Once the Cowboys addressed their need at corner by selection Chidobe Awuzie in the second round, Blogging The Boys immediately started looking to get to know the man who was joining the team. That included reaching out to our extended SB Nation family by contacting the staff at The Ralphie Report. After all who is better to give us the scoop on the Colorado defensive back than the guys who covered Awuzie for the last four years.
Jack Barsh answered the call and gave us some detailed information that will help us as we welcome Chidobe Awuzie into the Cowboys fold.
1. Chidobe Awuzie was a four-year starter for Colorado. Please tell me about his development from a raw freshman through his senior season.
Barsh: As a freshman, he actually wasn’t that raw. Sure, he made some boneheaded plays, but he flashed immediately, which is part of why CU fans love him so much. He obviously improved to his senior year, but he was a huge contributor his entire career at Colorado. Freshman year, he played a lot of nickel back for the Buffs, and was always there for a thumping tackle. The next year, CU’s safety position was absolutely decimated, so Chidobe went back to centerfield to play free safety. While not his natural position, he absolutely deserved his starting spot and probably could have stayed there. His junior year, he moved back to nickel back and boundary corner, often moving around the defense in order to confuse the other team and maximize his playmaking ability. This is when the sacks started to stack up. His senior year, the rest of the country finally realized how special he was and (mostly) threw away from him. However, defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt didn’t want to just leave him on an island. He was too good at the line of scrimmage and in run support. So Awuzie would move in from the outside cornerback spot at times and rush the passer or guard a tight end. He truly did it all this year: zone coverage, press man, blitzes, you name it, he did it.
Barsh: I think he could be, but I don’t know if you want him to. I’ve always thought that Awuzie is best when he is put in a position to get to the ball as fast as possible. He has the measurable and intelligence to play outside cornerback and take out the other team’s best receiver, but to maximize Chido, I think you have to put him near the line of scrimmage. Nickel back is a perfect fit for him. His instincts let him anticipate quick throws, his physicality pushes the receivers off their route, and his zone prowess means you can just set him there and he’ll play the run, too. In the Cowboys’ 4-3, he can function as a fourth linebacker at times, but he covers like a DB. He truly is a versatile chess piece.
3. One stat that jumped off the paper to me when I looked at his stats was that Chidobe racked up several sacks over the past couple seasons. He is joining a squad that has faced issues getting to the quarterback in recent years. Can you elaborate on his ability to come on the blitz?
Barsh: That is one of his most distinguishing features in a loaded CB class. Chido comes HARD off the edge when he blitzes. Any highlight reel of Chidobe is sure to feature the multiple times he has crunched quarterbacks. If Dallas so desires, they could blitz Chido pretty often and find success. He’s smart enough to realize if the RB stays in to block, where he’s going to block, or if he’s going to leak out.
4. One major thing that Jason Garrett and the Dallas staff look for in the players they bring in is leadership. Tell me more about how Awuzie fit in as a leader in the Buffaloes locker room?
Barsh: Oh boy, are you going to be happy then. Awuzie is an incredible mature young man who has been a leader in the defensive secondary for quite a while. He may not be outspoken, but almost every young Colorado defensive back mentions him as a mentor and someone who helps them on and off the field. Chido graduated in three and a half years, took care of everything in the classroom, and has a stellar track record off the field. The Buffaloes’ success in the win column last year had almost everything to do with leadership, and Awuzie was a part of that senior class that pushed everyone to be better.
5. Some big boards had him listed as a first-round prospect, but Awuzie fell to near the bottom of the second round. Do you feel that he was deserving of a first day selection and what makes you feel that way?
Barsh: I do feel like he was worthy of a first-round selection, but I also thought Dalvin Cook was a first-rounder, so who knows? The expected run on cornerbacks didn’t come until much later, which makes sense with a class this deep. Awuzie easily could’ve been the Cowboys’ first-round pick in my opinion and been just fine. He was already a second-rounder before the combine, but his 40 time and overall athleticism pushed him up in scouts’ minds. I’m obviously biased, but if you look at chatter before the draft and the fact that he was invited to the draft, many people much smarter than me felt the same way. The Cowboys got an absolute bargain.
I like what I am hearing about Awuzie, and then to have my colleagues who got to cover him up close for his entire college career say the same things others are saying really gets me fired up. No doubt, like Jack said in his opening comment, Chidobe will make some boneheaded decisions during his initial days in Dallas but he will learn from them. It is the nature of the beast. I am just glad to have a beast in the backfield.
Thanks once again for the assistance of the staff at The Ralphie Report for making this possible.