NEWS

DE Ezekial Ansah is Senior Bowl's most intriguing prospect; also a look at South squad running backs

Posted Jan 21, 2013

Detroitlions.com lead writer Tim Twentyman reports from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.DE Ezekial Ansah is the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end from BYU, who is getting his degree in statistics and wants to work in insurance when his playing days are done, has been playing football for only three years

Ezekial Ansah

Mobile, Ala. - Ezekial "Ziggy" Ansah is the most intriguing prospect at the Senior Bowl.

The 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end from BYU, who is getting his degree in statistics and wants to work in insurance when his playing days are done, has been playing football for only three years.

Ansah's drawn Jason Pierre-Paul comparisons due to his raw athleticism. He ran a 10.91 in the 100-meter dash after walking onto the BYU track team and 21.89 seconds in the 200 meters.

That's ridiculous athleticism in a frame that big - but it comes with a catch. Ansah is extremely raw and simply hasn't played a lot of football.

Before arriving in the United States in 2008 from his native Ghana to attend BYU, Ansah had never seen a football. He didn't start playing the game at BYU until 2010.

"I started learning in 2010 but I really played just this last year, so I still feel like I have a whole bunch of stuff to learn and I've been praying that I'll be able to get everything right and just go from there," he said after practice Monday.

"I have to learn a few techniques and pad level and (get my) shoulder down and a bunch of stuff. Every single day I have to keep learning."

Most talent evaluators predict Ansah will be drafted somewhere in the first round, but that's a calculated risk for whichever team decides to write that name down on the card on draft night, especially if it's those teams selecting early in the night.

NFL.com's Josh Norris predicted the Detroit Lions would be that team with the No. 5 pick in his first mock draft of the season.

"This might appear to be a bit early now, but if Ansah puts together a solid week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., he will certainly carry that momentum into the NFL Scouting Combine," Norris wrote. "Ansah is not raw, he is inexperienced - and there is a big difference."

It looked more on the raw side while Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek was putting him through drills down at the Senior Bowl. The athleticism jumps out, but his leverage and footwork isn't quite there at times and he doesn't look as polished as some of the other defensive end prospects.

During a team period toward the end of practice, though, Ansah's athleticism shined.

He chased down a reverse to the opposite side of the field from where he was lined up and then batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage a few plays later.

Ansah is certainly a prospect for Lions fans to keep an eye on as the evaluation process continues this week, at next week's combine and then at his pro day in the coming months.

VERSATILE BACKS

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters after the season that he's on the lookout for a running back with speed and versatility in case Jahvid Best doesn't return in 2013.

Andre EllingtonMonday at the Senior Bowl, new Lions running backs coach and run game coordinator Curtis Modkins got a firsthand look at a couple speed backs in Clemson's Andre Ellington and Florida's Mike Gillislee.

The Lions are not only looking for a back with speed, but one who can catch the ball out of the backfield and cause some matchup problems in their pass game.

Ellington said that was the first thing Modkins said to him when they got to practice.

"They wanted to see me catch the ball," Ellington said. "They want to see me catch more passes from routes.

"I didn't do a lot of it in college. It's not that I couldn't do it; it's just how the offense was run. (The Lions) running back coach is telling me to 'be faster, be faster' and it shows me a lot that he's into what I'm doing."

Ellington rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons at Clemson the past two seasons, and averaged more than 5.0 yards per carry, but caught just 36 total passes the last two years.

Gillislee had just 145 carries at Florida his first three seasons, but carried it 244 times this past year for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like Ellington, though, he has to prove he can catch the ball out of the backfield and be a threat as a receiver to truly fit into the Lions' plans.

Gillislee had just 16 receptions last year and 23 for his entire career.

When asked what he hopes to show Detroit Lions coaches this week, Gillislee said:

"Being a complete back, catching out of the backfield and picking up pass protection and running downhill."

THE OBSERVATION DECK

• Of the nine defensive backs on the South team, only two (Leon McFadden of San Diego State and B.W. Webb of William & Mary) measure under 6-foot tall. That's great for the Lions, who are looking to getting bigger and more durable in the secondary.

McFadden, despite his stature, was impressive at practice Monday and showed good man-to-man skills. He had one of the more impressive plays of the day, too, with a one-handed interception in one-on-one drills with the receivers.

Keep an eye on the progress of Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, too. He had some character issues in college but looked impressive as a safety prospect on Monday.

• LSU reserve defensive end Lavar Edwards didn't get the headlines this season playing behind Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, but he stood out Monday in individual drills and team periods.

He showed great discipline staying home on a reverse and never seemed to get sucked down the line of scrimmage of play action. He also showed great closing speed on the quarterback.

At 6-foot-5, 258 pounds, he fits the profile for what the Detroit Lions like in their defensive ends.

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