2020 NFL Draft | Prospect film session with Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia


I sat down for an interview with the most underrated cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft class in Iowa’s Michael Ojemudia. He is a skilled yet smart corner who is flying way under the radar in this talented cornerback class.

To start today’s film session, I wanted to get a better picture of Ojemudia as a leader for the Hawkeyes. He was named to the Leadership Group in 2019 for Iowa, and I was curious as to what that group is and what Ojemudia’s role was in it:

“That’s a group that is voted on by the coaches. It is basically like the most trusted leaders and it is mostly the older guys. If something goes on in the program, the group determines how the team should handle it going forward. It is an honor to be voted to it and when you get older, it is something you look forward to because you can make a lot of decisions for the team. You can decide things like curfew and things with the schedule. Coach Ferentz is really good at listening to how the players feel, so we really relay how the younger guys feel to the coaches.”

The other question I had for Ojemudia before we started looking at film was regarding his speed. So many scouting reports had him listed as relatively slow, and he definitely took note of that, as his pinned tweet on Twitter is him talking about his 4.45-second 40 time with the quotations “not fast enough.” I asked him how it felt to kind of prove the doubters wrong with his impressive Combine performance:

“It felt great, honestly. During the Senior Bowl and Combine, I was telling on the scouts that I was gonna run a 4.4 and they can check me off on that. Just to run that and prove the doubters wrong because a lot of people have this stigma about Iowa guys not being able to run, so yeah, it felt great to go out there and perform well.”

The big question I had for Ojemudia was about his game against Penn State. It wasn’t his greatest statistical game, but it was a really solid outing for him against a top opponent. My question for him, though, was about Iowa’s defense. They diversified their coverages and made life very hard for Penn State in this one. I asked Ojemudia why it is so important to mix up coverages not only against a team like Penn State, but against anyone:

“If teams know what you are going to do, they know exactly how to attack you. No matter how good your players are, there is always a soft spot in your defense that offenses can attack and have success. Always changing up the defense and keeping the offense honest is so important for success in this game and many others.”

Clip 1

The first question I had based on this clip was about quarters coverage. Iowa played that coverage a ton last season, so I asked him what the benefits are of that scheme and how it helped his game as a senior:

“I just feel like quarters is the most safe and solid coverage because if they go two by two, then everybody has a man, basically. It has its weaknesses, but if you run four verticals against cover three, then that’s the hardest, so I think quarters really limits teams who like to go vertical.”

One thing I noticed on this clip and in a lot of Ojemudia’s film is that he likes to shuffle out of his stance rather than backpedal. I asked him why he prefers the shuffle technique and if it is something the school teaches or something he just prefers to do:

“This is actually a good clip for that because my initial read is on the quarterback. After I see the quarterback is in his three-step, I know it’s a quick throw and I can drive on it right away. Why the shuffle is good is when he goes to a five step, I can already have my hips open and play the route. When we are playing off, we like to steal some passes with our eyes on the quarterback in the shuffle.”

With the shuffle technique typically comes something called a speed turn. A speed turn is when the defender shuffles facing the quarterback and actually spins to the outside on out routes and such to quickly close on the ball. Despite being in shuffle technique here, though, Ojemudia breaks on the ball without committing a full speed turn on the out route. I asked him if he is comfortable doing a speed turn and when he knows to use this technique in game:

“What we are taught is the hardest thing a defensive back has to cover is the post. So if you open to the post, you can react back to anything. On this play, I opened up to the inside and kept my zone eyes. If he were to push up a little more and attack my blind spot, then I would slip over and speed turn, but I didn’t really have to use it here because I was reading that quarterback on the three-step.”

I then asked Ojemudia about opening his hips to the post on plays like this. Does he open his hips according to what the receiver does, or is it when he feels himself getting to a certain landmark?:

“We have drills for that in practice, actually. When he is pushing you and stepping on your toes, you gotta open up and go. The go or the post are what you don’t want to get beat on, so when he’s breaking that cushion by about 2-3 yards, you gotta open up and go.”

Clip 2

I cut up this play because I thought it was a very interesting coverage. Ojemudia starts off in press man but then fades back into quarters coverage. I asked him exactly what this play call was that had him dropping like this:

“It’s basically just like glass play, it’s basic quarters. With our quarters, we can either do press quarters or we can bail quarters or, as you get older, you can play with it a little bit. I expected him to be running vertical, so I wanted to press it, but as he went inside, I sent that straight to the linebacker. After passing him off, I dropped back to help Geno (Stone) on the seven route.”

This was an interesting answer by Ojemudia, so I wanted to dig a little more. I asked him if this was design for him to be that close to the line or if that was his call to press up on the outside:

“That was a feel thing for me because I really wanted to press number 5 all game.”

That led to me asking how much free rein he had on the defense this past year to be able to make those calls and adjustments for himself like that in game:

“The more you progress in the system at Iowa, the more you get your coaches’ trust. This game, I would say I had that because there are some calls from the sideline where you can play it how you want. I had some free rein, but as long as you do your job, that is the number one thing. As you get older and gain trust, though, they give you more free rein in this program.”

Clip 3

Ojemudia gets a bit of a bad rap when it comes to press coverage because Iowa plays so much zone, but he had a lot of promising reps in press-man last season. I asked him to start out with what type of press technique they practiced at Iowa and what techniques he prefers:

“At Iowa we called it a step off, which is a little shuffle, trying to stay square, trying to get hands when he gets out of his release. On this play, I shuffle to get him off his clean release and he stumbles a little bit. I think this was cover one, so you have some post help, but you don’t want to get beat on the go, so you have to stay on top. I sat on top here, and at the last second I tried to slip him because I knew it would be a hard throw for the quarterback, but I just missed out on that play.”

Ojemudia does a good job on this rep of making the receiver over-step and throw off timing of the play. I asked him how important it is in press man to have that patience at the line and allow receivers to take themselves out of plays:

“There are so many techniques, but the base thing with press is just being patient because receivers are trying to get you off your line off the release. I feel like he did too much at the release, which really messed up the timing, especially for a third down play. Timing is precious, so if you can bottle them up enough at the line to throw off their timing, then you won.”

The last question I had about press coverage was about the step-kick technique. It’s a technique made famous by the Seahawks, a team that uses a scheme that players with Ojemudia’s profile typically perform well in. I asked him if he has experience in this technique and how comfortable he is in it:

“It was a big thing we did at the Senior Bowl. Getting wisdom with that and learning that step with a punch. I’ve seen Richard Sherman do that over time, too, so I’m really open to learning new techniques. At the Senior Bowl I worked on those techniques when we were playing man all day and night, so I’m definitely open to learning more about it.”

Clip 4

Run defense and screen defense is so important for corners nowadays, so I wanted to walk through a play like that with Ojemudia. I asked him to start about what his role is on plays like this when he sees a screen coming his way and he has a one-on-one blocker in front of him:

“What I’m seeing is KJ (Hamler) tight to the formation, and I know they want to use him any way they could. We are actually in cover three, but I didn’t have to go anywhere because my threat didn’t move, so I trigger fast and play physical. If you can get physical against blocks and competing on the outside, it makes a difference.”

I asked him next about the overall importance of being physical in both the run game and the pass game as a corner:

“In high school, I was actually a linebacker/safety so I always kept that mentality going through college. At Iowa, we do blocking drills once or twice a week with the receivers so we are always being physical. So if you are [at] Iowa and you are a DB, you have to be ready to take on blocks. I’m glad Iowa made me tougher than what I was when I initially came in.”

Clip 5

With this last clip, I wanted to ask Ojemudia about his zone eyes because they really are a strength in his game. I asked him what zone eyes are and how he uses them to make plays like this one:

“This was actually a funny play for me because we are in cover three again, but the quarterback is trying to play games with me because they like to do quick things when they are in empty formation. He pumps me a little bit, but I stay true and I almost made the pick, man, and I knew the coaches were gonna be mad at me and I was mad because that was my job, but like I said earlier, being smart and also playing your assignment is what I did all year.”

I had one last film question for Ojemudia. I wanted to know how important film study was for him going into each game and what he would look for before each match-up:

“At Iowa playing a lot of zone, that is key number one. If you aren’t watching film, you are going to end up lost. I actually remember all these plays because I’ve watched so many clips about them and you prepare so much that you won’t forget for a while, so playing a corner playing zone, you are going to make your money watching film. Offenses tell you what they are going to do. It is going to be harder at the next level, but trusting your technique and trusting the film is how you make your money as a corner.”

I had one final question for Ojemudia before I let him go. I wanted to know what my team would be getting both on and off the field if they spent a draft pick on this talented cornerback:

“The number one competitor. My best ball is also in front of me. You watched the film and you know I left some plays out there so I feel like I haven’t reached how good I can be yet. If a team picks me, I’m invested and I don’t want to just be in the NFL, I want to be the absolute best. My competitiveness and drive that I’ve grown up with is what teams will love about me.”