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Meet The Rookie: Owamagbe Odighizuwa, the sleeper everyone knew about

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Owa has studied the Giants' defensive linemen. Can he live up to their legacy?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Say it with me now: "Oh-wah-MAH-bay Oh-DIGGY-zoo-wah".  It seems pretty likely that the nicknames won't take any time at all rolling in once fans get more familiar with the rookie defensive end. But whether you call him Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Owa, Doule-O, OO, or O-Diggy, it seems as though he he was the guy everyone was asking everyone else if they've seen him.

Owa (as he is most commonly called) held the interesting distinction of being the (or one of the) most talked about "under the radar" prospects in the draft. This distinction mostly came from a pair factors. First was two hip surgeries costing him his 2013 season. Because of that, he was unable to build on his promising sophomore season. Second, UCLA's hybrid 3-4 defense rarely put him in position to rush the passer and collect attention-grabbing stats.

Though he was largely unknown to the national media, there was a buzz around the scouting community regarding the athletic defensive end from UCLA. Everyone seemed to be asking everyone else about Odighizuwa, to the point where Owa was the worst kept secret in the draft.

Odighizuwa came out of UCLA with a reputation for being a stout run defender who was still developing as a pass rusher. But does the tape fit the narrative?

The Tape

I chose this game because Stanford runs a pro-style offense that features a nice blend of run and pass plays. Also, Owa is frequently matched up against Andrus Peat, who was one of the -- if not the -- top offensive tackle prospects in the 2015 draft.

Pass Rush

Owa's reputation of being an unpolished pass rusher means we'll take a look at that first.

When it comes to rushing the passer, there are a few things you want to see from an edge rusher. First, you want to see a quick first step. Most edge rushers will be giving up size, length, or both to the offensive tackle across from them. A quick first step goes a long way towards minimizing those disadvantages. Next is whether or not they stay low. When it comes to rushing the passer, being the low man gives you greater leverage over your opponent. Third, you want to see violent, active hands at the point of contact. Basically, whichever player gets their hands on their opponent first, and inside their shoulders, wins. Finally, depending on the rush move you want to see the rusher able to convert speed to power, or bend around the edge.

Play 1)

This is the first snap of the game, and Owa is at right defensive end and is matched up against Peat. UCLA is lined up in a 3-4 front, though a linebacker is right on the line of scrimmage, making this effectively a 4-3 alignment.

There isn't much subtlety on this play. Owa shows a great first step and fires off the ball low and hard. He shows some very heavy hands and excellent power as he jolts Peat back. Though the play winds up being a success for the offense -- the pass gets off quickly and picks up a decent gain -- Owa putting the massive and talented Peat on roller skates and walking him back into the quarterback's lap is a personal success. Had this been a longer developing play, Owa would have been very disruptive.

Play 2)

This play we find Owa lined up as the right defensive end in a 4-3 front. He's lined up across from Peat again, but this time he takes an inside rush as the outside linebacker blitzes.

And once again Owa uses a bull rush to great effect. Much like the first play, he uses his explosive power and heavy hands to jar his blocker, standing him up and walking him back into the quarterback's lap. This time the quarterback takes a hit (from the defensive tackle who beats his one on one), but manages to get the pass off just in time.

This is a really nice play by the defensive front, but a receiver gets lost in coverage, and the quick comeback is wide open. If coverage hadn't broken down, this likely would have been a sack.

Run Defense

When it comes to run defense for an edge rusher, its all about being disciplined. Defenses want their edge rushers to maintain their gap assignments, and not run themselves out of plays. Defenders being over-aggressive and giving up their gap assignments is the easiest way for offenses to gash defenses for big chunks on the ground. And for players along the defensive line, it exposes the linebackers and secondary players to blockers they might not -- or simply can't -- take on. If the play comes to the player, then you want to see their hand work again as they shed the blocker to make the play.

Play 1)

In this play we see Owa lined up as the 7-technique, or the defensive end in a 4-3 front lined up on the offensive tackles' outside shoulder. This is the position he will (likely) play on the New York Giants' defense.

This is a counter-trap play the offense, with the right guard pulling around to help the tight end with the right defensive end -- Odighizuwa in this case. The offensive line does a decent job of getting the defense to move in the opposite direction of the play.

However Owa's first step gets him past the tight end before he can really be blocked. He then does a nice job powering through the double team to force the running back to hesitate and change his angle. Because the fullback missed his block on the linebacker coming up, he (the linebacker) is able to make the play, but Owa keeps him clean and lets him get in position to make the stop for little gain.

Owa may not get credit for the tackle, but it also doesn't happen without him.

Play 2)

UCLA is back in their 3-4 front, though this play also features both outside linebackers up at the line of scrimmage. Owa is at left defensive end this time, across from the right tackle. Stanford is in their heavy set, though quarterback Kevin Hogan doesn't appear to be on the field. Instead, the running back takes the direct snap.

Owa does a nice job of standing the right tackle up right off the snap, quickly stacking and shedding his block. He then does the same thing with the fullback. The center pulls around to take on the outside linebacker next to Owa, however he (the outside linebacker) is able to quickly disengage and help Owa and No. 47 make the gang tackle of the running back for minimum gain.

Once again, this is an excellent play by Owa. He shows off his power and hand usage while keeping the second level players clean to make the play -- though he may have gotten credit for an assist here.

Final Thoughts

So what kind of player is O-Diggy? Personally, I think he is going to be a very good one. Not only is he an elite athlete with tremendous upside as a pass rusher, but he already plays with discipline in the run game -- something quite rare.

Owa is still raw as a pass rusher. Part of that was UCLA's scheme, which rarely asked, or allowed, him to pin his ears back as a true edge rusher and get after the quarterback. But part of that also comes down to technique and a bit of stiffness. In physics, "Power" is defined as Work divided by Time, and that is what Owa is. His game is pure power, the ability to do a lot of work, very quickly. In fact, despite his low sack totals -- and resulting knocks as a pass rusher -- Owa actually had one of the highest totals of "hurries" in college football, trailing only Trey Flowers and Ohio State star Joey Bosa.

With further coaching and development, Owa could develop into a complete defensive end for the Giants.