Welcome in once again to our Player of the Week space. This week I am heading back to the well of my favourite position in football and talking about an edge defender. This week I’m running the rule over s true breakout pass rusher, who may seem a little off the beaten track right now but come draft time, I think Felix Anudike-Uzomah will be appearing in a lot of top 50 lists, or even first round mock drafts.
Full disclosure, and perhaps a little teaser for later in the season, this week I really was tossing up between writing about Felix and another Big XII edge, Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson – Let me know if you would like to see that one in the next few weeks!
So Kansas State has a new star man… on defense!
It’s been a while since Kansas State has had a potential defensive star on their hands.
The Wildcats have had a couple of second round offensive linemen in recent times, Dalton Risner, Cody Whitehair… As well as Tyler Lockett, who has blossomed into a ln important player for the Seahawks, but again, he was a day two selection.
Felix Anudike-Uzomah could buck that trend and be the first Wildcat to be drafted in the first round since Josh Freeman in 2009, and the first defensive player taken on the first day of the draft since Terrence Newman in 2005.
So yeah, it’s been a minute.
Anudike-Uzomah is a 6’4 Junior who tips the scales at 255lbs, so he is on the lighter side for an edge defender, especially considering that K-State typically lines up in a 3-3-5 base defense (more of his role and alignment later).
As I’ve alluded to, Kansas State isn’t a hotbed of talent who sends players to the NFL on a regular basis – Although, offensive lineman Cooper Beebe is highly thought of, especially by our guys who scouted him in summer. They have also Deuce Vaughn, who may carve himself out a spot in the league despite being very, very small by NFL standards.
This also speaks to Felix’s time before rocking up in Manhattan. He was a 3-star recruit from Lee’s Summit High School, in suburban Kansas City, and despite a steady stream of tackles for loss as a Junior and Senior in high school and earning district honors from the Missouri media and coaches association, the offers did not roll in. According to 24/7 Sports, Felix committed to North Dakota State in September 2019 and in December of the same year, he had de-committed and signed up with Kansas State.
And those were his only two offers. There are also no mention of offers on any other site that I usually cross reference information on either, including his K-State bio.
It is said that everyone develops at different rates on the football field and Kansas State must be ecstatic that they managed to get a local kid whose talent would usually be snapped up by a more illustrious football programme.
Felix saw action in his True Freshman season, playing a handful of games and rotating into the defensive line, although, in limited action he still managed one sack.
However, it was in 2021, as a Sophomore where he truly took flight! 12 games, 14.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and an even more incredible six forced fumbles. Everything just clicked for him and now he’s making splash plays and has become a game wrecker!
No signs of him being a one season wonder either, this season through three games, 9 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks and another forced fumble. With seven forced fumbles, he is actually only three shy of the Kansas State school record.
So where did this homegrown diamond come from? Let’s look at how he plays…
As usual, I’ll start with the first thing that jumped off the screen when I was going over the film – Felix burst and he’s also a very willing worker. Given that Kansas State is sometimes only rushes three and this means that Felix spends a lot of time lined up as a 4i, and therefore the offensive line has a natural double team on him.
This isn’t the prettiest sack of his career so far but I feel like it really shows that he can work for his rewards and it does reward him. He’s lined up in the 4i here and has the agility and wherewithal to defeat the chop block and then chase down Spencer Sanders for a sack.
A lot of his positives that I’ve listed on his evaluation are linked to his physical gifts. In addition to the quickness and motor that I mentioned above, it’s his ability to turn the corner and flatten the arc whilst in contact with the lineman.
Felix was absolutely dominant in this game vs. TCU – four sacks and two forced fumbles. I am not sure if someone could turn a corner more here as he performs a 180 on this play to take down the QB.
Lined up on the nearside of the defensive line (#91), he beats the tackle around the edge – And he was a little slow off the mark (more of that next) – and then is able to tightly turn and take the passer down from behind.
