Colts' Laiatu Latu’s Versatility Sets Him Apart: Film Room

The Indianapolis Colts can use Laiatu Latu to get after the quarterback in a variety of ways.
UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15)
UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Laiatu Latu (15) / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts selected the “best defensive player in the draft” with the 15th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. UCLA’s Laiatu Latu was an unstoppable force at the college level, and the Colts are hoping that his production can carry over to the NFL in year one. 

General Manager Chris Ballard has sky high expectations for Latu out of the gate, calling the young player “a pretty polished product in terms of rushing.” The Colts aren’t going to slow play Latu’s development and they are going to find ways to get him on the field from day one. 

One of the major benefits in drafting a player like Latu is the versatility he brings to a defensive unit. He has experience lining up across the defensive line, both as a pass rusher and as a run stopper, so the Colts will have plenty of options when it comes to getting him on the field as a rookie. One game I want to look at to prove this point is Latu’s performance against USC this past season. 

“You can put on USC,” were Ballard’s exact words when discussing Latu in his post-draft press conference. Let’s dive into that USC performance to discuss the versatility that Latu will bring to the Colts’ defensive front from day one.

Wide Nine Technique

The wide nine technique is when a defensive end is positioned on the outside shoulder of the furthest blocker on the line of scrimmage (offensive tackle or tight end). This is a pure pass rush position that allows the end to explode downhill off of the snap. Latu will see a lot of time at the wide nine this upcoming season in Indy, as the Colts deploy a system that features both defensive ends in wide nine on obvious passing downs. 

Latu’s ability as a finesse rusher really shines from this defensive line position. His motor, his  polish, and his overall hand usage makes him a nightmare for offensive tackles to handle out on an island. Add in his high end ability to bend and turn the corner at 260 pounds and he is bound to produce quite a bit for the Colts in the wide nine this upcoming season.


Wide nine technique is used primarily for smaller edge rushers that need to be kept clean and away from traffic off of the edge. Latu, as a relatively bigger edge rusher, has the versatility to move around on the defensive line and play more on the interior as well. 4-technique is the defensive line position where the end is face up over top of the offensive tackle. This alignment becomes 4i when the defensive end is shading the inside shoulder of the aforementioned offensive tackle. 

Latu shifted down into this role quite a bit last season for UCLA. He flashes the ability to be a strong run defender from this interior position, while also dominating as a pass rusher when given the chance to attack from this spot. He logged a sack and a few run stops from this position against USC this past season.

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The 3-technique is a defensive tackle alignment built for rushing the passer. The defensive tackle is aligned in the B-gap between the tackle and the guard with the responsibility of penetrating that gap off of the snap. This spot has been held down by DeForest Buckner (on run downs) and Dayo Odeyingbo (on pass downs) over the past few seasons in Indy. 

Latu spent some time at 3-technique last season as well, shifting down to this pass rushing defensive tackle role in some of UCLA’s 3-4 looks. His explosion combined with his quickness is too much for guards on the interior, and this added speed threat on the inside led to some pressures for the UCLA defense this past season.


A 2-technique is when the defensive tackle is aligned face up over top of the guard. Latu rarely moved this far inside last year, but there were a few occasions where UCLA wanted to get his speed face up over top of a prime match-up. 

Latu is able to get quick pressure on USC quarterback Caleb Williams with this stand up rush over top of the right guard on this play below.


The final alignment that Latu had snaps at last season is 1-technique. 1-technique is a defensive alignment with a defensive tackle occupying the A-gap between the center and the guard. This role is typically reserved for explosive, gap-shooting defensive tackles on passing downs. Buckner typically shifts down to this position on obvious passing plays with the Colts’ defense. 

Latu moved inside to this role in this sim pressure package against USC last season. UCLA feigns like they are bringing six rushers, but they opt to have just three players rush off of the left side of the offensive line. Latu is able to quickly beat the center from his stand up position for a pressure on the play. The Colts had one of the higher six man blitz percentages last season, so we could see Latu move down to this role on occasion as a rookie.

The Bottom Line

Indianapolis Colts’ General Manager Chris Ballard specifically pointed out Laiatu Latu’s film against USC in 2023 as one of the young pass rusher’s best career games. Latu’s speed and fluidity are on full display in that outing, but he also showcased the versatility that the Colts’ defense needs out of their young pass rusher.

Latu showcased the ability to rush the passer effectively from nearly every defensive line position. That ability to impact the game from multiple roles should translate to the NFL from day one, and it will be one of the many reasons why Latu will see the field quite a bit as a rookie. His film against USC, and frankly against the entire PAC-12, is why the Colts are so high on this young pass rusher.

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Zach Hicks


Zach Hicks is the Lead Analyst for Zach has been on the NFL beat since 2017. His works have appeared on, the Locked On Podcast Network,,, &