Abdurrahman Ya-Sin Jersey

Abdurrahman Ibn Ya-Sin, also known as ‘Rock’ Ya-Sin was given his nickname by his high school wrestling coach. The former two-time state wrestling champ didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school. While he was very talented in high school, recognized as a two-time county and all-region selection in Dekalb County for football and an Honor Roll member, the late start to his football career really cost him a lot of looks from big colleges. He went on to play ball at Presbyterian College for three seasons, but the school became a non-scholarship program, so one of his coaches at Presbyterian sent his tape to Coach Geoff Collins, who was the head coach at Temple, and he immediately offered Rock a scholarship. The Georgia native’s mental toughness, built through his wrestling background, would be tested because making the jump from FCS to FBS was going to be a challenge.

But Ya-Sin’s drive and competitiveness never wavered. He quickly earned the respect of his teammates and coaching staff. Eight months is all it took for him to earn the coveted single-digit jersey number handed out to the “nine toughest players on the team.”

Rock went on to have a really good senior season, racking up 13 pass deflections and two interceptions and only allowing 264 yards on 32 receptions, per SportsInfo Solutions. Ya-Sin was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, and his competitive nature stood out, as he and alpha receiver Deebo Samuel were the highlight matchup every day during the 1-on-1 portion of practice.

That type of competitiveness, along with his wrestling background and non-traditional path to the NFL, likely put him on the map for the Buffalo Bills and Head Coach Sean McDermott. Ya-Sin continued his assault on the pre-draft process by putting up some great numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, minus his three-cone drill time.

His 7.31-second three-cone time is well below the universally accepted 7-second threshold. A slow time in this drill generally indicates a corner’s inability to change direction. Ya-Sin’s time falls well above GM Brandon Beane, Assistant GM Joe Schoen and Director of Player Personnel Dan Morgan’s drafted or signed player pool average of 6.93 seconds. The worst three-cone time by a player signed or drafted by those three on record was Xavien Howard, a very good corner who was drafted in the second round by the Dolphins.

So when Ya-Sin’s pro day came on March 18, he stated he wanted to show “the fluidity in [his] hips.”

Well, it seems like the Bills wanted to get a closer look at him doing just that because when Ya-Sin lined up to start his drills, Bills defensive backs coach John Butler put him and his teammates through the workout.

Even though Ya-Sin doesn’t fit the Bills’ typical drafting tendency for corners because of his unusually high three-cone time, when you look at his film, he is a solid fit. Sure, you will see Ya-Sin struggle with change of direction from time to time, specifically in two scenarios. One is when he is in soft press man coverage. He is very reactive to the release, which he is absolutely is supposed to be. It’s just that being in soft press is not advantageous for a cornerback, especially one like Ya-Sin who excels when his hands are on the receiver. In this clip, you will see a few reps where the receiver attacks the short arm or 1-2 yards outside of the player. This gets Ya-Sin to open up or kick-step in the opposite direction the receiver is going to break.

The other situation where you will see his change of direction and feet go haywire is at the top of routes. Even though he has a great understanding of how to maintain leverage of the receivers within the coverage scheme, at times his athleticism can be attacked. On this snap, he is in off zone coverage and as the receiver gets to the top of the route, Ya-Sin is thinking that he is going to be running an out route because of the condensed split. The receiver sells it well, and as he is slightly breaking to the sideline, Rock opens up and prepares to flip his hips to break on the out route. Unfortunately, the receiver hooks the route up and Ya-Sin is caught in transition. At this point, he should plant off of his left foot and drive on the ball.

The former wrestler is not afraid of competition or of being on an island by himself in man coverage, and that mental toughness goes a long way as a corner. Corners are going to be attacked and give up plays from time to time, but they must keep their confidence. Like wrestlers, corners must be able to perform in high-pressure situations, and Ya-Sin has shown he can handle them, especially on critical downs. The offense is faced with a 3rd-and-6 situation and they target Ya-Sin. On the snap, he kick steps and opens his hips to the sideline because the WR declared an outside vertical release. He uses his hands to disrupt the route and maintain leverage. But as the receiver breaks inside, Ya-Sin quickly flips his hips to stay with the receiver. His reactive athleticism here is much better than prior clips because he is using his hands to help delay the break in the route while he opens his hips. The movement is fluid, and he stays on the up-field shoulder so he can work to the inside when the ball is delivered. It’s thrown to the back shoulder, but his body control and tracking are on point and he breaks the pass up.

