tabbed as a Freshman All-American in 2014 and proceeded to earn various levels of All-SEC honors the next three seasons.

#58 Kemoko Turay/Rutgers (N)     6043/252      H-9 3/8          A-33 5/8        WS-79 6/8
One of the best-looking prospects in this year’s RSB game, he has ideal height, arm length and athletic ability to project as an OLB in the 3-4. He has all the physical tools to become a player, but needs to finish at the quarterback better in his pass rush. As an accomplished track athlete in high school, his combination of size and explosion will be very intriguing to NFL teams. His task as a pro will be to elevate his production to match his potential.

1-on-1 Pass Rush-                 Wins: 1           Losses: 1
1-on-1 Pass Coverage-          Wins: 0           Losses: 1

Reese’s Pieces: Kemoko was selected as the Alabama Power Practice Award winner for the linebackers at the RSB. As a senior for the Scarlet Knights, he collected 60 total tackles and 6 tackles-for-loss, including 3 sacks.

Inside Linebackers/Box Defenders

#50 Darius Leonard/South Carolina St (S)      6020/229     H-10 3/8        A-34 1/8        WS-82
This MEAC Defensive Player of the Year projects well into the modern era of the NFL because of his frame, growth potential, athletic ability and speed. A rangy defender who can play in the box or expand outside to a slot receiver, he has four-down ability with instincts and the acceleration to get to the football.

1-on-1 Pass Rush-                 Wins: 4           Losses: 3
1-on-1 Pass Coverage-          Wins: 6           Losses: 3

Reese’s Pieces: Darius is the all-time leading tackler in SC State history with 393 stops and, in 2017, he had six games with 12 or more tackles. That trend continued in the RSB game when he led all defenders with 14 total hits.   

#4 Fred Warner/BYU (N)                6034/235      H-9 6/8          A-31 5/8        WS-77 2/8
Fred maximized his opportunity at the RSB by showing his versatility as a linebacker who can blitz, cover and tackle. A fluid athlete, he also has four-down potential and should be able to get on the field as a rookie in 2018.

1-on-1 Pass Rush-                 Wins: 2           Losses: 0
1-on-1 Pass Coverage-          Wins: 3           Losses: 4

Reese’s Pieces: As a three-year starter for the Cougars, Fred collected 264 total tackles, 32 tackles-for-loss (including 6.5 sacks), 13 pass breakups and 7 interceptions.

#18 Shaquem Griffin/UCF (S)         6002/223      H-9                  A-31 5/8        WS-66
One of the most compelling stories in NFL Draft history, Shaquem is THE most inspiring player to have made an appearance in Mobile during the 69-year history of the game. After having his left hand amputated at the age of 4 due to a birth defect, he has overcome numerous obstacles to reach this point of being on the verge of becoming a professional player. Shaquem has burst, quickness in space and a nose for the football. In watching him, the NFL scouts will grow to appreciate his hustle, versatility and close to the football. For the Texans, he lined up as an edge rusher, outside linebacker and safety during the week.

1-on-1 Pass Coverage-          Wins: 3           Losses: 2

Reese’s Pieces: In two seasons as a starter for UCF, Shaquem racked up 166 total tackles, 33.5 tackles-for-loss (including 18.5 sacks), 10 pass breakups and 2 interceptions. He was recently named the recipient of the first-ever Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award.