- Extremely versatile player
- Physical defender, wants to land the initial blow
- Very strong hands, punishes tight ends, there is no such thing as a free release
- Uses his length and hand jolt really well
- Able to anchor at the point of attack, wins matchups versus tight ends
- Recognizes gap concepts quickly, sees the down blocks, takes on the pulling guard with the proper shoulder, boxes runs in
- Uses speed to slant inside and get across the face of tight ends and tackles on runs away from him
- Did not drop into coverage often, but when he did he spaced route concepts well; plays deep to short, will not just scream to the flats to cover his guy; forces the QB to work high to low, minimizing pass completions behind his area.
- Eyes are tied to feet, where the QB’s eyes go, he goes
- Utilized as a spot dropper (Rat defender) near the line of scrimmage and is the best in the country at reading the quarterback’s eyes, depth of the drop, release point, able to get in the passing lane and time his jumps to bat down passes. Nwosu led the country in batted passes with 10.
- Is able to clog passing lanes with his wingspan and length near the the line of scrimmage or at the second level, very useful versus opponents’ quick game.
- Consistently first off the ball, times the snap with good explosiveness as an edge rusher, wins with agility and change of direction, uses the stutter rush frequently; go to move is the stab chop and shows the ability to win the edge with speed.
- Can be a major asset in pressure packages because of his athleticism. Quarterbacks will be kept guessing if he is rushing or dropping.
- Better at reading the ball than offensive lineman’s blocking intentions
- Struggles to recognize zone blocking, can get eaten up by reach blocks
- Unable to recover to regain contain after slow recognition
- Struggles to recognize zone blocking, can get eaten up by reach blocks
- Can lose contain on naked bootlegs
- Pass rush
- False steps out of a two point stance
- Overly reliant on explosiveness to win the edge
- Needs more complementary moves
- Exposes chest too often, giving tackles a nice target area to slow his rush down
- Lacks an array of primary pass rush moves and/or plan
- Doesn’t exhibit the ability to counter offensive tackles
- Too often a simple rip as his secondary move would win the matchup
- Didn’t see loose hips, lower body leg strength or bend to win versus good tackles
- USC vs. UCLA
- USC vs. Ohio State
- USC vs. Stanford
- USC vs. Texas
- 2017 Senior Bowl
- 2016 USC vs. Alabama
- 2016 USC ccs. Arizona State
Uchenna Nwosu is the type of player that will become the glue of a defense. He was voted a captain his final year at USC and led by example with his physical and tenacious play on the field. As a pass rusher, his ‘ace in the hole’ was his athleticism. His ability to time the snap and explode off the ball gave him the upper hand against most tackles. He paired that speed with a good stab-chop move and a spin move from time to time. His length and use of hands are very good for a defender that is considered ‘undersized’ for an edge player, and it helped him stack and hold the point of attack. He is also an above average tackler.
Tight ends who have to line up across from Nwosu should be worried, as he makes their lives a living hell. Nwosu dominates them in the run game and continuously makes their releases into routes difficult. He displays an uncanny ability to clog passing lanes. Whether it is near the line of scrimmage as a pass rusher or when dropping into the underneath zones, Nwosu is able to time up quarterbacks’ deliveries better than I have ever seen. He knows when to discontinue his pass rush plan knowing he isn’t going to get to the QB in time. He reads their eyes to get into the lane, then times his jump to bat the ball down. His coverage experience was limited to underneath zones and the occasional matching of the #3 threat out of the backfield or tight ends running under routes from across the formation. His limitations in coverage were due to the scheme, not a lack of ability. He is smooth and comfortable backpedaling, can scan his area for threats, then plant and make the tackle.
If utilized as a pass rusher, there are a few things that he needs to work on. While in a two point stance, he false steps as the ball is snapped, which neutralizes his jump. At times he can leave his chest open to tackles and fails to produce a counter move when tackles match his intensity and speed. His reactiveness to runs away from him can cause him to lose contain on naked bootlegs, allowing the quarterback an extra second to tuck and run or to find open receivers. Against the run he is slow to react to outside zone blocking concepts. He gets reached by offensive tackles due to slow processing and then is unable to work back play side to hold contain. He also surrendered the edge on pin/down blocks on pin and pull runs.