In 2018, Ya-Sin was targeted seven times in the red zone and only allowed three receptions for 3.14 yards per attempt. Here he gets matched up against Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson in 1-on-1 coverage on 4th-and-3, and he comes up with an interception.

Later on, the Bulls go for a two-point conversion and he again shuts down the play and takes it the distance. Unfortunately, it was called back.

I really like how he attacks the ball. Even when he is not exactly in the receiver’s pocket, Ya-Sin knows how to separate the WR from the ball at the catch point. Below, you see him waste a couple of steps and realize that the receiver has some separation because of the throw and placement, but he stays in the match. He attacks the ball and punches it out with his left hand.

The mental approach wrestlers abide by, corners must also have. “There are no excuses,” states Ya-Sin, “you can’t blame it on anybody, win, lose or draw. It’s you versus another man.” His athleticism and mental approach are exactly why Temple left him in man coverage a lot. He was tasked with locking down the isolation wide receiver typically aligned on the backside of these 3×1 routes, and even though he had surrendered plays earlier in the game, Ya-Sin didn’t back down.

While he may struggle to consistently keep his hips down when backpedaling, it isn’t something that he will need to do a lot of. In the Bills’ scheme, the corners are either asked to execute a motor-mirror technique or bail technique. They aren’t asked to stay in their backpedal long — only until the receiver declares his release like you have seen him do in several clips. Defensive Backs Coach Butler and HC McDermott like to protect against the deep pass, so they use the “Saban shuffle” technique when they drop into their zone coverages.

Ya-Sin has shown that he can keep his hips down and shuffle almost as fast as a receiver can run.

This is something he did routinely in 2018 and even showcased it versus top tier competition at the Senior Bowl. His body control, zone eyes on the QB, and ability to compete at the catch point are some of the best in this class.

Ya-Sin was in man coverage 72.5 % of the time in 2018, per SIS, but I believe that his struggles with changing direction may scare heavy man coverage teams off. That’s why I think teams like the Bills will try to use him more in zone, then sprinkle in some man coverage.

Ya-Sin’s physicality, body control while in a bail-shuffle technique, ability to click and close on the ball, and separate a receiver from the ball will be highly regarded by the Bills. Add in the competitive and mental toughness exhibited, and you have a player that HC McDermott is likely to welcome with open arms.

His reactiveness to releases will cause him to surrender some passes in the quick game, but he will not back down or lose aggressiveness. Even some of those false steps and the grabbiness down the field that led to penalties can be cleaned up, in my opinion. His tackling was consistent, and he racked up 49 tackles because of it, but his tackling technique needs to be cleaned up.

Overall, I believe Rock Ya-Sin is a late second, early third round pick who will excel in schemes that put him near the line of scrimmage where he can use his hands to disrupt receivers or play bail coverage to shuffle and keep everything in front of him. Press zone schemes like Seattle, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and even Buffalo, to a degree, would be perfect for Ya-Sin. These teams could put him in press and have him in man coverage or put him into a bail technique, so if the quick game shows, he can drive on the ball without having to worry about a glitch in fluidity or change of direction. Once his technique is refined, he could be a steady starter in the league for many years to come.

Bobby Okereke Jersey

INDIANAPOLIS — With the 89th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts have selected linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Okereke — who stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 239 pounds — is coming off a 2018 season at Stanford in which he earned honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors, as he led his team with 96 total tackles (7.5 for a loss) with 3.5 sacks, five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovered for a safety.

Okereke was also an honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection in 2017, when he had 96 tackles (7.5 for a loss) with four sacks and one interception.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote this about Okereke in his draft profile:

Undersized but instinctive and rangy, Okerke plays fast and is generally on the right track with his initial reads and response to play development. While he’s fairly sound from a technical standpoint, his lack of size and strength shows up in both tackling and downhill duties against blockers. He has adequate talent to drop and cover in space and his experience on special teams gives him a shot to become a quality NFL backup.

As of now, the Colts’ next pick is Saturday in the fourth round (129th overall).

PROVO — Every story has a beginning and most stories have an end.

For a lot of football fans, the story of BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki started midway through his collegiate career.

After a 21-tackle season, Takitaki earned attention and ink for the wrong reasons, when he was suspended for an entire season following an arrest made for allegedly stealing various athletic items on campus.