Would I like to see further refinement? Of course! There are instances such as this one below, where I would love to see more development with his understanding of the game and offenses. I’ve slowed this clip down just before the snap so that you can see just how late he gets off the ball here, especially in comparison to his fellow defensive linemen.
Just as in the second clip, he needs to learn how to time the snap better and get off the ball a fraction quicker. The battle between offensive and defensive linemen is all about racing to landmarks and beating each other by fractions of a second. It’s encouraging that he’s having success in spite of this flaw.
So back to positives, I’m really encouraged by the breakout in production that he’s had in general. The caveat is that it is in the Big XII and therefore he’s maybe not seeing the greatest level of competition.
Although, wanting to remain positive; he knows how to win reps, and has done so with frequency over the past season and a bit and he has the unteachable stuff. He’s got the god-given attributes that some players simply don’t have bestowed on them.
Lastly, and I’ll discuss the importance of this more further down the page, but I love his nose for the ball… check this forced fumble out.
Super valuable play here near the goal line and he has shown a knack for this kind of thing. Felix (lined up on the far side of the defensive line) gets depth and drives his lineman (#55) back, but he’s also aware of the QB and as the quarterback tries to scramble, he’s able to make the tackle and force the ball loose.
With that in mind, how is this going to translate into the NFL?
Anudike-Uzomah could be drafted in the league today and cause issues for lower-level tackles just due to pure speed and physical gifts. I absolutely loved Azeez Ojulari a couple of draft cycles back, who was all speed and needed refinement in the same sort of manner and he had a very successful rookie year, registering 8 sacks.
Azeez is quicker than Felix, but Felix’s nose for forced fumbles gives him a real edge and another layer to his game that gives me confidence that he’ll be a success in the league.
Defense in 2022 is all about turnovers, getting another possession for your offense. Forced fumbles are a great way to get turnovers!
As a Chargers fan, I heard a veteran player like Joey Bosa say that he wanted to add strip sacks to his game a couple of years back and last season in 2021, he had seven in 16 games. That’s huge for a defense to have that many opportunities to get the ball back, and Felix already has this kind of killer instinct in his game.
This week’s match up is an interesting one…
Kansas State heads to Norman, Oklahoma, off the back of a jarring loss to Tulane with the hopes of getting back on track.
Off course, heading to the home of the conference heavyweights is never going to be an easy task. Brent Venables has made a solid start to life as the Sooners’ Head Coach and they have recorded three resounding victories so far this season.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel has the mobility to make the defensive line’s day very frustrating – He has to be accounted for as a runner and can slip out of what is seemingly a negative play until he slips away and runs for a big gain.
However, before Gabriel, Felix has got star left tackle, Anton Harrison to deal with. Harrison is one of the better thought of tackles in the 2023 draft class – Again, you can hear our pod here on offensive line for fuller analysis.
If Felix and the Kansas State coaches look at moving him around, Wanya Morris, Oklahoma’s right tackle, is no slouch either, so I’ve no doubt that this will be a test for Felix in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time).
So to conclude…
Felix Anudike-Uzomah is an intriguing prospect with big upside and a couple of flaws and aspects of his game that need more work.
I don’t feel like the ways in which K-State aligns him uses him to his full potential. I don’t feel like he has the size profile to play as a down lineman in an odd front. He’s not the sort of build that we would typically see from a team line the Patriots in the league, who have had lines for 280-290lbs defensive linemen who have little in the way of juice but are super disciplined and are powerful against the run, Felix isn’t a guy like that, and he’s being put in those spots.
We haven’t seen him stand up as a pass rusher as of yet and I would be really interested to see him deployed in a way that gets him more one-on-one match ups with tackles from either a wider alignment or even front as a more traditional 5 or even 7-tech defensive end.
His stance is nice and low, he’s got the physical tools and he obviously knows how to win and be productive, so rushing from wider with his hand in the dirt, would put him in a more advantageous position.
Landing spot is going to be so important but I feel like this is a player who can put up numbers and be a game wrecker in the NFL.
Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefield90