The Pac-12 isn’t exactly packed with NFL talent this season. The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 all seem less poised to produce significant draft choices than prior years. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find a good NFL player though. Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry looks like a high draft pick, so do Bryce Love and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside out of Stanford. Washington looks like they will produce some stars in the secondary, namely Byron Murphy, but there’s a lesser-known defensive back in the Pac-12 that may make an NFL team very happy. His name is Ugo Amadi.
Senior Riser: Ugo Amadi
Amadi was a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, and he was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and Rivals. He went to John Overton High School in Nashville which has produced one NFL player. Jeff Gooch attended the school before playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions. More recently, MLB AL MVP nominee Mookie Betts graduated from there in 2011. Amadi had offers from some impressive power five schools such as LSU, Penn State, and Tennessee, but he ultimately chose Oregon.
Amadi made a name for himself as a junior with 49 tackles, five interceptions, and nine pass break-ups. As a senior, his production had slowed down slightly with 25 tackles, two interceptions, and five pass break-ups. As a defensive back though, generally less production can be viewed as a good thing. Without the high school game tape to verify an assumption, it would be more logical to infer improvement rather than decline. Essentially, less production is probably due to quarterbacks not targeting his side of the field as often as his cover skills improved.
He was also considered an athlete in some recruitment profiles because of his ability to return punts and kicks. He was getting statewide recognition as a lockdown defensive back, clear through several considerations, such as for the Tennessean’s Dandy Dozen, All-Southwest Region honors and a nominee for the Hume Award. Undoubtedly, his recruiting offers from some of the college’s best programs proved his desirable traits and NFL potential.
Amadi received his first honors as a junior last season by receiving All-Pac-12 Team honorable mention from the coaches. He also received All-Pac-12 Academic Team honorable mentions.
This season, Ugo Amadi received several preseason honors. Dependent on the source, Amadi was voted as an All-Pac-12 Team member. This ranged from Second-Team by Phil Steele to Fourth-Team from Athlon Sports. He was also listed as the 96th player in the top 100 ranking from Sports Illustrated. He looks well on pace to be an All-Pac-12 First or Second-Teamer from just about every source after this season.
Amadi has an incredibly productive junior season. He finished with 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He pulled down four interceptions and broke up eight passes in 13 games. As impressive as these numbers are, his most impressive stat may be forcing three fumbles. As a player in the secondary, generally, turnovers are expected through interceptions, so to be able to give the ball back to the offense via forced fumbles is a very good attribute.
This season, Amadi has been very productive again. Through nine games he has 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks, matching and surpassing last season’s totals. In terms of ball production, he looks on pace to match last season’s numbers, if not slightly surpass. He has three interceptions and six passes broken up this season. What stands out upon these stats is that two of these interceptions have been returned for touchdowns. Also, he doesn’t have any forced fumbles, but they are not expected from defensive backs, and knowing that he is capable of forcing them from his junior season is sufficient.
Amadi has played both coverage positions, and it is difficult to project his NFL position because he has very desirable attributes at both positions.
As a cornerback, he runs stride for stride with any receiver on the field. As a former track and field runner in high school, has boasts low 4.4 speed. He also had great acceleration at the end of routes to cover any ground that the receiver may have gained on him. He’s very natural in getting his hand in to defend passes and force fumbles if the receivers do catch the ball. Standing at only 5’10 he does get targeted by quarterbacks when he covers bigger receivers. He’s shown that he can make up for height with his coverage skills unless the ball is perfectly placed, which is the case with most.
As a safety, he breaks on passes very quickly and he’s an exceptional tackler. The ball production and ability to force fumbles are very impressive and translatable. His intelligence at the position is tough to match. You can see him shifting into passing lanes without closing it too early, forcing the quarterback to throw to receivers who aren’t open anymore by the time the ball gets there. His footwork is very fluid and the hips are loose to adjust with ease, which is relevant as a cornerback as well.
Aside from both cornerback and safety, he is a great special teamer. The NFL has shown time and time again that they value special team players. He has experience returning kicks and punts, which he has returned for touchdowns. He has also been the gunner for the Ducks and he’s dropped down into coverage to make big stops on trick plays. Just this past week Amadi was awarded Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week.
Amadi will find his niche in the NFL. His position may be dependent on where he gets drafted, but he’s shown the ability to be a reliable player at both spots. Personally, I see Amadi as a free safety. He style is similar to Jessie Bates of Wake Forest from last draft season who has been outstanding for the Cincinnati Bengals thus far.
His IQ is too special to not have on full display at all times. While he is very good as a cover corner, he should be able to diagnose plays and flow towards the ball. He undoubtedly has the ability though to develop into a good cover man at either spot. He may be best suited going to a deep team, playing special teams and learning the position behind some stars. This will allow him to gain knowledge and practice time before he steps in to replace someone in the secondary. Look at Damontae Kazee of the Atlanta Falcons who has done an exceptional job filling in for the injured Keanu Neal this season. Expect Amadi to be drafted higher than the fifth round though, which is when Kazee heard his name called.
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