But that’s not the end of Takitaki’s story. After missing the entire 2016 season after pleading guilty to misdemeanor theft, Takitaki returned to BYU and made good on his promises to family to finish out his career, earn his college degree, and become a better man.

Along the way, he made 237 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks while jumping between linebacker and defensive end in multiple systems and setups. He also met and married his wife Alyssa, a moment that he’s said often rates more favorably than any of his football accomplishments.

Takitaki’s story still isn’t over, either. He’s likely to hear his name called in next week’s NFL Draft, with ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. projecting him as high as a late third-round pick.

It’s all a part of the story — the good, the bad, and the (future) rewards.

“I embrace it. I love it,” Takitaki told KSL Newsradio. “I think it’s part of the journey.”

Takitaki has almost lived on a plane since his senior season ended in Boise following the Cougars’ win over Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He’s been to All-Star games from Alabama to California, was poked, prodded, corralled and wrangled at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, and performed both linebacker and defensive line drills at BYU’s pro day at the end of March.

It’s all part of the deal, the usual pre-draft process for prospects hoping to take their game to the next level. Many, like Takitaki, can play multiple positions — either defensive end or outside linebacker, in his case.

Most will likely get their start on special teams. That’s OK for Takitaki, too.

“I play violent out there, and teams tell me I’m made for special teams,” Takitaki said. “That’s been a big up for me.

“I know some guys love special teams.”

Either way, he’s likely to get his start somewhere.

“You’ll definitely hear his name called sometime either late next Friday or early Saturday,” said local NFL agent Evan Brennan, who does not represent Takitaki but projects him as a fourth-round pick.

Takitaki has visited seen NFL teams so far, including the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and most recently the Houston Texas, according to the Houston Chronicle, as his draft stock has soared remarkably high.

NFL teams get 30 individual workouts, and Takitaki has already received at least a half dozen, Brennan told ESPN 960 radio in Utah County. The Chiefs were among the first, then he kept getting phone calls. Dolphins. Falcons. Most recently he worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles, then spent more than a half-hour on a FaceTime chat with their defensive coordinator, he told the radio station.

“I feel like this process has been a ride. A lot of ups and a lot of downs,” Takitaki said. “But I feel like, looking at my career at BYU, it helped me a lot. I played a lot of positions, and I feel like what I did on the field definitely helped me a lot during this whole journey.”

BYU asked Sione Takitaki to do a little bit of everything. He’s a hyped-up player who is all over the field, but that energy can become reckless and inefficient. He has to learn to play with balance and technique rather than consistently relying on athleticism and hustle to compete. He looks best suited to play the weak-side linebacker position in a 4-3 defense where he can run and shoot backside gaps, masking some of the deficiencies in his game.

It’s probably safe to say that linebacker Sione Takitaki wasn’t expecting to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns.

Takitaki, who was selected by the Browns in the third round with the No. 80 overall pick Friday, had quite an interesting story to tell about how he found out that he was headed to Ohio.

Jeff Schudel of the News-Herald reported that Takitaki chose to take a bathroom break when Cleveland was on the clock with the pick since he had not spoken with anyone from the team since the NFL combine two months ago. Lo and behold, the Browns took the BYU product, and the call came while Takitaki was in the bathroom.

The 22-year-old Takitaki recorded 119 total tackles and 4.0 sacks as a senior last year and should be an impact addition to a quickly improving Browns D.

We did see something similar happen with this Panthers draftee back in 2016.

BYU linebacker Sione Takitaki, a fast-rising draft prospect, visited the Texans on Wednesday, according to a league source not authorized to speak publicly.

Takitaki visited seven NFL teams, including the Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Chargers, Tennessee Titans and the Miami Dolphins. He had nine private workouts for linebackers coaches.

Takitaki is expected to be drafted within the first three rounds.

Takitaki was voted a team captain and got married within the past few years, displaying signs of growing maturity. He was suspended earlier in his career for an honor code violation for allegedly stealing property on campus and reached a plea agreement and was briefly kicked off the team as a freshman for a dorm fight.

Ben Banogu Jersey

INDIANAPOLIS — Linebacker Ben Banogu, the Indianapolis Colts’ second-round (49th-overall) pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, held his first media conference call on Friday night. What did he have to say about his game?

What have the discussions been as far as linebacker goes?

