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2021 Draft Prospect Edge Azeez Ojulari

speed, quickness, power with length off the edge

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Baylor v Georgia Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Like I have mentioned before a good family can make a world of difference. Great values instilled when a child is young then reinforced over time can give a person a solid foundation to build a life upon.

Azeez Ojulari had a family like that, strong proud parents that instilled great principles. They wanted their children to strive for greatness no matter what field they choose. They also stressed family, their heritage because Azeez is a descendant of a Nigerian King. His grandfather was a prince, a man who became a world famous artist.

Azeez’s grandfather was born in 1944 as Prince Olaniyi Osuntoki but later changed his name to Prince Twins Seven-Seven. He did so as he was only surviving child of his parents’ 7 set of twins born to them. The name change was in reverence to those lost souls. He developed a love of art and music. In the 60’s he became a famous Nigerian artist who toured the world. He also had a band he would perform with. Prince Twins Seven-Seven had 39 children. Bolalne was his second child. She was later to become Azeez’s mom.

Bolalne traveled with her father for years until she finally decided to settle in Atlanta where she met another Nigerian immigrant named Monsuru. The two married then had 3 children while always stressing good values but most of all education. They never forgot their heritage. “It’s around me every day,” Azeez said.

Azeez started playing football when he was 9. He grew to love the game. He became a star player on his Marietta High School football team. He was called up to the varsity team when he was in the eighth grade.

“That’s when I knew, wow, football was going to be my sport,” Azeez said. He received offers from over 50 schools but chose Georgia so he could stay close to his family. When he was 17 he tore his ACL, but the offers still stood. He was that talented.

His parents always supportive but they still stressed academics. His father Monsuru said, “They say it’s 1.3 percent of people that make it to the league. The chance is very slim. If you don’t make it to the league, then you have to live on. The education is something you can live on. Now you keep on making money.”

His high school coach Richard Morgan can’t say enough nice things about Azeez. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and he’s just one of the best I’ve ever come across. Just an all-around great kid,” coach Morgan said.

Azeez was the hardest worker on the team even though he was their best player. He was made the face of the Marietta program, someone coach Morgan wanted all future players to emulate. “He doesn’t have any poor qualities,” Morgan said. “He’s the kind of guy that if he wanted to date one of my daughters, that’s just the perfect kid.”

B.J. is Azeez’s younger brother. He is also a highly respected talent. He was a freshman this year at LSU where he player sparingly but still had 16 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble. Their older sister was also a known scholar at Marietta High.

“They all have the same type determination. So, obviously, a lot of that comes from home,” Morgan said.

When asked how good he can be Azeez replied, “Really, really good, Von Miller type good. “That’s the model, probably.”

Let’s see just how good Azeez really is. Azeez is listed at 6’ 3” 240 lbs. He also appears to have solid length which helps for an edge player.

Here he is up against Auburn as Azeez (#13) is lined up at the defensive end on the left side of the defense (the offense’s right). He is taking on the right tackle Brodarious Hamm a 6’5” 330 lbs bulldozer. The play is a fake jet sweep left with a read option component with QB Bo Nix handing the ball off to the RB instead of keeping it.

The offensive tackle comes out to “road grade” Azeez, but he is far too quick for the big tackle. In order to maintain his edge contain profile he moves to his left in an attempt to force the play back inside. He does a nice job to stay outside the offensive players since the CB to his side is blitzing. This means there is little contain should the runner make the edge. That is Azeez’s first priority on the play because if the RB should get around him he probably walks in for a TD.

The CB is effectively blocked so he has no chance to make a play. Yet with him pile driven into the ground it made an obstacle that the RB could not get around. He cuts back right into the path of Azeez who knows what do do from here.

This isn’t a great defensive play. Azeez just mauls the player then takes him down authoritatively as he usually tries to make a brutalizing tackle. The key here is that at 6’ 3” 240 lbs he was able to maintain his defensive position against a dump truck that was trying to push into oblivion. By doing so he is in the correct position to make the play in front of him because he was where he was supposed to be. The fact that he made an aggressive wrap tackle is notable as well.

Okay so Azeez used his quickness against a much bigger man to maintain contain, then the make tackle. In the NFL he will be able to do that as well, but eventually you have to show you can stand you ground in the trenches against some of the leviathans that lurk on the offensive lines. If he isn’t able to stand his ground teams will run play after play against him until he makes plays or is subjugated to a third down situational player.

Here he is again, in the same game up against that rock truck of a right tackle Brodarious Hamm on another running play on a 4 WR set on a 2nd and 8 play. This formation screams pass play as the offense has three WR set to the left of the formation which makes the defense shift the ILBs over to that side. The ILBs want to be able to drop back into passing windows to stop a completion. The safeties are 10 yards back reading the QB to see where they have to flow.

