Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah On Verge Of History
It is not really a question of whether 2020 Butkus Award winner and unanimous All-American Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will be a first-round pick, but rather how high.
In the NFL Draft to be held April 29-May 1, Owusu-Koramoah is projected to become the first Notre Dame linebacker selected in the first round since College Football Hall of Fame inductee Bob Crable in 1982.
That is currently the single longest current drought from the first round at any single position by a Notre Dame player. Jaylon Smith in 2016 was a lock until a severe knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl versus Ohio State dropped him to the second round.
The first Notre Dame player “officially” listed as a linebacker in the NFL Draft was Myron Pottios, the No. 19 player taken 60 years ago in 1961. Technically, that would make him a first-round pick today, but back then there were only 14 choices in the opening round, whereas today there are 32.
A year later, Pro Football Hall of Fame member Nick Buoniconti wasn’t even drafted by the NFL despite a stellar career with the Fighting Irish.
Behind Pottios as Notre Dame’s top overall linebacker pick was Crable (1982) at No. 23, Smith (2016) and Demetrius DuBose (1993) at No. 34, and Greg Collins (1975) at No. 35
Also taken among the top 50 were Manti Te’o (2013) at No. 38 and Jim Lynch (1967) at No. 47.
However, the 6-1, 215-pound Owusu-Koramoah is the prototype of the modern NFL linebacker with his hybrid skill set that also allows him to be part safety, part nickel and even part lineman. His game is patterned after former Chicago Bears All-Pro Charles Tillman, who was listed at 6-2, 215, and current Atlanta Falcons and former LSU star Deion Jones (6-1, 222).
“The NFL has become more of a pass-happy league, more teams running 70-80 percent sub-packages, and that’s where my game peaks at,” Owusu-Koramoah summarized.
Indeed, over the past two seasons Pro Football Focus broke down his snap counts as 195 along the line, 433 in the box and 680 in the slot. In other words, a three-down figure in today’s game.
“Duality is what NFL teams are looking for as it progresses more to a pass league,” he said. “That’s something I really excel at in terms of coverage on tight ends, on slots… in terms of passing, in terms of zone drops, in terms of getting my eyes back, finding the routes and ultimately closing them off.
“Dissect the play and get from point A to point B — or point A to point E, because there is a lot you have to get through. That’s where my strength lies.”
During Notre Dame’s Pro Day March 31, Owusu-Koramoah is expected to put up first-round like numbers that have reportedly included a 39-inch vertical jump, 10-3 broad jump, 20.4 miles per hour on GPS and a squat of 555 pounds.
Such tangible numbers are vital toward becoming a top pick, but Owusu-Koramoah says what separates him is the culture and discipline learned at Notre Dame that has made him smart, tough and accountable in all facets of his life.
“I think I’m a great candidate in terms of the transition to the NFL just because of my attention to detail,” he said. “Notre Dame has formed us in a way — specifically Coach [Clark] Lea in his philosophy in seeing the world and his philosophy in seeing the game of football — of focusing on the smaller details.
“We always look at the broad picture, but if players can truly focus on the smaller details of the game, focus on the true, smaller details of their bodies, their mind, even watching film. … A painter can paint a big picture, but it’s not going to become a masterpiece until he focuses on the small details.”
When one NFL team asked Owusu-Koramoah to define what team culture means, it gave him his own idea.
“I actually have been kind of using that as well as one of my questions for teams: What’s your culture?” he said. “I think that was a beautiful question because if you ask somebody what do you mean by culture, it has to allow them to dig deeper to find something outside the football realm, but also include football.
“I want to be able to mold myself and kind of cultivate myself to match what that team is looking for. With anything that is positive, I want to be able to adapt, be relatable to others and give that team what that team ultimately needs.”
Owusu-Koramoah’s skill set goes far beyond the physical and what is shown on game tape.
“I think every team needs a sense of spirituality, not in terms of religion but more in terms of the development of the inner man,” he said. “If teams can see that I have that inside of me … that’s something off the field that can positively help.”
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