“Well as far as linebacker goes, the coaches – we had meetings and everything through the Senior Bowl process, the combine and pro day. They have been talking about playing everywhere in the front seven from linebacker to rushing on pass downs. Just trying to maximize my athleticism.”

Would you be playing a strong side linebacker?

“Yeah, they were saying playing right next to (Darius) Leonard. Doing a little bit of that and then also getting around the edge and pass rushing. Doing the stuff that I have been doing and what I am comfortable doing but they also see that I can do a lot within the front seven. So they were saying wherever they put me they feel like I can excel at and they were looking at me as a guy that is a jack of all trades that can do just about anything. That’s the kind of vibe that I got from it.”

Next to Leonard, is that MIKE?

“Mhmm.”

So this was not a huge stunner for you that the Colts gave you a call tonight?

“Well I mean I knew (inaudible) to be drafted in the second round at 49 to an organization like that. Getting the call I was ecstatic, I was pumped, I was ready to go. I know all the great stuff that happens in Indy. I was just so excited to be a part of it. The call was awesome, hearing my name called was awesome. Now it’s starting to settle in. I am just excited about being a Colt.”

Do you have much history at linebacker? Have you played there before?

“I played a little bit in high school, but most of my linebacker stuff that I could showcase NFL teams was at the Senior Bowl. Obviously, the Colts liked what they saw and they obviously knew I could pass rush. Just showing my versatility was something that I think really intrigued them. I am just happy that it was good enough for them to pull the trigger on me.”

At TCU, were you mostly a 4-3 end?

“Yeah, yeah.”

Did that ever involve doing any pass coverage and is that something you might have to do here?

“Honestly, like drawing stuff up on the board and kind of taking me through some pass rush stuff and through some coverage stuff they kind of touched on all things. For me, I am ready to do just about anything. With the coaching staff and with my football IQ, I feel like I can pick it up pretty fast and be effective.”

Did you expect a call in the second round? What were your anticipations like tonight?

“For me, I was looking at the teams and what teams needed and talking to the guys that are close to me and trusting their information. I saw that Indy traded back and they had a couple picks within the second round. With the conversation that I had with the staff, I was hoping that I would get a call. Once I got the call, man it was crazy. For me, I guess I knew I was going to get the call at some point, I didn’t know what team. My hope was Indy because the conversations that we had. It just so happened they called and I was just excited about it man. I was pumped.”

Did you make a pre-draft visit here?

“No, I didn’t make a pre-draft visit, but they came to TCU on numerous occasions. From meeting with me and then at the pro day, before the pro day and talked to them at the combine too. I had been meeting with them and kind of conversing with them at the Senior Bowl too, I also met with them. It has been some good conversation throughout. It wasn’t like one of those things that I was surprised, it was just exciting man.”

You have talked to the Colts enough to know what their scheme emphasizes like speed and athleticism. Do you see yourself as a fit in that regard? Is this a good spot for you?

“Oh yeah, I felt like that was a great spot for me. I feel like what they were telling me and what they thought that I could do. It kind of fit the same thought process that I had about myself. For me, once I got through meeting with them and going up on the board and talking through film, man I was just excited to have the opportunity to play with the team and with the organization and everything.”

In a perfect world, where do you want to line up and you can’t say wherever the coaches tell you?

“Honestly, wherever the coaches tell me – I have no choice. For me, I love to get after the passer. I love getting sacks and setting the edge and rushing. That’s an awesome part of the game and that’s why I played. Doing some of the linebacker stuff at the Senior Bowl really opened my eyes to all the neat ways that you can kind of create plays and turnovers for your team. I am just really excited to show them what I can do within the front seven. I am confident in myself and I am just glad that they are confident in me to give me the opportunity to go out and showcase that.”

Playing in a growing defense and alongside Darius Leonard is pretty exciting as well.

“Oh yeah, that’s so exciting. That’s the guy that I watched this past year that made a name for himself coming from a small school. He did his thing out there. For me, it’s an opportunity to watch him and see how he does things and learn from him and the rest of the guys. Just try and help the team win.”

Were the other teams that you were talking to also about playing linebacker?

“It was more like 3-4 defensive end, rushing and linebacker too. It was a good mix.”

With your talks with the Colts, do you expect your first crack would be at linebacker here?

“Well, honestly I am not really quite sure, that’s for them to pick. Where they see me fitting best is where I will be. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had me down rushing and being a defensive end and then also doing a little bit of coverage as well.”