In the 21st-century NFL, size and physicality are no longer the primary traits coveted in linebacker prospects. It’s all about speed, range and coverage ability. There have been multiple quality starters in recent years who checked in at 225 pounds or less. Just last year, the Arizona Cardinals used a top-10 pick on a player in Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who played everything from outside linebacker, to safety, to the slot in college.
That last one is still a rarity in linebacker prospects. But there’s a youngster in the Class of 2021 who has some experience playing coverage in the slot. And as Tom Loy reported for 247 Sports, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah of Notre Dame believes the time he’s spent at different positions can only help his transition to the NFL.
“Just my experience playing, I think you phrased it slot corner,” Owusu-Koramoah told reporters at his Pro Day press conference, “that’s an interesting name. Well, just when we played a lot of man coverage this year, it helped me out especially definitely in my transition to the league. As you know, the NFL has become more of a pass happy league and more teams are running 70%-80% sub third down packages and I think that’s just where my game peaks at, that third down sub, whether it is inside or outside, nickel, box, wherever it is. I think I believe I’ve seen a stat where somebody counted my snaps, I played 600-plus snaps out in the slot and about 450-plus snaps in the box. That kind of duality I think is what I feel NFL teams are looking for as the league progresses into more of a pass league.”
The 6’1″, 221-pounder didn’t run the 40-yard dash at Notre Dame’s pro day, but he’s believed to have speed in the 4.45 range—a belief that was born out by his strong performances in the short shuttle and three-cone drills. He told reporters at the Pro Day that he’s eager to show he can be an immediate contributor at the professional level.
“My skill set, just just to start off first, it’s a mindset,” Owusu-Koramoah said. “I think when I step on the field, my attitude kind of differs from others. Just willing to attack, willing to be physical, willing to take chances, willing to make plays, a fierce competitor, just coming from my foundation and where I’m from. In terms of the offense, in terms of their skills and their speed, I think I just match up just as well. I run fast, I’m physical and I’m quick reacting, but not too quick that I can’t be patient to wait for a play to develop in front of my eyes, so I think in terms of the offense and moving on to this next level, I think I’ll just be ready for it.”
Owusu-Koramoah was certainly an impact player for the Fighting Irish. His statistical production wasn’t overwhelming—62 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. But he amassed an impressive 11 tackles for loss and piled up several highlight-reel plays, establishing himself as arguably the most punishing hitter in his draft class.
As Kyle Crabbs wrote for The Draft Network, Owusu-Koramoah’s physicality and willingness to take on ball-carriers compensates well for his relatively small stature.
“Owusu-Koramoah is as explosive as any linebacker you’ll find from a closing burst perspective, although that does come at a cost with his stature,” he said. “That said, there are very few times in which Owusu-Koramoah’s size shows up as a detriment in tackling. Explosive hits come courtesy of how quickly he’ll trigger and get on top of ball carriers and he does well to unload through the body of ball carriers.”
Crabbs added that Owusu-Koramoah is even more impressive when locking up with running backs and tight ends in coverage.
“He’s spent a ton of time in coverage on the hashes and has handled coverage duties on slot receivers with relative success,” he said. “He performed well here against Clemson and forced a fumble at the catch point; so he’s not just picking on lesser competition to shine here. He illustrates good patience to not bail out and give up easy competitions to receivers in his zone and his click and close at the top of the stem will force opposing quarterbacks to throw with accuracy when testing him.”