I was recently asked about Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. I’ve not had access to Owls tape this year, so haven’t previously been able to comment. He’s declared as a junior and reportedly got a grade in rounds 2/3. That’s the same grade that Janoris Jenkins received – who would (in my opinion) have been a sure-fire first round lock. It’s also the same grade given to Jake Locker last year and probably Justin Blackmon too – considering he is staying at Oklahoma State.
I managed to find some footage of Wilkerson against Penn State from September last year (see below). It’s only one sample but doesn’t restrict you to the ‘best bits’. What interests me in this montage is seeing Wilkerson like up at end. He’s 6-5 and 305lbs and being asked to rush off the edge and also seal it against the run. Given his size, it’s possible he could be an option at the Red Bryant 5-tech position.
Of course – Bryant did a fantastic job and was arguably the teams defensive MVP before a season ending injury. However, he has picked up knocks in his career and perhaps adding depth at the position (especially when these guys can also kick inside if needed) may be of benefit to the Seahawks.
Certainly to me at least it appears that 5-tech and the inside 1&3 technique positions carry most importance in Seattle’s scheme as opposed to the LEO rush position. Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock have enjoyed production despite their relative ‘plug in and play’ situation. The important characteristic of the LEO appears to be quickness and the ability to exploit one-on-one blocking – which is more frequently afforded when the other three lineman can penetrate and carry blockers.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the scheme allows the Seahawks to find consistent production from their LEO rushers, which maybe decreases the likelihood the team will spend a high draft pick on the position. Of course, that would probably change if a Demarcus Ware clone was sitting on the board.
Wilkerson has proved he can get to the passer with his production. In 2010 he had an impressive ten sacks and he has 16-total the last two years. Bryant’s key strength is working against the run – and he’s not built for rushing at around 330lbs. The Temple prospects’ size won’t necessarily negate any impact against the run, but he also flashes in the clips below that ability to get into the backfield and be a disruptive force.
It’s important to note the level of competition. It’s good to see how he fairs against Penn State’s line, but his sacks came against Buffalo (3), Kent State (3), Central Michigan (2), Army (1) and Miami Ohio (1). Clearly the competition level has to be taken into account - Nick Fairley’s twelve sacks came against top-level opposition. The same can’t be said for Wilkerson.
With more prospects opting not to declare, we’re going to see others rising. I’m tentative to grade Wilkerson as a potential round one pick based on the evidence of one game but I do believe it’s a position the Seahawks will consider adding depth to. Take a look at the footage yourself and let me know what you think.