Overall, Nwosu graded out to a 4.091, which is a 4th round grade. With his physicality, I would like to see him as an on-the-ball linebacker to the strength, so that he can hold the point of attack versus the run (Sam in an under front). His versatility as an edge rusher will allow defensive coordinators to use him as a defensive end to the weak side for the very same reasons. He should be heavily involved as a rusher in pressure packages, as he will not win consistently rushing 1-on-1. Nwosu is the kind of player whose coordinator is going to love him because of the tenacity, physicality, and innate gifts that he will bring to the table.
USC vs. UCLA
The USC defender is closing in, but Rosen is able to get the pass off because he anticipates it deep. It does seem to hang a little too long, though. Doesn’t matter, because the play was called back because of an illegal man downfield.
Nwosu is one of the best in the country at recognizing the depth of the drop by the QB, processing the release point and trajectory of the throw, timing the jump, and batting passes down. He gets Rosen here.
I love the physicality that Nwosu plays with from his hybrid linebacker/safety role. He does not let tight ends easily release into their routes. His disruption throws off the timing of this play, but he is also cognizant of the Bruins’ favorite play, the Y-stack. After jamming the tight end, he helps take the pass to the tight end away.
Always gets his hands on the tight end before dropping to his area. Here he’s aligned into the boundary outside the TE and appears to be very comfortable backpedaling while keeping his eyes on the QB and spacing the routes around him.
Even though Rosen threads this pass for the touchdown, Nwosu delivers a nice blow to the tight end. That’s what you need from an outside linebacker, especially one that projects as a Sam linebacker.
Nwosu recognizes the down block at the point of attack, holds his ground to ‘box’ the play in for his teammates. Pretty strong at the point of attack and good technique.
For a linebacker he spaces concepts rather well. While this play didn’t attack his side of the field, he splits the depth and width perfectly between the stick route run by the TE and the flat route by the H-back. That’s the kind of spacing that can deter QBs from throwing it to either of those routes.
On this play Nwosu is in a two point stance rushing versus a possible day one tackle in Kolton Miller. Good jump off the snap, attempts a stab chop, but he is unable to beat the edge down enough to get past Miller (possibly a hold). Not a bad rep, though. Good plan, just have to have a counter or secondary combination.
This should have been a sack by Nwosu; Rosen gives him a shoulder shake and it causes Nwosu to hesitate. Nice play by Rosen on 4th-and-10.
He has such pop in his hands. Here he’s lined up wide and the speed and explosiveness upfield gives him the advantage. But then he exhibits great hand placement and leverage to create a pressure.
As a linebacker aligned to the strength of formations, he is going to be very tough to run against. He is strong at the point of contact and has the length (33 5/8″) to beat tight ends and a good portion of tackles.
Nwosu is lined up just outside the tight end, and as the ball is snapped he immediately recognizes the blocking concept, so he flashes across the face of the tight end. With the inside leverage and the ball staying inside, Nwosu is able to bring the back down.
He is a little raw as a pass rusher but is pretty fluent in the stab-chop move. Uses it here, and again it wins, but then after that he gets hung up because he doesn’t rip, and the tackle Miller is then able to get up under his pads. But he does exhibit good change of direction and leverage to use Miller’s momentum against him to cut back inside.
This kid is incredible. Nwosu batted 10 passes in 2017. Watch him drop, continue moving his feet ever so slightly until he is in the passing lane. Then, as Rosen starts the delivery, he times the jump perfectly and nearly picks the pass off. If he doesn’t get his hands on that, it’s a completion.
On 3rd-and-22, Nwosu blows by the running back to sack Rosen.
A very athletic play by Nwosu; as the ball is snapped he slants hard inside but then spins back outside. To complete the spin, he smacks the hand down of the tight end and and rips through to the back.