Now many edge players would be looking to get a jump at the snap to find a way around the big tackle then race to the QB. At the snap this turns into a straight running play, not even a read option as the QB Nix just uses a poor fake pass to try to freeze the pursuit of the runner. Watch Azeez, though. He actually takes a step to his left to again guard the outside flank of the defense. For an instant he is all alone on that side of the line, but as the tackle tries to abuse him Azeez is actually standing him up and reading the play.

The safety makes a quick read then flies up in support which closes off the B gap for the RB. Azeez on the other hand is almost 2-gapping the big tackle just holding him up until the RB commits to which side of the big tackle he is going to go. In two gapping you don’t rush the passer. You stay on the line to protect the hole on either side of you, which is what Azeez is doing. If the player cuts inside Azeez is there along with the safety. If he goes outside (which he does) then Azeez is also there with a host of teammates to make the play.

On this play Azeez shows sound defensive principles and good technique as he has a wide stance. He uses his length to keep the tackle from controlling him plus the strength to two gap a 330 lbs man. He stacked and shed a 330 lb man. This was an impressive play by Azeez.

On this next play against the same team with all the usual suspects it is 2nd and 20 with Auburn down 3 TDs. When the QB takes a drop back from a shotgun snap then the defense knows it is going to be a pass. Georgia is in 4-2-5 nickel man to man coverage, but they blitz the right side corner who is (what looks like) press man coverage.

This creates a 5-man rush on he QB. It forces the RB who is to the left of the QB to step up to block the corner. The RB was designed to flare out as a safety valve for his QB but wisely stops then puts an effective block on the free rusher. This leaves Azeez one on one with the big tackle which in this instance is no match. Azeez is fast and quick so when he steps outside like he is going to race around the left shoulder of the tackle. This makes the tackle slide outside prematurely. By doing so it allowed Azeez to counter quickly back inside crossing the big man’s face.With his momentum moving out the tackle cannot effectively get back to the hole he created. Azeez goes flying by on the inside with a straight shot to the QB. With the pocket collapsing around him there is nowhere for the QB to go then abruptly he is run over by Azeez.

This was a nice move by Azeez, but it was also a solid pass rush by the entire defense that made the QB step up into the pocket to be a tackling dummy for Azeez. Georgia’s defense was solid last year with the 17th best scoring average in the country. They were 3rd in total defense with the (SRS) Simple Rating System, a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule. Azeez led that defense with 10 sacks (of the 33 Georgia had in 2020) and 13 tackles for loss in only 10 games.

Later in the same game Azeez is now the right defensive end going up against Auburn’s left tackle Alec Jackson (6’ 5” 315 lbs). This is a 4th and 12 play so Azeez is freed from his role as edge protector as a run will probably not make a first down, so Azeez can pin his ears back to go get the QB.

Azeez has a quick first step with the ability to bend around the corner. He doesn’t get that perfect 45 degree angle which is prototypical of bendy edge rushers, but he is pliable with effective body control to worry offensive tackles. His strong lower half gives him the power to get by the holding by the tackle. On this play he almost grabs the QB, but he does draw a holding call on the left tackle. This forced the QB out of the pocket to make a desperation heave that is intercepted by the defense.

Here in the bowl game against Cincinnati Azeez is matched up with left tackle Lorenz Metz, a 6’ 9” 335 lbs who has incredible length to keep defenders outside the pocket of the QB. It’s 3rd and 7 so Georgia has six men at the line of scrimmage in a blitz look. Cincinnati doesn’t know if all six will come or which will drop back if they do. Azeez is in a two point stance in a wide 8 setting looking to speed around the edge.

At the snap two of the defenders drop back in a shallow zone to take away short slants or drag routes looking for an easy 1st down. Azeez is off quickly at the snap taking a wide lane to the QB. He is so far outside the regular rush lane that the tall tackle cannot slide step fast enough to cut him off even with his impressive length. Azeez is a little behind the QB when he reaches him but uses his own massive length to reach out then slap the ball out of the QB’s hand just before he can throw.

This was a game changing play as Georgia’s offense sputtered all day, they were down by 11 in the 4th quarter but now had the ball at the Cincinnati 25.They would take the ball in for a TD but miss the 2-point conversion to keep them down by 5. The defense was not through with Cincinnati yet as they stopped them for a 3 and out with the offense driving down but only getting a field goal. The Dogs were still down by 2 with time dwindling.

In this next clip the defense again has the Cincinnati offense in a bind with a 3rd down and 7 to go with just over 5 minutes left in the game. A first down here would allow the Bearcats to take the clock under 3 minutes, severely limiting the chances for a Georgia victory.

Azeez is in the normal rush position this time since he doesn’t have a defender in the gap inside the tackle like he did on the last play. This time Azeez uses a subtle but effective move against the towering tackle. Azeez comes directly at the big tackle but hops back and to the right just as he reaches him. The result was the tackle getting far too much ahead of his toes causing him to lunge and bend at the waist. Without anyone in front of him plus with Azeez pushing his hands away the tackle has nowhere to go except straight down to the ground.

