Holmes Onwukaife, Wolverine

Holmes Onwukaife, Wolverine

June 15, 2009

The commitment of Jordan Paskorz a couple weeks ago set off a Domino effect in Michigan’s recruiting. The OLB/DE from Pennsylvania preceded a commitment from OLB/DE Ken Wilkins (also from Pennsylvania), which preceded a pledge from the newest member of the 2010 class, Holmes Onwukaife. Onwukaife is another LB/DE, albeit from Cedar Park, Texas, not the Keystone State.

Onwukaife played defensive end in a 3-4 scheme as a junior, meaning he was lined up on the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle much of the time. According to his coaches, he will switch to OLB in the 3-4 scheme, meaning he’ll be playing more in open space and getting a clearer lane to the quarterback. Even as a DE last year, he racked up 50 tackles and 9 sacks. According to this Rivals article, Onwukaife is being recruited by Michigan to play OLB.

All those things being said, the Wolverines are beginning to run into the same issue at OLB (the “quick”) as they are at wide receiver on offense; there is such a glut of talent (unproven talent, but talent nonetheless) that some of these guys must be headed for a position change or a decommitment. Not only does Michigan have commitments from Paskorz, Wilkins, and Onwukaife, but incoming freshmen Craig Roh and Anthony Lalota have been told they’ll get a look at the Quick, and UM veterans Brandon Herron, Marell Evans, and Steve Watson are all currently vying for playing time at the position. That’s eight guys fighting for one spot in 2010.

I’m wondering if the coaches also see an opportunity for Onwukaife to play inside linebacker. He’s too small to play DE, so he’s some sort of linebacker all the way. In watching his video, I don’t really see a ton of potential as a rush linebacker. I think he would get consumed by good offensive tackles, and his first step isn’t quick enough to beat those guys to the outside consistently. Onwukaife does a good job of disengaging from blockers and not taking them head on. He also has some very raw athleticism; he has an ability to chase down players from sideline to sideline and a crafty ability to sidestep blockers.

On the flip side, Onwukaife does what too many superior high school players do – he tackles with his arms. Instead of running through the ballcarrier, he makes contact only with his arms and tries to twist the runner to the ground rather than bury him into the turf. This is a technique that can be taught, so it’s not a huge concern, but considering all of the failed arm tackles we saw at Michigan this past year, it’s something that needs to be corrected before he sees the field in college. As I said above, I also question the quickness of his first step. On top of those things, Onwukaife also seems to loaf at times. Judging from his body language, I don’t think it’s laziness – I think he’s a split second slow at diagnosing plays and since he was playing out of position, he seemed to be thinking too much, rather than reacting. But most of his faults seem to be technical, meaning that a couple years of learning should head him in the right direction.

All things considered, I believe Onwukaife could end up at inside linebacker. The lack of inside linebackers and the glut of outside linebackers make me think so. I don’t know how Onwukaife would react to playing in the middle and diagnosing plays from that position, but he has the athleticism and the body to play at the second level. He’s an intriguing prospect to me because he’s so raw – he could be great or he could never see the field. Here’s hoping it’s the former.

Welcome to Michigan.


  1. Comments: 21383
    Jun 16, 2009 at 12:38 AM

    I see that he has offers from highly regarded academic institutions like Harvard and Rice. Are you using his intelligence as a justification to a possible position switch because it is rare to see a DE move to lLB due to coverage and read concerns? What are your thoughts?

  2. Comments: 21383
    Jun 16, 2009 at 1:05 AM

    Hey Magnus – Nice Post. Insightful argument to him possibly ending up at ILB. Like Anonymous was getting at, he seems to have a high IQ, which seems to be a big asset to playing the ILB position and running the defense. Do you have any insight on how Robinson's defenses make play calls and do audibles? is it up to the ILB?

  3. Comments: 21383
    Jun 16, 2009 at 1:33 AM

    Win, just win! Give me smart fast players all day, every day, but for all that is good just WIN!

  4. Comments: 21383
    Jun 17, 2009 at 1:41 AM

    Is this guy committed or not? He does not show up on the Michigan/Rivals web site and he was suppose to have committed before Jones?!? What gives?

  5. Comments: 21383
    Jun 17, 2009 at 4:04 AM

    Anonymous #1: I'm not necessarily using Onwukaife's book smarts as a reason to move him to ILB, although that doesn't hurt. Football smarts and book smarts are too very different things.

    You have to remember that he was playing out of position as a DE last season. He'll be playing OLB this year, so the switch from OLB to ILB doesn't seem like such a stretch.

  6. Comments: 21383
    Jun 17, 2009 at 4:05 AM

    BleedingBlue: I'm not sure who calls Robinson's defense. I would imagine it's the MIKE, but I don't know for certain. That's something that I will try to find out and perhaps post in the future.

  7. Comments: 21383
    Jun 17, 2009 at 4:08 AM

    Anonymous #3: Two separate reports stated that Onwukaife was committing – Rivals and Tom VanHaaren from MGoBlog. From what I've seen, Onwukaife told the sources before he talked to Rich Rodriguez. We might have a Travis Williams-type of situation on our hands, where a kid wants to commit but the offer might be conditional/off the table.

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