Chidobe Awuzie can do many things, and the cornerback can expect to be taken no lower than the third round thanks to his versatility. The most unique part of his game is his blitzing ability, which he excels at. This is illustrated by his production: 9 sacks in his four-year college career. This is also exemplified by his tape. The plays below demonstrate Awuzie’s aptitude and nous when blitzing, both taken from games where blitzing Awuzie formed a big part of Colorado’s defensive gameplan.
Head Coach Mike MacIntyre liked to use Awuzie as a weapon in redzone situations. Against UCLA, with the Bruins nearing the Buffaloes’ 20-yard line, Awuzie was unleashed. Before the snap, he takes two canny glances into the backfield. This gives him a better idea of what he is facing. After the quarterback – Mike Fafaul (#12) – has glanced at the coverage on Awuzie’s side, the corner buzzes down to get a more direct blitzing angle. It is a savvy move, in a situation where every millisecond counts.
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As he is about to be hit, Fafaul attempts to escape through the back door. However, Awuzie is travelling at such a high speed that his arm tackle rip proves capable enough, as he registers the sack. He is not influenced, or halted momentarily, by the run-action in the backfield. He can improve his blitzing by using his feet more and taking better angles. This is a refinement that can take him to the next level as a blitzer, but it is very reassuring that Awuzie still managed to execute his task.
In this clip, Colorado is looking to force Michigan off the field on 3rd and 7 after the Buffaloes’ quick start. Awuzie again shows intelligence in the pre-snap process.
Here, he initially has his head firmly focused on his man, appearing to be in press man coverage. Once Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight (#3) is focused on Colorado’s front seven, Awuzie subtly moves his head to look at his blitzing lane. This allows him to clearly observe any potential blockers.
He showcases a quick reaction to the snap and nice burst as he starts and continues his blitz. His speed is too much for Michigan running back Deveon Smith (#4). Smith, lined up on the other side of the formation, is unable to get anywhere near to picking up Awuzie.
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Approaching his moment of impact with Spieth, Awuzie does several things right. Firstly, he gets his arms up, in order to swat any potential last-second throw. He delivers a firm, legal hit, sacrificing his entire body as he leaps off the ground – utilizing leverage. Perhaps this is a bit reckless – a recurring theme in Awuzie’s tackling in general – but it gets the job done. Most importantly, Awuzie specifically targets the exposed football, knocking it free with his left arm as he flings himself at Spieth. It’s this in-the-moment processing that is so impressive and valuable. The fumble is forced. The scoop and score is made possible.
Awuzie’s blitzing ability is better than most corners and is uncommon for the position. There are a few teams in the NFL who like to run multiple blitz packages, including some involving their defensive backs and Awuzie would be a great fit with those franchises. With more work, he could become the best blitzer at the cornerback position in the league.
This article was inspired by scouting work done for the Inside the Pylon Draft Guide. Matty scouted running backs, cornerbacks, and safeties for the guide. Order your copy today at ITPdraftguide.com.
Check out more of Matty’s work here, including a look at how Dalvin Cook’s combine confirmed the tape, Oklahoma State using RPO’s in the redzone, and an interview with New Mexico DB Lee Crosby on his journey to the NFL.
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All film courtesy of Draftbreakdown.