With Georgia up by a point, with Cincinnati backed up to it’s own goal line it was Azeez who put a ribbon on a bowl game win with another great play against the giant left tackle. Azeez then uses two of his three most impressive attributes, speed and length to run down the fleeing QB then swiping his ankles with the long reach to sack him for a loss of 10.

This time Azeez is lined up in his usual sprinter stance when the team is in an obvious passing situation; 1st and 98 from your own 2 is a passing situation. This time Azeez uses a nuanced move to get by the lurking tackle. He comes off the ball quickly but slows for an tick like he is going to take the inside route. This causes the big tackle to slow his feet for just an instant which Azeez takes full advantage of. He turns on the juice then uses his hands to slap down the arms of the tackle as he turns the corner with speed. The QB is a sitting duck with Azeez slapping at the ball then taking the QB to the ground.

Azeez could have crushed the QB from behind because the QB never saw him coming. Yet that could draw a roughing penalty so the sack/safety was sufficient which ended the game. The defense made this a win for the Bulldogs against an undefeated team. Azeez had 4 tackles, 3 TFL and 3 sacks in the game. He showed his strength, length and speed to dominate the much bigger man.

These last 4 clips are against Tennessee, a game where the offense couldn’t stop shooting itself in the foot in the first have with a couple of fumbles (one recovered in the end zone for a TD) and short fields that gave Tennessee 21 1st half points. The Georgia defense dominated after halftime with again Azeez the main cog in that engine.

With the first possession of the 1st half Tennessee had a tackle for loss and an incompletion. Azeez is up against left tackle Wayne Morris who is 6’ 5” 320 lbs. Azeez will torture him in the 2nd half. The Georgia defense throttled the Vols vaunted rushing attack all day. They ended the day with a single yard gained on 27 attempts.

This is a traditional rush for Azeez as he uses quickness off the snap, speed up the field, the hand slap to free him from the tackles arms, and a bend around the corner right to the QB. As he grabs the QB from behind he gets a bonus of forcing a fumble so he completes the trifecta by pulling the QB away then falling on the ball. As the matures he will learn that when he approaches a QB from behind he can wrap his arms around his body then force his arms apart freeing the football every time. He can also wrap tackle as he swipes at the ball to force the fumble. This will come with NFL coaching.

This was a huge play as the Bulldogs were sluggish in the first half but to force a turnover deep in the Tennessee end of the field is uplifting for the entire team. The offense didn’t do much with it as they only added a field goal, but the energy/emotion level was sky high after that turnover. It was a fantastic way to start a comeback effort.

From another CBS angle you can see Azeez was even held on the play, but the result was never in doubt once he got the edge on the tackle.

Azeez has a way of coming up the field hard (like in this play) then slowing down for an instant then exploding around the edge once the tackle slows his feet. I don’t know if this is a subtle move he developed on his own, or if he slows to figure in his head what plan of attack to make. Either way it is effective so he should work it into his routine of pass rushing moves.

This next play is on 4th and inches from the first half with Tennessee looking to muscle their way to a 1st down. Tennessee had been running rough shot over it’s opponents on the ground all year up to this game.

Azeez is on the end of the line, but has no outside responsibilities as #3 is outside of him with no receivers to worry about. Azeez’s job is to compact the pile which will take away running lanes or any space at all for the RB to go through. As it happens Azeez is able to put a hard stick on a runner with a full head of steam, pushing him back from the pile. This play was originally called no gain and Georgia ball, but replay gave the first down to Tennessee, it was 50/50 at best.

On this last clip I wanted to give you a close up with Azeez at work. You can see the power, quickness, and body control plus the hand usage well here.

This is slow motion so you don’t see the fluidity of movement in this pass rush. Azeez is going full bore when he reaches the tackle then all at once he knocks down the hands as he is turning the corner while bending to a near 45 degree angle to get to the QB. To me this is like watching a ballerina in action except this one is wearing cleats. This by the way was a holding call against the tackle. In this game alone Azeez had 5 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and the recovered fumble which you saw not to mention a couple of holding penalties.

Summary

Azeez Ojulari is a DE/OLB prospect with power, length, speed and a quick first step. He has superior character. He would be an asset to any locker room. He is a smart, hardworking player who takes well to coaching. No matter where he is people have nothing but positive things to say about him. He is only 21 years old so he isn’t finished filling out his frame. He is a lean, muscular player with very good length with skills to use them.

It is early in the process, and with the Combine no longer available I don’t see Ojulari dropping down the scouting ranks too much. I think he will test well at his pro day. He should run a 4.65-4.70/40 which is plenty fast enough with his quickness off the snap. Ojulari has a high ceiling as a player, so high I don’t see him now making it out of the 1st round. Edge defenders are at a premium now with a player like Matt Judon asking $20 million a year when he had 6 sacks in 2020.

If the Jets want him they may be lucky to get him with their 23rd pick in the first round. That is a total guess right now, things will become clearer once the pro days start and medicals are evaluated.

That’s what I think.

What do you think?