Without a doubt, there’s concern over BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah potentially becoming a bust. However, one can’t help but wonder what kind of player he could be if he spends time honing his craft at only one position.
In college, he didn’t do that. He played everything from nose tackle to outside linebacker. It’s concerning that he was used all over the line because it could be an indicator of his football knowledge or how the coaching staff felt about his ability to produce at one spot. It’s also a positive, though, as playing in the interior helps a defensive linemen become a better pass-rusher.
Ansah is this year’s draft wildcard. He’s projected to go in the top 10 by many, yet there’s a shaking concern over what kind of player he will or won’t become. He could be the next Jason Pierre-Paul in the sense that he overcomes his rawness to develop into a dynamite pass rusher. There’s also the chance he becomes a one-dimensional player who moves to the inside of the defensive line; a stout run defender, but not much of a pressure player (think Glenn Dorsey).
But every now and then, there are plays that flash potential of Ansah becoming the answer for a team in need of an edge rusher. The outstanding play he made against Utah State and their screen pass last season stands out the most. It showed his read-and-react skills, instincts, athleticism, and burst all in one. That’s what talent evaluators look for in the next great outside linebacker.
Then there’s his play against Washington State, a pocket-collapsing, center-jolting bull rush that required three blockers to slow him down. He was lined up across the center at the nose tackle position in the Cougars’ three-man front.
Once the ball is in play, Ansah is slow to get off the line. He appears to lack explosiveness, which he never really showed on the edge either, but that’s something that can be coached up. When he finally starts moving forward, he places his hands inside of the blocker’s pads, bends his knees and as a result, lowers his pad level. While all those things are done, Ansah also moves his right foot forward much like a boxer does when he throws a punch. This is one of the first steps to executing a proper bull rush.
With the right foot forward, Ansah engaged with the blocker and then planted his left foot in the ground. At the same time, he had a burst forward that enabled him to lift the blocker and knock him into the backfield.
As the play unfolded, Ansah continued his path to the quarterback before the center received help from the guards to each side of him.
This glimpse into the potential future of the pass-rusher who once called himself a “delicate flower” is tempting for personnel men who have to consider drafting him if he’s available.
If Ansah realizes his potential, there’s a good chance he’s not only one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL, but he’ll also be one of the most versatile too. He’s athletic enough to drop into coverage and buzz the flats like most 3-4 outside linebackers do, and he shows flashes of quickness and violence to play in the interior.
From afar, he appears to have the skill set to be a factor in the NFL. The ability to read-and-react is present, as are his instincts, and his closing burst and strength. He’s no Jason Pierre-Paul, but he doesn’t necessarily need to be. However, he has to continue to develop his technique and footwork if he plans on becoming the next quality pass-rusher.