Coveted by some of the premier programs around the country, including Alabama, Penn State, Clemson, LSU and Ohio State, amongst others, former De La Salle star Isaiah Foskey was once viewed by many as the next great tight end recruit.
Notre Dame had different ideas for Foskey. They saw him at defensive end, a vision they sold to Foskey as he came down the stretch of their recruiting. Isaiah would buy the vision, embarking east to make an impact for the Irish, although that impact would have to wait.
Foskey played very little as a freshman in 2019, but even in limited action he made his presence felt, including blocking a punt against Stanford. During the 2020 campaign, his sophomore season, Foskey would earn additional opportunities on the defensive side of the football.
A key rotation player that earned 282 snaps behind Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji this past season, Foskey would still manage to finish second on the team in quarterback sacks (4.5).
The flashes are real. The questions are if he can take that production per snap and turn it into a massive output over a larger sample size. If he can, the 2022 NFL Draft edge class is about to be turned upside down by Foskey come April.
EYE IN THE SKY
The passing game currently rules the NFL landscape, summoning up the continued importance of passers on the professional levels, those who can protect them and those who can stop them.
There has become a huge divide amongst the film watching and analytics community. What’s more important, pass rush or pass coverage? Both sides will say there’s a definitive answer. It’s become as pronounced as the “chicken or the egg” controversy.
Either way, we can all conclude that both pass rush and pass coverage can without question strengthen the other profoundly. Pass rushers, like those aforementioned quarterbacks, are as important as ever in today’s game.
For a player like Foskey, he offers the upside as a high volume sack artist with untapped potential to just how good he can be. Of course the starting point is going to be his impact in the passing game. An impact that is more than attainable with his physical profile. It has just been in spurts up until this point but the flashes pop off the film.
Here against Duke, Foskey works as a standup rusher. He attacks straight down the middle of the left tackle, getting into his chest. There is a subtle pull of the jersey after he shocks the blocker.
Once he is able to bring his level down, he hits an inside rip to gain space. Once Foskey is able to gain separation on the track, his athleticism takes over. He is the type of nimble athlete who can eat up a ton of ground in a hurry. Foskey creates a giant collision on Duke quarterback Chase Brice, forcing the incompletion.
The nuances of the position, especially in the run game, was where the real adjustment for Foskey took place. Although it still looks unnatural and disjointed at times, defensive line coach Mike Elston has done a nice job rounding out Foskey’s athletic gifts into a contributing force in the run game.
Foskey is able to stay square to the line of scrimmage. As the offensive tackle blocks down, he squeezes down the gap. When he recognizes that a puller was attempting to kick him out, Foskey demonstrates powerful hands to shock and stone at the point of attack. With the stall in momentum, room to run gets condensed. Foskey is able to get in on the action and stop North Carolina running back Javonte Williams at the line.
On the same drive, the Tar Heels work some RPO action to attempt to win the numbers battle.
They have the option to run counter away from Foskey. Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell decides to pull the ball for a screen towards Foskey’s side. It was an ill advised decision with the quick pressure from Foskey and rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Before Howell could get the football out of his hand, he was met by the two talented defenders.
For Foskey specifically, the RPO was designed to leave him unblocked and make him wrong. With the flow going away, it would be easy for him to chase in pursuit. The patience and discipline he plays with is what creates the easy pressure and bit sack near the goal line. Most will say “he’s unblocked... he should make that play”. That’s why context is always important.
Foskey’s play strength is still developing in his ideal frame. Already carrying 257 pounds cleanly, he could very easily wear about 270-275 without any loss in explosiveness. Despite that constant development, he shows the ability to work on the edge effectively at the point of attack.
Working against tight ends is easy money for Foskey. Here he is able to shock the North Carolina tight end early in the rep. Notice the hand placement he gains. His one hand shocks the outside shoulder to set the edge, giving him the ability to work to the outside if the play bounces.
The inside hand is even more important here. Foskey is able to work the inside pec-shoulder, providing the ability to work back inside on the run. Once he is able to gain extension, Foskey locates the ball carrier and is able to get off the block for the stop.
Foskey is nowhere near a finished product, and to be completely honest, nobody is or should be coming out of college. What he is, however, is an enticing athlete with all the traits to become a huge contributor off the edge. The baseline is even there to assume a smaller role, giving valuable reps in both the run and pass game. If he hits close to his ceiling though, we’re talking special.
CAN FOSKEY CRASH THE PARTY?
It looks like an embarrassment of riches early on for the edge group potentially in the 2022 NFL Draft. Players like Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), George Karlaftis (Purdue), Myjai Sanders (Cincinnati), Drake Jackson (USC), Zach Harrison (Ohio State) and Kingsley Enagbare (South Carolina) are a few of the early favorites in the group.
With the quality of top level talent and depth of the group, it isn’t the easiest group for a “sleeper” to ascend near the top. If a player could do it though, Isaiah Foskey is a good pick.
From a physical perspective, Foskey’s rivals the best in the class. Unlike the top, most of the premier guys have been given a high volume of reps early on in their careers. In many ways, that has set Foskey back in the early stages but could also be a huge selling point as he makes the transition.
NFL evaluators see the talent level. It simply hasn’t been cultivated up until this point. The moniker “his best football is in front of him” can be overused a ton. For Foskey, it is completely true.
In this instance, nobody can determine what the ceiling is here. Foskey can be as good as he’s allowed to be.
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