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Colts 2022 Draft Interviews: Luiji Vilain, EDGE, Wake Forest

Meet Wake Forest EDGE Luiji Vilain. We discuss his collegiate career, his film study as an edge rusher, and what the future could hold in the NFL.

Luiji Vilain is a former four-star recruit that was born in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. He enrolled at a boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia, and played football at Episcopal High School.

I asked Vilain about that transition in moving from his home in Canada to play football in Virginia:

Basically, one of my coaches back home in Canada had a good relationship with my high school coach in Virginia. They basically started a pipeline of Canadians going to that school. The fact that it was boarding really helped the entire process come together.

Vilain had an outstanding high school career and ended up committing to Michigan. He struggled with injuries and playing time in his four years at the school, totaling just one sack in two years of playing time.

As a grad student, he decided to transfer to Wake Forest to finish off his college career. I asked Vilain why he chose the Demon Deacons and what that adjustment was like for him:

I built a great relationship with the Defensive Line Coach over there, Coach Dave Cohen. I saw what they did with guys like Boogie Basham and Duke Ejiofor and I saw myself as playing that top pass rusher role for them.

At first, I had to get used to playing so much all over again. I just took it day by day and tried to make every snap count with these guys. It ended up working out for me.

Vilain had a breakout season with the Demon Deacons. He finished his final year of college with 34 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, eight sacks, and two forced fumbles.

I asked him about the process of being a transfer player and how he was able to build chemistry and trust with his teammates so quickly:

I knew coming in that I was going to have to compete, and I was able to step up and earn some playing time. I was able to earn the trust of my coaches early on with how I worked in the offseason.

One of my biggest thoughts and concerns going to Wake was gaining the trust of my teammates. Honestly, the guys there did a great job. They welcomed me as if I was there for all four or five years. I love my teammates over there and they made me feel welcomed from day one.

Pass Rush Plan of Attack

As a former four-star recruit that committed to Michigan, it is easy to tell that Vilain is a freaky athlete. He has an excellent blend of size and speed that puts pressure on opposing offensive tackles.

I asked him how he uses these natural gifts to attack tackles in the pass game:

My athleticism certainly has a lot to do with my pass rush plan. The biggest thing for me is just making every rush look the same and working my moves off of that from the beginning. The main focus on my pass rush is doing that and just taking what the offensive line gives me in order to create pressure.

A fascinating aspect of pass rushing for a young defensive end is the adjustment from high school to college. In high school, a lot of these guys can win with pure power and speed. In college, there has to be more nuance to beat these elite tackles.

I asked Vilain about the transformation of his game from the high school level to the college level:

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You really have to work on your craft and work on your toolbox in college. At this level, these tackles are just as good as you. They got recruited to play at this level as well. You really have to refine your rush in college and you can't just rely on pure athleticism to win. You have to be well versed as a pass rusher and ready to go.

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Film Study as a Pass Rusher

As you all can tell from my last few interview pieces, I am always eager to talk film with these players. Most people may not understand how or why film study is so important for an edge player prior to each and every match-up.

I asked Vilain what he looks for when studying a particular match-up at offensive tackle during the week:

I'm mostly looking at how he sets. Is he high in his pass set? Is he a leaner? Does he shoot his hands high on contact or shoot them low? Things like that are just some of what I look at. These little details are so important to help me in my rush plan.

With this information, I decided to quiz Vilain a little bit. I asked him how he would combat an offensive tackle when they use an angle set or a jump set to quickly get on him.

I asked him about his process when this happens and how he would counter this type of set from the tackle:

This actually goes into what I said earlier about making my rushes look the same every time. I'm going to start off my rush the same way, regardless. If he jumps me and is a little bit outside of me, I'm going to work inside. If he jumps me and we are basically face to face, I'm going to go power.

In general though, if he jumps me, I'm either going to go power or try to counter to the inside.

Best Football is Ahead of Him

While Vilain is a 23 year old in this upcoming draft, he has only one real year of starting experience in college. With that, he is essentially much younger and more raw than his age would suggest.

I asked him if he believes that, with all of this taken into account, his best football is ahead of him:

I definitely agree and I tell people this all the time. My first two years at Michigan, I was injured. In my final two years, I didn't really get to play or have a chance to develop the way that I wanted to.

With this past year being the first one where I've been able to play and develop, I feel like I have so much more football ahead of me. Just put me around a group of NFL guys and some good vets and my ceiling is very very high.

Vilain is one of the more intriguing players in this class. He has the talent to be a productive NFL player, he just needs proper development and training at the next level. If a team is willing to take the time with him, it could pay off in a big way.


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