His coverage skills seem relegated to hook, curl, flats responsibilities, but he does a good job of redirecting tight ends and holding the typical 5-yard no cover zone that coordinators like. He doesn’t just scream to the running back flaring out; he maximizes his depth to prevent anything from being throw behind his zone before coming downhill.
It seems like a relentless attack on tight ends – even when they release across the middle, Nwosu affects their route stem. But the defensive back is late to react and Rosen converts the 3rd down.
After the Bruins scored a touchdown, Nwosu uses his hands and athleticism really well to overwhelm the tackle and get the pressure on Rosen.
USC vs. Ohio State
Nwosu is stacked behind the nose tackle and rushes the passer. He times it up perfectly, shrinks his surface area and is able to get by center Billy Price.
Another pressure is registered by Nwosu here as he senses the tackle over set. He cuts back inside but is bumped off of his line to the QB by his teammate.
He is going to make some team that plays an under front very happy. Whether he is lined up as an edge presence or Sam linebacker, he will help shut down the run. In an under front, he will be lined up to the strength of the formation and will be very strong at the point of attack if the run is at him. But if it is to the weak side, he is quick enough to slant across the face of tight ends to disrupt the play altogether.
Nwosu is always one of the first rushers off of the ball; he times the snaps well. But his explosiveness and timing is wasted here because he false steps with his right foot. He is still able to get the edge on the tackle and dip under the block.
On this play, Nwosu is aligned just outside the tight end in a seven technique. The tight end and tackle work a combo block and easily turn him inside. He does not possess the strength to work back playside after combo blocks or once reach blocked.
If the defense isn’t slanting Nwosu inside, he can get eaten up by tackles, specifically on reach blocks. He needs to be aligned in a 7 or 9 tech outside so that he can use his first step and hand strikes versus tight ends.
Another pressure by Nwosu created by his strong hands. He gets stonewalled initially, but he continues to fight and his heavy hands give him an opening to swing his hips through for the pressure.
Nwosu can be utilized as a chess piece. He is a guy that rushed the quarterback a lot, but zone blitz teams or teams that play a lot of mobile QBs can use the skills he brings to the table. He can bluff blitz but then drop as a hook to curl defender or even as a spy. He drops and attempts to get into the quick game area, but the QB waits for the secondary window.
This sack was purely based on the stunt and inability of the guard to recognize it, but with that said, Nwosu’s timing does play a part. If he shows as the looper too soon, the tackle can call it out and maybe the guard recognizes it sooner. It was also a decent tackle on the quarterback, a guy who is known for his ability to extend plays.
USC vs. Stanford
Tackles are aware of his athleticism and how he relies on his up the field burst. Here the tackle oversets, so Nwosu cuts back inside and works through the double to cause a pressure.
Does a great job of dropping as a rat defender but then finding the threats and making the tackle. Another example of how comfortable he is in his backpedal.
Nwosu registered 5 batted passes this game! Look at his explosiveness and ability to read the QB and get his hands up.
Here is his patented stab-chop move. Another good jump off the ball and a quick stab-chop that gets him the edge. Then he is able to snatch a leg for the sack.
It really is incredible how well he is able to bat down passes. He knows when there isn’t a chance to get to the QB, so instead of wasting a rush, he reads the QB’s eyes, gets in the passing lane and times jumps perfectly.
USC vs. Texas
Defensive coordinators love to disguise their coverages, and having a guy like Nwosu playing that DE/LB position can really help them do that. On this play a QB wouldn’t expect the DE in this nickel look to peel off and take the #3 threat of the offense.
On this play, he shows he has a spin move and uses it to spin back inside as the QB hits the top of his drop.
His spin move is very powerful, and on this play it causes the offensive lineman to stumble.
Impeccable timing on these plays; it’s unbelieveable.
Another well-timed rush and pressure. Explosive out of the gate, uses what appears to be a stab-chop to win the edge, but unable to wrap up the QB.
A lot of people want to simply put him as an off-the-ball linebacker, but I think that would be a waste of his talent. This is exactly why his skillset is useful. He is lined up as an edge defender and it is difficult to know if he is going to rush or drop. Here he drops, takes away the #3 WR, then slides to the middle of the field. As the QB leaves the pocket, he can now attack.
A quick stab outside and then an inside line to the QB. Uses the rip and strength to register the pressure on the QB.
The defense aligns in an under front, and Nwosu drops to the hook-to-curl area. Isn’t an integral part of the play, but shows off his comfort and fluidity as a pass dropper.
There is that hand pop versus opposing tight ends. Immediately disengages after contact.
This shows up far too often on film. He is usually one of the quicker pass rushers off the snap and usually times it well, but his false step wastes time and movement.
This is where I think he will be at the next level: on the ball as a Sam linebacker in an under front, or as a Sam in an over front on the ball. Always aligned to the strength of the formation, where he can use his length and hands to match up vs. TEs. Holds the point of attack against the duo concept, then disengages. The defensive back was late to fill.
Much like I said in the last breakdown, put him on the ball as a Sam linebacker. He can play the run vs. tight ends or disrupt their releases and drop.
4th-and-2 and the offense runs another duo concept, and he plays on their side of the line of scrimmage.
Plays like these show that he isn’t a proficient pass rusher. He has to read run-to-pass, and after the play action fake, he doesn’t have the pass rush moves if he isn’t winning with timing and explosiveness.
Nwosu is in a three point stance, purely rushing, and he is easily neutralized. No plan or counter move to the tackle.
Really nice move by Nwosu and something to build on. Here he reads the play action quicker and is prepared; he uses his hands to execute a push-pull move to win the edge.
Late in the game Nwosu finally got a chance to play some off the ball linebacker. Here the defense plays a Tampa 2 look, and he is responsible for opening and dropping to the deep middle and settling. Right about when he is going to settle, he peeks at the WR and Gallup appears to be continuing vertically, so he scans the other side of the field. That WR cuts his in-breaking route shorter, so he starts working to that side, and that is when the QB throws to Gallup. Recognition isn’t bad, but most of all he has the fluidity and athleticism to man that deep middle responsibility.
Another rep off the ball and this time it is versus a gap run. On the snap he takes a false step but quickly recovers, beats the pulling guard to the spot, and wraps up the back. Good job of avoiding the block and making the tackle.
Regardless of where he lines up, he doesn’t lose that physicality. As the tight end comes across the middle, he lays into him and totally cuts the route off.
2016 USC vs. Alabama
On this third down, Nwosu has the #3 threat to his side, which is the RB. The RB doesn’t go into a route, so he drops and gets in the passing lane.
Similar coverage with Nwosu having the TE who is in motion, and he does a good job of stringing the play wide.
On this play Nwosu is matched up against former 1st round pick Cam Robinson. While Nwosu doesn’t make a play on the ball, this is a good example of his play strength. He is barely moved by a bigger stronger tackle.
2016 USC vs. Arizona State
This play by Nwosu seems simple, but the split flow and different levels of processing needed to simply cover this H-back out of the backfield is a tall task. He has a lot to think about; the jet motion, the inside run, the QB keeper, the H-Back coming across the formation, and then the bootleg pass itself. Great job of mentally processing this play.
He always stays at home and recognizes kick out blocks and consistently takes them on with the proper shoulder.
Another example of him struggling versus outside zone. He gets reached and gives the edge up.
Nwosu sticks with this rush by ripping and fighting through the block en route to the QB.
I haven’t seen someone who puts himself in the passing lane better than Nwosu. This is a simple flare to the back, but Nwosu pulls up his rush attempt and nearly gets his hand on the ball.
He is much stronger than he looks and can almost toy with tight ends because of his length. The tight end tries a chop here, but he isn’t fazed.
Nwosu is tough to block on runs away because he has a stutter rush that can create issues when offensive linemen and tight ends try to target him. He can hesitate, then utilize his quick twitch to shoot the inside gap.
Another 3rd-and-long play, and he drops into the underneath zone and nearly gets his hands on this pass.