How USC outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu breaks up passes
By Joey Kaufman
LOS ANGELES — Uchenna Nwosu holds an unusual distinction.
Nwosu, one of USC’s outside linebackers who often lines up as a hybrid edge rusher, ranks toward the top of the national leaders in pass break-ups, a skill more commonly seen from defensive backs.
But through five weeks, Nwosu has broken up eight passes. Only three other players — Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, Ohio’s Bradd Ellis and Oregon’s Arrion Springs, all of them, of course, defensive backs — have broken up more, each with nine.
Most often, Nwosu bats a pass down at the line of scrimmage, as he did last week at Washington State.
“It’s a timing thing,” he said.
As Luke Falk, the Cougars’ quarterback, lofted a pass in the second quarter, Nwosu jumped and tipped the ball with his left hand. It bounced off the face mask of the right tackle, then he intercepted it. It gave the Trojans possession at the Washington State 3-yard line.
“He knows that if he’s not going to get a sack, then he has to stop and get his hands up,” said Chris Hawkins, the Trojans’ senior safety. “I don’t know why QBs keep thinking they can throw his way. It’s certainly not working out for them too well right now.”
In a win over Stanford in USC’s Pac-12 opener last month, Nwosu, a senior, was credited with as many as five pass-breakups.
“In my opinion, he’s the best defensive player in college football right now, at this moment in time,” Hawkins said. “He’s playing that good.”
Nwosu is athletic, for starters. He credits his leaping ability to the years spent on the basketball court. He played hoops at Narbonne High in Harbor City. Hawkins added that he “can run just as fast as our slowest DB.”
But Nwosu said his effort to tip passes comes as much from reviewing game film […]