Here’s the backstory:
Ezekiel Ansah came to BYU in 2008 from Ghana in the hopes of becoming a track star. He wound up on the BYU football team after some coaxing by teammates. Didn’t know how to put on football equipment. He’s 6’6″, 270 pounds and runs a 10.9 100 yard dash.
With that story, it becomes real easy to label Ansah as raw. He’s a project with the Jason Pierre-Paul upside. That is the word around town, on fan boards, and coming out of the mouth of anyone that hasn’t spent time watching Ansah on tape. This will serve as forewarning that Ansah is much more than just a raw, upside player.
When I think of raw as it relates to a football player, I think of someone that lacks instincts and/or struggles to find the football. It may be an issue of semantics but the term I prefer when it comes to Ansah is lack of game experience. Big difference. I will show some cutups of Ansah in the many roles that he fills for the BYU defense and special teams.
Impact players find ways to impact the game in more than just their specialty. When I evaluate someone that I label as an impact player, I attempt to find ways that he impacts the game outside his normal role. Sometimes, that means he’s an emotional leader (Manti Te’o) and sometimes that means that he makes plays in whatever role is asked of him (Ziggy Ansah). I have watched five BYU games and haven’t found one that didn’t feature Ansah in multiple roles. He forces teams to gameplan for him as a 0-technique, 3-technique, 5-technique, and rush linebacker. That makes him special but his ability to affect special teams puts him into an elite category for me. Ansah is hands down one of the most impactful players in college football. Here’s a look at the impact Ansah can have on the game.
Ansah is a stand up rusher on a three man line for the Cougars. One of the many roles he’ll play against Notre Dame.
Ansah starts on a hard outside pass rush but reads the guard/tackle and bursts inside, seeing the run action. This isn’t the type of read form a raw player but that of a veteran.
And here’s where the athleticism takes over. Ansah sticks his outside foot in the dirt and transitions the hips so quickly that the guard doesn’t stand a chance to work off the combo block. Ansah’s read and react skills are on display for a 2-yard loss. Ansah is capable of making these “splash” plays frequently and it isn’t all about his athleticism. He shows great eyes and is excellent at locking out and reading the play development.
Here’s your 6’6″, 270 pound 0-technique. Since some of the feedback on the film studies has been that it’s too complicated, I’ll explain a 0-technique. The 0 is lined up head up with the center and is responsible for both A gaps. The job of a 0-technique is to occupy the center, most of the time drawing a double-team from a guard. The 0-technique is usually a monster DT (think Vince Wilfork) but BYU often moves Ansah down to the 0 because he can transition speed to power so well and usually winds up in the backfield before the play fully develops. He won’t be asked to play the 0-technique in the NFL but this shows his versatility.
This play doesn’t show up in the stat column but is huge for the BYU defense. Ansah commands the double team. Once he realizes it’s a quick pass he gets his hands up. Ansah will be one of the longest prospects in the draft. His wingspan is incredible and causes disruption to QB/WR sight lines. Because Ansah gets his hands up in the path of the ball, the ball gets onto the receiver quicker than anticipated. The WR gets his hands up in time to deflect the ball into the air and it’s picked off by a BYU defender.
The separation between Ansah and many of this year’s pass rushers is power. Ansah is a powerful athlete with a strong punch. This is an example of Ansah overpowering a guy that outweighs him by almost 40 pounds. Ansah turns speed into power as well as anyone in this draft and this is an excellent example of that.
Ansah works his way back into the play and finishes off the tackle. In order to do so he hurdles the center on the ground and closes on the back to ensure the tackle is made behind the line of scrimmage. Guy is a phenomenal athlete.
Raw? This is a play 100% made by Ansah by his instincts. Instincts of a guy that has played the game for years. Ansah sniffs out the screen as both engaged blockers release and head up the field. A player that is raw flies up the field after the QB. Ansah stays homes and instinctually sniffs out the play.
Ansah gets enough of the back to slow up his course and allows him to get his hips flipped to chase down the ball carrier. This play results in a 3rd and 14 because Ansah is able to blow up a nicely set up screen play. There are no doubts that Ansah could stand to refine technique and add more to his pass rush repetoire but he has shown the ability to make an impact early in the NFL. This game (Utah State) is about as good as they come for film on a defensive end.
Last but certainly not least with Ansah is his impact on special teams. Every game I’ve watched, Ansah has been an impactful special teams player. This play is incredible. Ansah blows up his man and makes a tackle on the fake punt to give the ball to BYU deep in their territory. These types of plays are becoming common place for Ansah and put him into the elite prospect category for me.
You hear analysts talk about players flashing on tape. Ansah flashes more than I ever expected. He will make big plays in every game and if you find the football, Ansah will be near. I absolutely detest the evaluation of Ansah being raw. Sure, there’s some technique refinement that will be needed but if you look at where he is to where he was it’s mind boggling. For a guy that didn’t know how to put pads on two years ago to the guy I showed in these screenshots is amazing.
Not many expected Aldon Smith to be picked in the top ten of the 2011 NFL Draft. The 49ers took him seventh and haven’t looked back since. That is my gut feeling on Ansah as a prospect. His freakish size, athleticism, and overall game make him worthy of a top ten selection in the 2013 NFL Draft and I think ultimately lead him to be an impact player in the NFL.