There are many small school prospects that have emerged as potential high round draft picks this year, but one that’s gaining the most momentum because of his size and versatility is Indiana University of Pennsylvania cornerback Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. Owusu-Ansah’s ability to play cornerback, safety and even star as a return specialist has intrigued teams this offseason, and he’s now enjoying the benefit of his success.
The Cowboys are looking for a playmaker in their secondary to challenge hard-hitting safety Ken Hamlin as the team’s starting free safety. Hamlin brings an intimidating presence to the field, but he’s limited in coverage and has poor ball skills; Owusu-Ansah would be a huge upgrade over Hamlin. As far as the Dolphins, they decided to cut ties with over-priced 2008 free agent signee Gibril Wilson this offseason, and they’re taking an aggressive approach in their search for a safety option in the draft. The Dolphins have expressed interest in at least a handful of safeties this offseason, including Georgia’s Reshad Jones, who Scout.com reported three weeks ago would visit the Dolphins on March 29th and 30th.
Even though Owusu-Ansah is listed as a cornerback, in college he basically served as the team’s free safety. At IUP, the defensive structure calls for a lot of two-deep coverage where Owusu-Ansah played field corner, which requires him to function as a free safety. But at IUP, the linebackers and safeties amassed most of the tackles - that’s why Owusu-Ansah, who was the last line of defense, didn’t record many tackles during his career; he had 14 tackles in 2008 and 27 this past year. Owusu-Ansah is a physical player and will be a dynamic player at the next level; don’t let his lack of tackles alter your view of him as a prospect.
During his career, Owusu-Ansah dominated the competition at the Division II level and generated some impressive statistics during his two-year stint as a starter; intercepting 10 passes (eight of them came during the 2008 season) and totaling nine touchdowns (four on punt returns, three on kickoffs, one on an interception and another returning a fumble) in his career. This past year, Owusu-Ansah scored five (three on punt returns and two on kickoffs) of his nine career touchdowns and was one of the most electric return specialists on any level in the nation.
For his efforts this past year, Owusu-Ansah received an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game, but was unable to participate due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the season finale. But, he didn’t miss his opportunity to shine in front of scouts at the NFL Scouting Combine, and at that forum he showcased his talents. Owusu-Ansah ran a 4.32 in the 40, posted a 35.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump; he didn’t bench in Indianapolis, because his shoulder wasn’t 100-percent.
On March 12th, Owusu-Ansah participated in the Ohio State Pro Day and continued to wow scouts with his natural ability. Surprisingly, he decided to run the 40 again and turned in another stellar time of 4.33, but scouts were shocked when he decided to participate in the bench press. With an injured shoulder, Owusu-Ansah put up 225 pounds 21 times and exceeded NFL personnel’s expectations. Shortly after the OSU Pro Day, it was revealed that Owusu-Ansah had a labrum tear in his shoulder, which he had surgery on two weeks ago.Despite having surgery on his shoulder, Owusu-Ansah could ultimately be selected in the second round. The team that drafts him understands that he won’t be ready for mini-camp after the draft, but he will be 100-percent by training camp this summer. Owusu-Ansah is currently the 9th rated cornerback listed on Scout.com's 2010 NFL Draft Rankings.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: email@example.com. You can also now follow Chris Steuber on Twitter.