Kelechi Osemele off to fast start

KO

OWINGS MILLS — Sergio Kindle kept spinning like a whirling dervish, haplessly turning his body in vain as he tried to elude the grasp of Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Kelechi Osemele.

At every angle and turn, his charge was met by a powerful hand punch from Osemele reinforced by the torque and sound technique of a well-schooled 6-foot-5, 335-pounder.

It was an exercise in frustration for Kindle during a pass-rushing drill Thursday afternoon akin to running into a mobile brick wall capable of mirroring his every step. Kindle never got close to his target.

When Kindle finally tried to get his hands up to simulate trying to disrupt the passing lane, Osemele capped the dominant sequence by slapping his hands down.

And it was another display of the vast potential of Osemele, the Ravens’ second-round draft pick from Iowa State who’s making a strong bid to start immediately at right tackle.

"It really reminds me of why they brought me here," Osemele said. "They tell me to keep playing the way I’ve been playing and everything will come together and the older guys will help me. I’m pretty confident about it."

Word of how Osemele handled a former second-round draft pick and All-Big 12 selection wouldn’t come as a surprise to Bill Bleil.

The Iowa State assistant head coach and offensive line coach watched Osemele develop into a well-respected All-Big 12 blocker who registered 299 knockdown blocks and 49 blocks that resulted in touchdowns as a four-year starter.

"I think Kelechi is one of the better kids I’ve ever had," Bleil told 24×7 in a telephone interview from the Cyclones’ football office in Ames, Iowa. "He does a nice job. He’s ultra-competitive. For a big man with a big body, he’s got great change of direction.

"He’s super explosive. He’s one of the stronger kids I’ve coached. I’ve heard things have gone well in Baltimore for him so far. He’s a good player with great length. He’s super strong and he’s very intelligent."

Osemele has been working with the first-team offense ever since being activated from the physically unable to perform list following a bout with back spasms.

While veteran Bryant McKinnie remains on the non-football injury list with a lower back injury and conditioning issues with Michael Oher occupying McKinnie’s old left tackle spot, the Ravens are hoping that Osemele can provide them with the answer to their right tackle vacancy.

"Just what we had hoped we would see: a big, athletic, tough, smart football player who will get better every snap he plays," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "He’s going to just keep getting better, better and better for the next three or four years. I would imagine he’ll be just like Michael, every snap get better, every day get better, every week, every game. It’s just a matter of getting his fundamentals down and getting him some game experience. As you guys know, we draft people around here for a reason. We’ve got us another one.”

Last year, Osemele garnered some All-American notice while also making the Iowa State academic honor roll for the third consecutive year.

He led all Big 12 linemen with 17 blocks that resulted in touchdowns and led his team with 112 knockdowns.

With long arms, 35 1/4 inches, massive 10 3/8 hands and an 85 1/2 inch wingspan, it’s extremely difficult to escape Osemele’s catcher mitt hands.

Osemele is extremely well-prepared for the NFL game.

"Definitely feel like he is a guy we could plug in and he can start," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "K.O. is talented. He’s tough. He’s really smart."

Before the NFL draft, Osemele visited the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons.

At the NFL scouting combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.36 seconds, bench pressing 225 pounds 32 times with a 26 1/2 inch vertical leap, an 8-8 broad jump, a 4.87 20-yard shuttle and a 7.91 three-cone drill.

"Obviously, he is in the mix," Cameron said. "We drafted him for a reason. We were jumping up and down when he was still on the board. We will just let it play out, but obviously we think he’s going to be a really good player.”

Osemele hadn’t played right tackle since the Senior Bowl last winter, starting 38 games at left tackle and five games at left guard in college.

Initially slated to compete with veteran Bobbie Williams for the starting job at left guard, Osemele is needed on the right side.

"It felt natural like I had been playing it the whole time," Osemele said. "It felt really good. I feel like that’s my most natural position."

Osemele has been getting tips from Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda.

A former University of Iowa standout, Yanda previously started at right tackle as a rookie before shifting permanently inside to guard where he has thrived.

They also have something else in common: their background at Iowa colleges.

“Surprisingly, I’ve been talking to Marshal the most because he played it when he came here as a rookie," Osemele said. "And he’s just been giving me pointers and stuff like that. I’ve been getting the calls from him. He has a lot of experience. So, he’s been helping a lot.”

Osemele appears to be a quick learner, and he has a reputation for diligence.

His strong work ethic was instilled by his parents, Paul and Emilda Osemele.

"The thing they hammered home was, ‘Work hard, get an education," said Osemele, who majored in business. "That was my main focus. I didn’t know how far football would take me. My main focus was to graduate from college. When you work hard off the field, it transfers over to other areas in your life."

If Osemele’s grades ever dipped, Bleil was sure to get a call from his mom.

"He comes from a hard-working family, and K.O. is a good person, so respectful and he always got good grades," Bleil said. "His mom wasn’t afraid to call if he didn’t get god grades. He never lost sight at the end of the tunnel when he got to the end of his career. Academically, he was great."

The Ravens signed Osemele to a four-year, $3.345 million contract that includes an $873,360 signing bonus.

They’re banking on him being a quick study and contributing right away as a rookie.

He has the same ambition in mind.

"Right now, it’ll come down to practices and reps and stuff,” Osemele said. “I still don’t have it down 100 percent. I’m just trying to learn from the older guys. But come September, I’ll be ready.”

 

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About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson
Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best...more

One Rave about “Kelechi Osemele off to fast start

  1. hlove on said:

    Knew Kelechi when he was in high school in Houston,Texas.
    My son and Kelechi played football together in peewee football
    as well as high school football. Kelechi came to our home often
    to hang out with our son. Always very respectful with good manners.
    Large appetite (smile) and a great kid. We have followed him through his college days at Iowa State. Who knows,
    our son and Kelechi may meet again on the football field as NFL
    players in the near future. Our son graduates from college in May
    2013.

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