Denver Broncos | News

'Jack-of-all-trades' Awuzie looking for place in NFL

INDIANAPOLIS — Chidobe Awuzie knew John Ross was fast.

The two met in the PAC-12 title game in December, where the former, a Colorado defensive back, lined up at times against the Washington wide receiver.

So, yes, Awuzie knew Ross has speed. He "sensed it on him," he said at the NFL Combine.

He just didn't quite know the 5-foot-11 wide receiver had 4.22-second 40-yard dash speed.

That's the time Ross posted over the weekend at the Combine, where scouts and media members buzzed about his straight-line speed.

Ross' speed, though, didn't intimidate Awuzie in December, and it didn't intimidate him at the Combine. The projected Day-2 draft pick said he was happy with the way Colorado's defensive backs kept Ross in front of them in the 41-10 Washington win.

"Oh, [I'm] never scared," Awuzie said. "I'm always confident. And when I'm on the field that's when I'm at home, I'm comfortable. I like to compete. I like to challenge people."

Awuzie is currently challenging NFL executives as they search for the position best-suited for the 6-foot, 190-pound defensive back.

That same challenge met Broncos All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris Jr. when he came out of Kansas in 2011. Though Harris excelled with the Jayhawks, he was moved to safety for a period of time. Thus, just like Awuzie, questions arose about where he would play in the NFL. Since his rookie season, however, Harris has been among the top corners and has dominated on both the outside and in the slot.

Though Awuzie has never met Harris, he has watched film on the 5-foot-10 cornerback. And he sees plenty of similarities between him and one of the Broncos' star corner.

"Definitely as a shorter player who can play in the slot or at corner, Chris Harris is definitely one of the best," Awuzie said. "Him, [Tyrann] Mathieu, Brent Grimes, they can slide in and are very versatile. The game I feel has changed like that in the way that teams are spreading it out and you need more corners who can do that."

With the Buffaloes, Awuzie played all over the field. He rotated between cornerback, nickel and both safety slots, which meant he lined up in the box at times. His fluid backpedal allowed him to excel in man coverage, while his closing burst made him a weapon as a slot blitzer, per NFL.com.

That versatility "speaks to my football knowledge," Awuzie said, and he believes his instincts will allow him to succeed no matter where NFL teams choose to play him.

"I'm just a ballplayer," Awuzie said. "I always have the mentality of 'See ball, get ball.' No matter where I'm lined up. [If] it's sacking the quarterback, [then] get the ball. I'm going to tackle him. If the ball's in the air, I'm going to tackle him on a play. And that's the way my mentality is."

In his final season with the Buffs, Awuzie made that mentality a reality. He picked off a pass, deflected 11 more, forced two fumbles and recorded four sacks as Colorado ripped off a 10-win season. That campaign brought his two-year sack total to seven and his interception total to three.

Awuzie will be back in Boulder on Wednesday for his pro day, where he'll join a handful of Buffs that includes quarterback Sefo Liufau and fellow defensive backfield member Ahkello Witherspoon. 

Before the draft arrives in late April, it will be his final formal chance to answer teams' questions about where he'll fit when he transitions to the next level.

"Teams really don't know where to put me at right now and that's great for me, because I don't want to be limited," Awuzie said.  "I'm just a ballplayer.

"You put me on the field anywhere I'm going to make plays. That's been great that I can kind of be a jack-of-all-trades for teams."

That's what he set out to prove at the Combine. And while the NFL world reacted to Ross' 40 time, Awuzie's performance in the dash garnered far less attention over the weekend. But to NFL Network's Mike Mayock and Daniel Jeremiah, his 4.43 signaled that Awuzie could step in and be an instant starter at nickel.

In the midst of Awuzie's second attempt, Jeremiah recounted meeting with the cornerback a week earlier. When he told the cornerback about his concerns regarding his deep speed, Awuzie's legs started to shake. 

Awuzie asked Jeremiah what he thought he would run in the 40, to which Jeremiah replied that he expected the Colorado defensive back to post a 4.55.

Jeremiah continued his story.

"He just shook his head and said, 'I'm not running a 4.55.'"

Awuzie wasn't wrong, and he hopes that streak continues.

Check out the faces of top prospects as they go through their Combine workouts. (AP Images)

Related Content

Advertising