Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Obi Ezeh, #45

Middle linebacker Obi Ezeh
2010 Countdown: #14 Obi Ezeh

Ezeh was offered scholarships by Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Michigan, and Western Michigan, but chose the Wolverines in December 2005.  He signed with Michigan in February 2006.  Contrary to the popular belief held by Michigan fans, he was projected as a linebacker in college, not a fullback.  He did play running back at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Grand Rapids, MI) and was the school's leading rusher, but not many schools are interested in 6'2", 219 lb. running backs who don't have blazing speed.

Ezeh redshirted as a true freshman in 2006, but leaped onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2007.  He started ten games at middle linebacker, was a Freshman All-America, and made the Freshman All-Big Ten squad due to his 10 starts, 68 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, and 1 forced fumble.  He followed that season with perhaps his most productive year - 98 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery.  After that his career seemed to progressively deteriorate.  He held onto the starting middle linebacker job for most of his redshirt junior year in 2009, making 69 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 pass breakups, and 1 fumble recovery; however, he played sparingly late in the season while losing time to Kevin Leach, a 210 lb. former walk-on.  Those struggles continued into 2010, when Ezeh was displaced by redshirt sophomore Kenny Demens halfway through the season.  Statistically, his fifth-year senior campaign was his worst, as he finished with 58 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 1 fumble recovery.

293 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 8 pass breakups, 3 fumble recoveries.  He is #10 on Michigan's all-time career tackles list.

Freshman All-American in 2007 . . . Freshman All-Big Ten in 2007 . . . Roger Zatkoff Award (U of M's best linebacker) in 2008 . . . Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2007

Ezeh had one of the more curious careers of any Michigan player in the last decade.  Prior to the Rich Rodriguez years, it took a rare talent - or injury problems -  for a freshman to start.  It seemed that Ezeh's career was off to a fast start in 2007, and many Michigan fans were looking forward to the years to come.  Lots of people thought he would follow in the footsteps of David Harris, another lightly regarded recruit who developed into a very good middle linebacker at Michigan, a player good enough to be starting at inside linebacker for the New York Jets.  I can't help but feel that Ezeh was one of the casualties of Rich Rodriguez and his staff.  The linebacker play was so atrocious in Rodriguez's first two seasons on the job that his linebackers coach, Jay Hopson, was the only staffer to get axed after 2009 was completed.  By all accounts Ezeh was a very high quality individual.  He never got into trouble off the field, was well spoken in interviews, and was just a good representative of the university.  I wasn't in practice every day, but it seems like a kid with his qualities would have nowhere to go but up.  Instead, his play got so bad that he was an afterthought by the end of his career.  He was slow to read plays, let blockers get into his chest, and just seemed to lack aggression.  Those were things that didn't seem to be issues earlier in his career.  One of the lasting images of his career was in 2010, when after a long run, a shot of Rich Rodriguez seemingly had him tearing into defensive coordinator Greg Robinson for not having inserted Kenny Demens.  And despite the fact that Demens started less than half the games, he finished with 24 more tackles on the year (82 to 58) than Ezeh.

While I have no reason to believe he lacks intelligence, the general downward spiral of Ezeh's career makes me think he struggled to adjust to new concepts and defensive schemes.  His solid redshirt freshman season was his second year in defensive coordinator Ron English's system; there were inklings of trouble under Scott Shafer in 2008; things got worse in Greg Robinson's 4-3 in 2009; and the switch to the 3-3-5 in 2010 really seemed to befuddle him.  NFL players need to adapt quickly to new schemes, and Ezeh hasn't shown the ability to do so.  He also doesn't have great athleticism, which can sometimes make up for a lack of mental adjustments.  Ezeh was not invited to the NFL Combine, and I do not expect to see him playing at the next level.


  1. Ezeh had back problems that he tried to play through, but that limited his mobility.

  2. @ Anonymous 5:59 p.m.

    That is true, and a point I overlooked.