You remember Vernon Gholston, don't you? Good. Well, if you've always wondered what it would be like to fear a pass-rusher like that when your beloved Buckeyes were facing a 3rd and 15, Monday night may be your chance to find out.
The Gholston comparison seems too easy and somewhat of a shortcut, but the players have the similarities to justify it. First off, the obvious: both guys own serious pipes. Give Gholston the slight edge here, at two inches shorter, he carried the weight in a more compact and chiseled manner, but Orakpo, or as the kids call him, "Rak" has added nearly 50 pounds to his frame while maintaining 8% body fat. And just like Gholston did to us, Orakpo action photos cause Longhorn fans to seek the nearest defibrillator (though the deep-fried Snickers at the state fair didn't help matters, either).
Both guys were undervalued by recruiting services coming out of high school. Rivals had Gholston 11th and Orakpo 12th1 in its weakside defensive end rankings for 2004. Both solid four-stars, but not among the handful in each class that is causing all of the heavy breathing on signing day2.
They also each put the fear of God into defensive coordinators. If you've watched even a few minutes of tape on the Texas defense, you notice #98. He's been virtually unstoppable this season, scooping up the Nagurski, Lombardi and Hendricks awards -- pretty much the triple crown for a defensive end.
Injuries appear to be he only way to slow this guy down and they've played a role in his career at Texas. After being redshirted in 2004, he played some the following season before really earning playing time as a redshirt sophomore in 2006. Heading into his junior season, Mack Brown went so far as to say he thought Orakpo could be one of the better defensive ends he's had a Texas
But a high-low block against Arkansas State in the opener3 led to a right knee injury which kept him out of the next four games. He would come back and post respectable numbers, and then, like Shipley, he had his coming out party of sorts in the Holiday Bowl stomping of Arizona State where he won the game's Defensive MVP award after posting a career high in tackles (six) to go along with two sacks.
Though he started hot this year, he missed two and a half games due to injury including the second half of the Texas Tech game. Still, the numbers are impressive: 10.5 sacks, 18 TFLs and four forced fumbles -- in just nine and a half games. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year was also a unanimous consensus All-American.
In the Red River Shootout, he abused Oklahoma tackle Phil Loadholt4, getting to Bradford for two sacks. His performance in the Missouri game was equally impressive. And while his edge rushing is phenomenal, he's shown good instincts in run support.
Texas Tech was able to hold him in check in the first half when he did play and I can distinctly remember the buzz about how good Tech's line looked after that performance. Lucky for us, that just so happens to be the perceived weak spot on this Buckeye team. Think of the pressure Maybin brought and with Orakpo, we can probably multiply that by 1.3.
Orakpo is typically lined up at right end and as such, will be taking on the best lineman Ohio State has. He'll often line up wide and come with edge speed, but he's also worked to develop spins and power moves off of that initial outside burst and judging by his results this season, that work has paid off.
Boone will certainly have his work cut out for him, but containing Orakpo, or at the very least keeping him from taking over the game should do wonders to help repair his falling draft stock.
Highlights from the Orakpo File (Source)
The worst movie I ever saw was: Like Mike
I can't believe I watch: Big Love
Favorite car: My Cadillac DeVille
1 With the exception of Derrick Harvey, the rest of that list is bust-city.
2 Orakpo's first love in high school was basketball and as such didn't start to take football seriously until his junior season. It's worth noting that Godwin of Godwin's Law went to his high school.
3 Rak's on record as saying it was a cheap-shot. Who tries to anger this guy?
4 For some transitive fun, Oklahoma's offensive line > Ohio State's offensive line and Loadholt is considered their best lineman.