"Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, and linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage. All candidates also must be eligible to play college sports under the rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In addition, we consider the values and characteristics that exemplify the Lombardi legacy, leadership, discipline, sportsmanship and excellence of performance. The voting panel is made up of all FBS Head Football Coaches, past Rotary Lombardi Award Finalists and selected college football writers."
If you're looking for one of those "The Big 12 always gets screwed and no one appreciates our conference" arguments, you'd have any easy time arguing this one. Oklahoma State's star DE Emmanuel Ogbah got the virtual finger yesterday from the Rotary Lombardi Award panel. The Cowboys are pissed, and rightfully so. Ogbah has dominated the Big 12 defensive stats since 2014. But he's been a threat to every QB he's faced since high school.
Ogbah was born in Nigeria and moved to Texas at the age of 9. In high school, he was a finalist for the greater Houston defensive player of the year. His senior year, he tallied 57 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He was also the district defensive MVP. He redshirted his freshman year at OSU (2012) but played in every game in 2013. He tied for the highest number of sacks that season (4) and was 7th in tackles for loss (5.5) and 4th in yards lost on tackles (29). He had at least one tackle in 12 of the 13 games that year.
But in 2014, he made a solid statement about his abilities. Out of all the players on the field, linemen generally get the least amount of attention. Not true, though, in Ogbah's case. He finished the season ranked #3 in the Big 12 and #24 nationally in tackles for loss (TFL) per game. He had 5.5 TFL against Kansas, which was the highest in the country and a record for OSU for a single game. And he had 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL and 2 pass break-ups against Florida State, which is a thing of beauty against one of the cockiest teams in college football. He was the OSU defensive MVP that year and received All-Big 12 First Team honors from the coaches and AP. He was the 2014 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
After putting up 7 tackles, a sack, 2 TFL and 2 QB hurries against Tech, Ogbah shared the title of Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week last week. He's currently 4th in the nation in sacks, with 1.13 per game. It was no surprise to hear his name on the list for consideration for Rotary Lombardi Award. In 8 games so far, he's tallied 9 sacks, 41 tackles, and 13.5 TFL. And the kid is a Junior, people. Holy crap. Can you imagine his senior year? So imagine everyone's surprise when the finalists were announced and his name was left off the list. OSU's Athletic Department released a statement on their website titled "Rotary Lombardi Award Denies Ogbah." They gave a great chart comparing Ogbah to the Award finalists.
Looking at the numbers, you can't blame the Pokes—they make a very valid argument for Ogbah. But let's look ahead to tomorrow's game. What does all of this mean for Boykin and his Band of Merry Men? The most obvious threat is to Boykin himself. Our line has got to block Ogbah. At the same time, Boykin will have to keep one eye downfield and the other on Ogbah. Ogbah isn't exactly a tiny guy at 6'4" and 275 lbs. The last thing we need is Boykin getting injured, so once again, I say: HOLD THAT LINE. Protect Boykin at all costs.
As far as Ogbah's downfalls go, I feel like he's not the fastest player on the field. Now, I know you're thinking, "Ummm, duh, Rusty. He's a friggin' lineman." But there are lineman out there with serious speed for their size. Mike Tuaua, for example, is 6'3" and 253 lbs and the boy can move. I just don't feel like Ogbah is quite as fast off the line. That being said, he's great at reading the QB, obviously, so he makes up for any lack of speed there. As far as agility goes, Boykin's ability far outweighs Ogbah. If Ogbah catches him, Boykin is in trouble. But if Boykin sees it coming and pulls some of those fancy dance moves of his, Ogbah probably won't be able to adapt fast enough. Boykin will also be forced to make quick decisions and get the ball out of the pocket before Ogbah can zero in on him. The key to this game is simply protection for Boykin in the pocket. Keep him safe, Frog Line, or you'll have to answer to the rest of us.