The New Orleans Saints have a long history of finding valuable undrafted free agents, and they are hoping 2014 is no different. Today we focus on one of these prospects, defensive lineman George Uko from USC.
At 6’3″, 280 pounds, Uko was a two-time honorable mention All-Pac 12 selection during his time with the Trojans. He mainly played defensive tackle at USC, but also floated to defensive end throughout the 2013 season. The California native finished his college career with 85 tackles (17.5 for a loss), and 11.5 sacks.
Uko is a bit of a “tweener”, with no natural position at the pro level, which is likely why he went undrafted. Rob Rang of CBSSports noted that Uko, “lacks the bulk teams are looking for in a full-time defensive tackle”.
While the tweener tag can be a bit of a knock against Uko, he is positionally versatile. As mentioned, he played all over the line for the Trojans throughout his career, and to make the Saints’ opening day roster Uko will have to show that same versatility in camp.
Luckily for him, his new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan loves to move guys around to different positions in the Saints’ hybrid 3-4 scheme.
Uko’s biggest plus is his ability to rush the passer. He’s too small to be a true defensive force in the run game, and struggles at times to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, limiting his ability to be an every-down player. That said, he left Southern California as a junior so there is hope that he can add some muscle to his big frame.
As for what we can expect from Uko in 2014, his ceiling is probably a sub-package pass rusher, if he even makes the roster at all. He isn’t built to play every down at this point in his career, but there is enough potential and skill here to view Uko as an interesting long-term project either at the back end of the depth chart or on the practice squad.
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