5Qs with UW Dawg Pound: Levi Onwuzurike should make an early impact

Pride of Detroit

I don’t know if anyone was aware of this, but the Detroit Lions defensive line was really bad in 2020. So it should have came as no surprise when the Lions used their second round pick to draft Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike.

Onwuzurike was considered by many to be the best defensive tackle in the draft and his highlights show it. Look at him go.

The Lions clearly got athletic players all over the place in this draft and Onwuzurike definitely fits the bill with a 8.73 RAS. There’s a lot be excited about here. With Onwuzurike’s build and speed, the Lions can do multiple things with him including having him play on the interior and come off the edge. It’s an exciting pick. Speaking of excited, it looks like he’s pretty pumped to be here.

Onwuzurike would be quickly locked up after breaking the Verbal Morality Statue in Demolition Man.

There’s a lot I don’t know about Onwuzurike. I know you’re all dying to learn more so you can take that knowledge into your hole to live off of while hibernating until training camp. So we reached out to our pal Gabey Lucas from UW Dawg Pound to get the scoop. Here’s what she had to say:

1. What are your thoughts on Onwuzurike’s time at Washington?

“He’s definitely a guy the Dawgs would’ve loved to have had back for 2020 — he opted out due to COVID and the resulting defensive line was deep but young — but he was a really fun guy to watch while at Washington. He wasn’t as much of just a pure gap-eating monster as Vita Vea (now with Tampa), nor was he the absolute cannon ball of a man as Greg Gaines (with the Rams), but he’s really not the same body-type or skillset as either of them and subsequently it’s really not too helpful to judge him like they’re the same position.

Even though they were all interior defensive linemen, ideally you’re gonna have Levi play 3-technique-ish unlike those previous two. Unfortunately, due to some crappy DL recruiting in the year before and after Levi’s class (2016), he was forced to play further inside more often than would’ve been ideal. Despite that, he was still quite effective and fun to watch even when lined up at 1-tech etc. He was also just a leader of the defense, which says something considering strong defense has been the pillar of UW football under the Chris Petersen-Jimmy Lake regime. He’s definitely someone that Dawg fans remember fondly as the anchor of the defensive line linking together two generations of that unit between the 2013-2014 and 2018-2019 classes.”

2. What are his strengths?

“There’s no shortage of scouting reports on Onwuzurike so I won’t go too in-depth on strengths and weaknesses, but I think the way he described himself in that already-famous quote after being drafted (“I like f&^king people up”) isn’t too far off. He’s quite quick and there’s plenty of footage of him pretty much just blasting through guys because he explodes faster than them. If you’re an offensive lineman, you really wanna lock him up ASAP because if he can separate even a bit from you, he’ll use his quickness to get you just off-balance and then overpower your unstable base. I also think, for what it’s worth, that his strength is underrated; he has a sneakily good bull rush that isn’t his signature move but can be a pain in the ass for opposing quarterbacks in the pocket.”

3. What are his weaknesses?

“One of the weaknesses that has been rightfully honed in on by scouts was that he can get stumped by offensive linemen who are able to block his initial explosion and first move. After that, if the opposing lineman is able to keep himself stable and Onwuzurike locked up, he’s got a pretty good chance of surviving the rep. A contributing factor to this is that while he’s pretty average height for the position (6’3”), his build is relatively lean, so he’s not one of those dudes with a low center of gravity that can just bowl you over on that basis alone. I see it just as a trade off where this build gives him the ability to have that speed, but it does make it harder in these scenarios.”

4. Judging by his first interview with Detroit media, should we expect to use the word expletive a lot? Lol.

“HA who knows if you guys’ll get a bunch of expletives but I feel like he’s always been a pretty fun personality. I imagine he’ll give plenty of good interviews for Detroit fans, keep us posted!”

5. Is Onwuzurike a project or a guy that can make an impact immediately in the NFL?

“I think you’ll see Levi making an impact pretty quickly. Obviously as a rookie there’s still that adjustment period so I’m not gonna predict he’ll be All-Pro immediately, but otherwise he’s got a good foundation to make plays. This goes back to the weaknesses we talked about, but he could make a real leap if the Detroit coaches can improve his second and third moves. I suppose this determines the extent of his impact; he should be productive sooner rather than later, but he can be really good if the Lions can develop that skill further — and for him to reach that next level of impact would probably take a bit of time. But it also works in his favor that (presumably) he’ll be able to focus on his most natural position in Detroit by lining up as a 3-tech instead of more interior like I mentioned he had to do often at Washington. I’ll be keeping an eye on him this season, he should be pretty fun.”

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