In transitioning to a base 3-4 defense, Michigan is going to need big bodies at nose tackle to muck up the offense and create room for his teammates to swarm to the ball. The good news is that Ike Iwunnah has all of the traits needed to be the anchor of this defense. The bad news is that it’s going to take him a while to get there.
Iwunnah has been a force for Lakeview Centennial for the past three seasons, winning sophomore of the year for his district and earning first-team All District in Texas’ largest classification.
All of this is very frightening considering he is still very raw. In Lakeview Centennial’s game against Sachse that I watched, Iwunnah often flashed traits that could make him an All Big Ten player, but he often looked unrefined.
On the first play of the game, Iwunnah gets doubled by the center and right guard. He’s a step slow off the snap and stands up too high, but is still able to anchor down well and not cede much ground.
He uses his power to throw the center off him and is still fighting with the guard when the tackle is made. Notably, the tackle is made after a short gain because the middle linebacker was able to fire through the A gap with the center occupied with Iwunnah.
This next play got me the most excited about his potential at Michigan. It’s 4th and 4 and Iwunnah is lined head up across from the center. He’s not even trying to get to the quarterback, though.
Lakeview Centennial is blitzing their linebacker, behind him and Iwunnah’s job is to clear up the middle to give him a clear shot at the quarterback. Iwunnah handles this with ease, shooting to his right and taking the center five yards with him.
Unfortunately, the linebacker creeped up early and was too close to the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped, allowing the guard to pick him up. The pass fell incomplete anyway. The important part is that Iwunnah is able to execute his assignments and create rush lanes for other defenders.
Iwunnah can also make plays himself. In this next clip, Iwunnah is heads up on the right guard. He fires off the ball and immediately shoves the guard back. Reading the play, he flows down the line of scrimmage and gets off the block. Iwunnah arrives at the ball at the same time as his other teammates to help make the tackle.
Ideally, you’d want Iwunnah to use his hands there instead of leaning with his shoulder. You can see that lunging with his shoulder puts him off balance and he stumbles a bit when disengaging.
But that pure strength and pursuit are very good to see.
Disengaging from blocks is something Iwunnah could improve. On this play, Iwunnah uses his hands and burst well to bend the center back, but he can’t get off in time to get a hand on the running back going right by him for a touchdown.
Working on that stack and shed ability will make Iwunnan an even more formidable run defender.
The story is the same for rushing the passer. He really only uses a bull rush technique, but with his size and strength it’s enough to get pressure. Watch this clip where Lakeview just rushes three guys on 1st and 15.
Lined up as the nose, Iwunnah occupies all three interior linemen as he crushes the pocket back. This allows the two defensive ends who are soloed up on the tackles, and some good coverage from the back eight, to eventually get the sack.
It’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of how Iwunnah will fit as a nose in a 3-4 system. He’s not rated very highly because he accomplishes a lot of things just by brute force, but there aren’t 1,000 players better than him in the country. After a couple of seasons getting coached up, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.