|Miami, FL – 6'2", 212|
|Scout||3*, NR overall
|Rivals||3*, NR overall
#22 WDE, #53 FL
|ESPN||3*, NR overall
#44 OLB, #133 FL
|24/7||3*, #1016 overall
#60 WDE, #130 FL
|Other Suitors||UF, Auburn, Miami, SoCar|
|YMRMFSPA||Mario Ojemudia or
|Previously On MGoBlog||Hello post from Ace.|
Unspecified highlight reel that was updated in January so probably all senior stuff:
Josh Uche, along with previously-covered Elysee Mbem-Bosse, is one of the first Don Brown guys. He was the first player Brown offered, and he was so enthused with the dude that Uche's official visit quickly overturned the conventional wisdom he was going to Florida. Thus Uche is not just an OLB/DE but a window into what Brown prizes above all else. Steve Lorenz touched on that in the midst of an Inside Michigan Recruiting shortly after his hire:
What will Brown be looking for? I got some insight on that after talking to someone who knows what he looks for in prospects.
"Whoever can create chaos," they said. "Pass-rushers are where he builds his defense, and he'll go with a raw, explosive player over a more refined one that may have possess the athleticism to eventually become a game-changer at the end spot."
It will not be a surprise that Uche is exactly this. Brown:
The number one thing he can do is he can pass rush with anyone in the East. He has a great get off and can turn the corner. Josh uses his hands really well. We’re projecting him as a SAM linebacker. Has shown some ability to defend on the edge but can also play in space. … We really think his pass rush ability is unique.”
“He fits that scheme perfectly,” Cassidy said. “If that’s what Don Brown wants to run, Uche is that kind of guy. Uche’s whole game is based on agility, speed, and blowing by tackles off the line. Linemen just can’t set their feet fast enough and Uche is by them.”
Nick John, teammate: “When it comes to working out, everything is just explosion, you know, he’ll usually do like heavy weight and, you know, just explode when we do our workouts.”
Pedro Marti, DL coach: " …never a kid that I really had to coach his effort, always just came in and gave me his best effort every day. Even as a young kid, a sophomore, his get-off was the best I’ve seen as a high school coach.”
Performance: Uche lived in the offensive backfield during his team's game against Hallandale. He was responsible for a number of quarterback hurries and was in on more than one tackle for a loss. Uche has decent length for a weakside end and is incredibly quick with his first step.
Uche is an explosive edge rusher. And mean. ESPN:
Uche is a unique prospect with a relentless mentality. … Has good height with a solid build. … Shows solid instincts as a pass rusher. Will bend and turn the corner with an explosive burst to close and chase down the ball carrier. … Comes in hot and will violently throw his hands to dislodge the ball from runner. … Uche is relentless and physical. Will need to transition to playing without his hand in the ground but could fit in a defensive scheme as a pass rushing outside linebacker.
I'm assuming that part of the reason Uche fired off a commitment right after his M visit was Brown's ability to sell him on his fit in Ann Arbor. Brown uses Uche's skillset extensively. His ability to "bend" or "dip" and get around the corner is a constant refrain. Touch The Banner:
Uche is a compact athlete who has a very good first step from a three-point stance. He has a short, powerful punch that helps him shock linemen and lead blockers. He is able to dip his inside shoulder and get around the corner as an edge rusher, and he’s able to change direction well.
What people mean by "dip" is that Uche gets low when he makes contact with an OL and can then turn around the corner because the OL has a tough time controlling Uche with his hands. Brandon Graham was really good at doing this as a much bigger player, and that's why he was an NFL first-rounder. Uche's not Graham; he seems to have that quality nonetheless.
That skillset is heavily concentrated in pass-rush areas at the moment. Uche did not play a full season of high school football until he was a junior—he actually elected not to play as as sophomore—and a lot of reports will mention his rawness as a result.
He did improve his stats and play dramatically over the final two years of his his school career, going from 34 tackles and 8.5 sacks as a junior to 66 and 14 as a senior. He was on the Florida 8A All-State team along with Michigan's three Flanagan commits. Uche told 247 last May that he'd put on 20 pounds without losing his hair-trigger first step, which 1) suggests he was 190 tops when Miami took him and 2) offers hope that he will be able to continue this process until he's 230 or 240.
Rankings sites didn't seem to notice this. I mean, they're not necessarily wrong to rank a 212 pound DE as a generic three star, but a number of big time programs saw something in Uche that they did not. Cassidy explains the situation pretty well:
"The reason he’s modestly rated is because he needs to add some size and muscle. He’s got the frame to do it but he’s pretty slight right now. … In camps and in games we’ve seen him struggle when bigger offensive linemen get their hands on him" …
"He’s as quick as they come really. Michigan will put some weight on him and he’s got a chance to be really special. I like his upside a lot.”
