Player to Watch: Ben Banogu

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Pass rushers are like money. Having some is good, having more is better. Possibly the highest commodity in the NFL, after quarterbacks, are those that create pressure on the QB. Ben Banogu is just such a player.

Background

Lightly recruited coming out of high school due to a leg injury, he started his collegiate career at Louisiana-Monroe. He had a productive freshman season for the Warhawks, amassing 44 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, and 3 sacks. After his freshman year, a coaching change and a desire to be closer to home caused him to transfer back to his home state of Texas. He decided on TCU to play for head coach Gary Patterson.

He plays the left defensive end position in the Horned Frogs 4-2-5 defensive system and looks the part. He’s listed at 6’4” and 240 pounds, sporting a chiseled, muscular frame with long arms. In a defense that doesn’t blitz a lot the front four was relied upon to produce most of the pressure. Along with teammate Mat Boeson at the other end position they were able to do just that. On most downs, he would line up as a 4, 5 or 6 technique but would push outside to the 7 technique and the wide 9 on passing downs.

He finished the season with 55 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He had at least one tackle for a loss in all but one game for a total of 16.5 for the season. He was rewarded with the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year, the first player from TCU to earn this honor, as well as being named first team All-Big 12.

Setting the Edge

Against the run, he diagnoses and reads the lineman well to put himself in position to help his team. He’s also a very good tackler. He has shown some ability to stack and shed with the quickness to penetrate when playing in a one gap scheme. On outside runs to his side he’ll get across the line of scrimmage and set the edge high to cut off the outside and force the play inside. On runs away, he’ll slide with the offense, again protecting the outside, while displaying the quickness to close the gap or chase down runners. He plays with a high motor and will chase the ball all over the field.

Getting to the Quarterback

In terms of rushing the passer, he gets after it from 2, 3 and 4 point stance. He shows good burst at the snap, especially from the 4 point stance which he uses mostly on 3rd and long situations. He uses an array of rush moves to keep the lineman off balance. He’ll use speed to the outside with a dip and rip to get around the corner, showing good ankle flexion and bend. He’s shown a double chop/rip combo, speed to rip inside, and a spin move with varying successes. This part of his game is evolving and the best is yet to come.

Highlights

At Arkansas, on 3rd down on the first drive. He moves to a two point stance outside of the tackle. Uses a double chop/rip combo to win the edge. Shows good ankle flexion and lean to get his left hand in for the forced fumble.

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At Oklahoma State, he tries a similar move but gets pushed up the arc when the quarterback steps up. He reverses field and shows good effort and chase to run down the play and get the strip sack.

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Also against Oklahoma State, he takes two long steps upfield to get the right tackle to turn out, then shows good quickness and change of direction to jab inside with a rip to apply pressure and force an errant pass.

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Against Oklahoma, in the Big 12 Championship game, Banogu is coming on a stunt. He cuts off of the hip of the defensive tackle using leverage and quickness to split the center and guard and get the strip on Baker Mayfield.

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Against Stanford in the Alamo Bowl, the Cardinal call an outside Zone run away from him. Banogu shows good patience to not lose contain and when Bryce Love reverses field he takes a good angle to cut off the outside. He plays under control to force him back inside and make the tackle.

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Against Texas, this play really caught my eye. He isn’t asked to cover often for this defense and I don’t think he was on this play. But his game awareness was evident here. Texas had run a similar play earlier in the drive to get a first down. This time he recognizes the back coming free, abandons his rush, gets a push on the back and runs with him to disrupt the throwing lane enough to force an incompletion.

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Things I Want to See This Season

Against the run away, I’d like to see Banogu be a little less overzealous, as he crashes inside too quickly which opens cut back lanes. When rushing the passer, he needs some improved counter moves when his first move doesn’t produce the desired result. I’d love him to add to his repertoire with a swim or long arm. Added play strength would be beneficial when taking on lineman verses the run or the pass. Overall aggressiveness, but particularly in the pass rush, would add to his ability to stress the offensive lineman. With the possibility of moving to outside linebacker at the next level it would be nice to see him more in coverage to ease that projection.

Todd McShay of ESPN had him in the first round of his initial mock draft last year before he decided to stay for his senior season. Another big season could put him in position to be a high pick this coming year. Big 12 games are always exciting, but not much attention is usually paid to the defensive side of the ball. Number 15 is one guy you’ll want to take notice of this coming season.

Follow Tom on Twitter @THMead3. Check out his other work here, such as his look at Washington RB Myles Gaskin, his preview of Virginia RB/WR Olamide Zaccheaus or his look at how paying a high salary veteran QB may hurt your chances of winning.

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