Prospect Evaluation #10: Hoffpauir & Nwafor

As we start down the home stretch of the 2012 recruiting cycle and with national LOI signing day just three days away, it is time to crank things up with Garry Cobb's insightful takes on hard-hitting Arizona safety Zach Hoffpauir, until recently a Cal verbal commit, and gigantic Texas defense tackle Ikenna Nwafor.

Prospect Evaluation #10: S Zach Hoffpauir & DT Ikenna Nwafor

Zach Hoffpauir
, S  5'11" 195 lbs (Centennial High School, Peoria, AZ) Ratings – 3*, #32 Safety

Rivals Ratings – 3*, 5.7/6.1, #29 Safety, No National Ranking, #11 Prospect in Arizona

ESPN Ratings – 3*, 75/100, #81 Safety, #182 Regional Prospect, #31 Prospect in Arizona, No National Ranking

Rating the Ratings

ESPN is the outlier in rating the current Cal commit, and given his video and his performance in the Semper Fidelis All American Bowl, ESPN's ratings look decidedly too low.  Hoffpauir's skills are those of a solid to high three-star prospect, as is demonstrated by his Rivals and Scout ratings.


Hoffpauir's game is one full of physicality and a ton of emotion. He closes quickly and aggressively on run plays, which enables him to make plays in the backfield against off-tackle and outside runs. He does a  very good job of getting his feet in the right position to make a solid tackle.  Hoffpauir also delivers a powerful strike when tackling.  He shows no fear in taking on large ball carriers, as he is willing to accept the consequences of any collision.  Punching the ball out of a ball carrier's hands is great habit that he has developed which should carry over well to the college level. Runners can bounce off of his tackle attempts at times, however, because he can be inconsistent in wrapping up the ball carrier. Aside from those instances, Hoffpauir is a very sure tackler who has the ideal mentality desired in a safety.

A very keen nose for the football is a trait that Hoffpauir throughout his highlights. He has good instincts in pass coverage and is very adept at reading the quarterback's body language. His ball skills are exemplified by the times he is able to break on long balls and high-point the ball. Those skills also show in the several highlights that he has on offense, where he is able to naturally and comfortably catch the ball with his hands. 

Hoffpauir is a very good athlete, with good feet, agility and hand-eye coordination.  His straight-ahead speed is decent, but the test for him in college will be in deep coverage against the faster wide receivers.  With solid technique, he has enough speed to be an adequate center field safety. 


If Hoffpauir were to decide to come to The Farm, he would initially make quite a splash on special teams some time in his second or third season.  His energy, athletic ability, sure tackling and big-play mindset are a perfect fit for coverage teams.  Once he has impressed in that role, he would likely be a candidate to start at strong safety. In that position he would be able to best utilize his great instincts and agility against medium-range passes and use his tackling skills to provide quality run support.


Ikenna Nwafor
, DT  6'6" 298 lbs (Cistercian Prep, Irving, TX) Ratings – 3*, #35 DT

Rivals Ratings – 3*, 5.6/6.1, No Position Ranking, No National Ranking, No State Ranking

ESPN Ratings – 3*, 77/100, #59 DT, #157 Regional Prospect, #121 Prospect in Texas, No National Ranking

Rating the Ratings

Overall, Ikenna Nwafor's ratings are somewhat low in comparison the attributes that he brings to the table.  The justification for those ratings is a combination of the relatively low level of competition that Nwafor faced, and the fact that he is still a very raw talent.  That justification is valid from a pure ratings standpoint, but not necessarily from a talent evaluation/projection standpoint.  Nwafor has a rare combination of size and length for an interior defensive lineman, and that is not completely accounted for in his ratings.


Ikenna Nwafor is a huge defensive lineman who possesses impressive athletic ability.  For an interior defensive lineman that must start every play at a very low plane, his height, which is listed from 6'3" to 6'6" (possibly indicating that he is still growing) would normally be a handicap. However, Nwafor has no problem bending to get leverage on shorter linemen. That ability along with his longer frame allow him to use both his bulk and his long arms to hold his ground against opponents. 

He is still a raw prospect, but Nwafor will be especially tough to move on the next level once he masters the proper technique for his position.  He has enough agility to be a decent down the line player as his pursuit abilities are very good for his size and body type.  He is pretty quick for his size, and can beat linemen's blocks using that attribute. But what is surprising is his straight-line speed. He carries every bit of his weight with ease, and that comes out in his video when he chases and catches ball-carriers down the field. 

That is also an example of the hustle that he flashes.  If he duplicates that hustle consistently in college, Nwafor will be a force on the defensive line.  When rushing the passer, Nwafor doesn't display much in terms of variety of pass rush moves.  Most of the time, he just pushes his opponent out of the way. That notwithstanding, he does show that he can turn his shoulders use somewhat of a swim move to get by pass protectors.


Look for Nwafor to use a year to sharpen up his technique and add even more size to his huge frame.  By year two, Nwafor will likely find his way on the field due to size alone.  He offers too much in terms of measurables to keep off of the field for longer than a year, especially in short-yardage situations. Nwafor figures to be a prime candidate to be the anchor of a 3-4 defensive scheme by year 3.  He does not necessarily have to play the "space-eater" role, however. He is also mobile enough to figure into a four-man front, but as a 1 technique, lining up between the center and guard.  Given his massive frame and athleticism, Nwafor has a chance to be a very special player in college and significantly outplay his star ratings.

Editor's Note: It should be noted that Nwafor was also praised for his eye-opening performances during practices before and as a starter in the Offense-Defense Bowl (played at the end of December at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas) where he was up against some of the top competition in the country. He was named the "Biggest Surprise" of the all-star event.

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