Arnold Ebiketie showed out in his debut at Penn State while facing Wisconsin. Analyst John Vogel really likes what he saw.
Every year in college football, prospects rise in the eyes of the NFL. Perhaps the school they were at before didn’t play the right system fit. Maybe a new coach revitalizes a program with fresh energy. Sometimes, it’s the growth of a player over an offseason of hard work. Most of the time, it’s some combination of the three. It’s worth taking the time to talk about the performance that Penn State EDGE Arnold Ebiketie put in this week in the upset road victory over Wisconsin.
A little bit of background first: Ebiketie is a transfer to Penn State from Temple this offseason. A graduate transfer, Ebiketie posted respectable numbers at Temple despite dealing with the COVID-19 shortened season, earning second-team All-AAC Conference honors.
I have him listed at 6’2″ and 240 lbs, both estimates, slightly undersized for the EDGE rusher role in the NFL. Based on his size, he’s currently projected around a 4th-5th round pick who will set into a rotational role in pass-rushing situations. I think his special team’s value also holds weight.
Why Arnold Ebiketie stood out this week
Arnold Ebiketie collected seven tackles against Wisconsin, a heavy power-run front, a sack, an additional tackle for loss. He blocked a crucial field goal attempt in the red zone.
From a scouting perspective, Ebiketie has an interesting set of tools. He’s ultra-athletic, flashing an excellent first step and burst into the backfield as a pass rusher. I also saw an incredible balance where he controls his body very well and uses it to get serious bend while rushing the passer.
On the blocked field goal try, it was just insane athleticism. It’s still hard for me to believe how high he got in the air.
What we want to see the rest of the season
Arnold Ebiketie had a phenomenal first game, but several potential pitfalls stood out concerning his potential NFL career. Here comes the nitpicking. I’m sorry, but it’s my job.
On his sack of Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz, it probably displayed the least effort I had seen him put out in a pass-rushing rep. What I mean by that is that the tackle, Tyler Beach, whiffs on the block. He doesn’t really use any hand technique, nor does he get low with his bend. He blows past Beach while he loses his feet. He won’t have it that easy at the next level.
I didn’t see consistently good hand usage while fighting in the trenches. I know he’s an excellent athlete, but I do have to wonder if his dominance came from the fact that Wisconsin was unprepared to deal with him. Did he win with athleticism, or does he have refined tools? I’m leaning toward the former.