Uche fired off a very early commitment to hometown Miami. That commitment was always a soft one, and when Al Golden got fired he officially decommitted. Don Brown was after him hard when he was BC's defensive coordinator and his first act upon accepting the Michigan job was to offer him again.
These days there are "offers" and OFFERS. Uche's offer from Alabama, which was never followed up on by school or player, is likely the former. The offers from Florida, Auburn, and Miami are the latter—Lorenz reports that people close to the Florida program were shocked when Uche went off the board before he could even get his official visit to Gainesville in. The rankings sites seem to be going off his size and their expectation he is a DE; various power programs saw something else.
In addition to getting around the corner, Uche's tape has a number of nice plays in space. That is a reason I deployed Ojemudia as his YMRMFSPA: Ojemudia's best asset as a player was his ability to play both ends of a read option. Uche demonstrates a similar ability.
Only a few mention this in their scouting reports. Scout had a brief reference this this ability in a report from his time as a Miami commit…
The athletic hybrid is one you like more each time you see him. He is quick to the ball, he chases well, and he is athletic. Another note on Uche is his age — he is not 17 years old yet.
…and Brown talks about him "playing in space" above. Tim Sullivan also mentioned it when Uche committed:
He's a terror off the edge, and gives opposing offensive linemen fits because they can't pass-set fast enough to get a hand on him. If going around the outside was his only move, he'd still be an extremely dangerous player. …athletic moving side-to-side, and more comfortable playing in space than many high school linebackers - to say nothing of defensive linemen.
Clint Brewster was the most impressed, and the guy paying the most attention to that part of the game:
…he’s got outstanding agility and the strength of a much bigger prospect. He doesn’t miss tackles. Uche really plays well out in space. His ability to close on ball carriers is special. I like how physical he is with his hands and he’s got a really good motor.
That kind of thing gets overlooked a lot, but these days it's absolutely critical to have guys on the flanks of your front seven who can form up and chase effectively when someone tries to option them off. Uche's film isn't proof he's good at it yet, but does indicate he can be good at it in the future.
Uche is a LOS-oriented spread LB or (maybe eventually) WDE with awesome pass-rush upside and the lingering possibility that he ends up too small to be an effective run defender. Upside in spades and a long way to go.
Etc.: 50/50 to be nicknamed GQ at some point in his tenure here:
He was definitely the best-dressed young man on his official visit. He has got a flair to him and he really enjoys style.
I'm probably the only one who noticed this but at the spring game he was the only recruit to wear slacks and dress shoes when they were introducing the recruits at halftime.
Why Mario Ojemudia? For one, death stare.
I know Uche is slotted at SAM to start but Ojemudia had such a similar trajectory that I'm going with him. Ojemudia was a 215 pound high school DT(!) who had to make a position switch when he got to college. After a couple years of being radically undersized he managed to get up to around 250. Along the way he lost some of the explosion that made him a tiny Mo Hurst at Harrison. Despite that he was rounding into a solid starter on a great defense when he blew out his Achilles one dang game after he could get a redshirt.
In addition to the obvious physical similarities, Uche's highlight reel has a lot of good plays on the edge against spread concepts, which reminded me of Ojemudia. It is possible that Uche will retain more of his get off as he bulks up—it does happen—and end up with a higher ceiling.
Jake Ryan is another good comparable: a SAM/WDE type for a couple years and then a middle linebacker late, Ryan was at his best attacking off the edge. The SAM version of Ryan is a good approximation for what Uche will be if Michigan rolls double sixes with him, except hopefully he won't get chopped down on the edge as much.
Guru Reliability: Low. A lot of fire and forget here after a super-early commit to Miami; Uche didn't hit the camp scene. Meanwhile the offers here are completely out of whack with his rankings. Lorenz even says his ranking is one you should "completely ignore."
Variance: High. DL who projects to linebacker. Barely 210 pounds, may be only 6'1", but relentless dude. Could lose his explosion upon adding weight. Boom or bust type.
Ceiling: High. Could maintain his explosion at heavier weight, and then you have a dude.
General Excitement Level: High. Uche is co-sleeper of the year along with a guy we've yet to cover—I could not pick just one guy from this year's crop of athletes. Uche's explosion, ability to get around the corner, and fit in Don Brown's defense mean that he's likely to blow past his recruiting rankings en route to piling up a ton of TFLs during his career.
Projection: All but certain to redshirt. Michigan doesn't need a SAM backer right away; Uche will be transitioning from DE and needs a year or three in the weight room. After probable redshirt year Uche will have a shot at SAM if Jabrill Peppers leaves for the NFL, which I think is the expectation. Other candidates there are Noah Furbush and Jared Wangler, neither of whom has made much noise yet, so he could be in line for a job as early as next year.
I don't think he'd be very good as a redshirt freshman—too many LB nuances to pick up, not enough time to add weight—but in year three and beyond you can easily see Uche as Don Brown's blitz terror du jour. Brown's top sack man in 2015 was a 220 pound linebacker. Uche is on deck for that role.