For weeks now, we have heard about the great things Chikwe Obasih is doing on the practice field. The defensive end from Brookfield, Wis., started the spring off as a third string lineman on the depth chart, but has since seen a majority of the first-team reps.
Obasih is a 6'2, 245-pound lineman with good speed and strength. He has shown these qualities thus far in spring and has impressed because of them. Although the redshirt freshman didn't see the field last year, there is little doubt that it will be rather difficult to keep him off it this upcoming fall.
Obasih feels that this spring has been great for him and his growth because he missed most of last year's fall camp due to an injury. He said he has been working with defensive line coach Chad Kauha'aha'a, as well as fellow linemen Konrad Zagzebski and Warren Herring on his technique.
"The most frustrating part [of spring] is the missed assignments," Obasih said. "The one thing I have to do is be consistent and help our team. If I can fix the little mistakes and continue to hold my ground, everything else will come this fall."
Obasih said he is rededicating himself to studying film in order to improve as a player. He mentioned that it was his top priority.
"Right now, school has been a hassle," Obasih said. "I took difficult classes this spring. When I can focus on [film] I will be able to study it twice as much."
The defensive end said that it has been encouraging to receive the first-team reps he's getting. He said that the coaching staff has not notified him that he is first-team on the depth chart right now, but that has not deterred him from making the most of his opportunity.
"[The coaches] just want to throw me in there and see what I can do against the ones," Obasih said. "I've got to just keep my spot up. Right now that is my focus. I want my spot.
"I am going to do anything it takes to get that spot."
Obasih went on to say that adding weight through the workout plan he is on has been one of the biggest differences between last year and this spring. He also revealed that working on his technique is the key to his success on the field.
"I had an awkward stance, so now playing inside and being able to go against the biggest of the biggest makes us more fundamentally sound and better as a unit."
"Footwork is everything," Obasih added. "That is what we have been working on footwork as a whole. [The defensive line] stays after practice sometimes to work on the footwork. Not having the right footwork will screw up the entire play."
Obasih is not letting the praise from the coaches get to his head. He refused to say what the coaches were impressed with, but instead talked about the things he needs to do in order to see the field this fall.
"I've grown tremendously, but I have to fix the little mistakes," he said. "I have been here long enough, to this point I am holding myself to a high standard."
Obasih did not hesitate when asked about where he sees himself on the team this year.
"I want to see myself start. I don't know if I will, but I want to see myself contribute."
Obasih credited Rob Havenstein, Kyle Costigan and Dallas Lewellan as the toughest players to go up against in practice on the opposite side of the ball. Obasih had high praise for Havenstein in particular.
"Going against Rob Havenstein has made me tremendously better," Obasih said. "He is going to be a high draft pick this upcoming year. He knows the techniques. He knows all the tricks. He knows when we are cheating our stance. He knows how to make us hide what we are trying to do, which makes us even better."
Obasih said it is not his time to be a leader. He sees Herring, Marcus Trotter, Derek Landisch and Zagzebski as the leaders on the defense, but said despite his inexperience, he will not be afraid to speak out at times when he needs to.
He seemed confident in his ability and focused on what had to be done going forward into the summer and next season.
"I want to make an impact. I want to do something that makes me stand out. I want to do something that helps this team out. I'll put in the extra hours to make sure that my conditioning is right."