Out Of The Shadows: IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech
By Matt LaPan
With both college football and the NFL becoming increasingly passing games, pass rushers are becoming vital to the success of defenses. There is a high volume of players who are good pass rushers, but one is being overlooked each week due to the size of his school, even though he is near the top of the NCAA in sacks (5.5). His name is IK Enemkpali from Louisiana Tech.
Enemkpali is listed at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds and plays defensive end in Tech's 4-3 front, making him very undersized compared to most top-flight pass rushers. Do not let his size fool you, though; Enemkpali is a pass rush specialist. He has an explosive first step with very good speed off the line, allowing him to use speed moves against bigger tackles. He not only uses good speed but great footwork and good hand fighting skills on the line to keep opposing linemen off him.
Enemkpali also displays a great motor. Although it sounds cliche, Enemkpali never quits on a play and more often than not is around the ball at the end of a play even if the play is downfield. Too often, pass rush specialists worry just about getting to the quarterback, not completing every play. Enemkpali can also alter plays even when he does not get to the quarterback. Through five games, he has batted down four passes at the line of scrimmage, including two against Tulane.
The Tulane game should have been a coming-out party of sorts for Enemkpali but the spotlight was taken from him as the Green Wave pulled off a come-from-behind win over the Bulldogs. Enemkpali, however, was spectacular in that game, registering 2.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and two more quarterback hurries. This type of disruptive play is what many teams look for in edge rushers.
Enemkpali does however need to work on adding strength and muscle to his frame, as he struggles to defend in the run game. His size suggests that he will likely project better as a 3-4 rush linebacker as he goes through the evaluation process, a move that could help cover up those problems against the run.
As the Bulldogs move forward into Conference USA play, look for Enemkpali to take advantage of some of the league's tackles with his speed. With C-USA teams throwing quite often, he should have ample opportunity to pile up the sacks and continue to make a name for himself as he wraps up his redshirt senior season and moves forward into the NFL draft process.