Osahon Irabor has hands, so he might as well use them in coverage.
Ever since high school, the redshirt junior cornerback has been using his hands to hit, push or do anything to make a receiver’s life miserable.
“I just like to use my hands and out-physical receivers,” Irabor said. “They say receivers are corners that don’t like to hit. So if you’re a corner, you got to beat them up because they get all the limelight, so we’re not happy about that.”
Irabor’s aggressive coverage style makes him one of the most physical and effective corners in the conference that people will never hear about.
The first aspect of Irabor’s game his coaches and teammates comment on is his hostile style of play.
“He’s good with his hands in bump (coverage),” fellow corner and redshirt senior Deveron Carr said.
“He’s a real physical player,” cornerbacks coach Joe Lorig said. “He’s real good at being big and square in front which is what we coach him to do.”
“One thing that I know about Osahon is that he knows how to press good,” senior receiver Rashad Ross said. “He can’t let him get his hands on you.”
The corner position has been thought of as a finesse position where players relied on their speed and athleticism to stick with receivers.
They still need those kinds of skills, but lately, there has been an influx of physical corners like Irabor in the game.
Cornerbacks like the Jets’ Darrelle Revis and the Eagles’ Nnamdi Asomugha have shown that physical corners can be affective at the highest level.
Revis and Asomugha were players that Irabor looked up to and tried to emulate.
Irabor wants to be like them and be a physical corner that can help in the run game.
As the boundary corner, Irabor has to be aggressive. Irabor said that in coach Todd Graham’s scheme, the boundary corner has a lot of responsibility for the run game.
So far this season he has racked up 15 tackles, which ranks seventh on the team.
If a run play comes to the outside, Irabor said Graham has confidence that he can make that key tackle.
With secondary players like Irabor making tackles, it helps take pressure off the defense.
“I think it helps the linebackers tremendously because they can stay inside the box,” Irabor said. “A lot of teams like to crack the safety and make the corner make the tackle. Well coach Graham kind of welcomes that because he likes me to come up and help make tackles too.”
Besides the tackles, Irabor does not have many statistics. He has yet to grab an interception this year or force a fumble.
That is not to say that he has not made an impact.
People may not hear his name over the PA system, but for a corner, it is better if you don’t.
“If the other team’s receivers do not have big games, then we did our job that week,” Irabor said. “If it is a quiet game on the outside, not a lot of deep balls getting brought down, getting caught then we’re doing our job … sometimes not hearing about us too much is a good thing.”
For the past three games, Irabor and the other members of the ASU secondary have been doing their job.
Colorado’s leading receiver freshman Nelson Spruce averaged 10 catches a game, and ASU held him to three.
Cal’s Keenan Allen had only four catches.
Missouri’s 6-foot-6 freshman receiver Dorial Green-Beckman only had one catch for two yards.
Going into the game against Oregon, Graham has repeatedly said ASU is an attacking defense, and they are not going to change for the No. 3 team in the country.
ASU’s attacking defense means it likes to apply pressure on the quarterback, which puts pressure on Irabor in man-to-man coverage.
With Oregon coming to town, Irabor will be covering some of the most skilled position players in the country.
Irabor will be competing with players like sophomore running back and receiver De’Anthony Thomas.
Thomas is averaging a combined total of 96 yards of rushing and receiving per game this year.
Irabor is ready to use his physical skills and step up to the challenge.
“I relish the opportunity,” Irabor said. “I get jacked up for it each play. That’s what college football is all about is competing.”
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