While Vita Vea demonstrated all these traits in just his first two seasons, his true growth in his junior year came in the area of field awareness. He became aware of what the entire defense was trying to do on each play. And in that sense of football IQ, he elevated his game accordingly. He didn’t just shed blockers, he maneuvered them to clog up the offensive backfield. He didn’t try to commit to either of his two-gap responsibilities, he held his ground and forced offense to move around him.
While that limited his individual statistical performance, it certainly became one of the leading reasons the Washington Husky defense was one of the most stout in the nation. While he led on the field, he demonstrates maturity and wisdom off the field as well. And it’s that humility and soft-spokenness which truly stands out for me.
The typical scouting reports will check the typical boxes for needs improvement with hand usage, pass rush, and quick pressure. But the Washington Huskies suffered a number of injuries throughout the season, and two starting cornerbacks were lost as the season wore on. To compensate, the Huskies leaned more and more to three man pass rushes and dropping eight back in coverage. That 3 vs. 5 set the stage for Vea to encounter plenty of offensive linemen on his way to the quarterback. But moreso, Vea continued to be tasked with sustaining his position at the line of scrimmage. In short, sacking the quarterback continued to be a secondary role for the big defensive tackle.
But when he got the green light, he did more than just bull rush. He developed a nice swim move as well as a spin move on his way to the quarterback. But he does get locked in with blockers. There were plays when he did not seperate and got washed into the wave of offensive bodies coming at him. He stood in the path of multiple offensive players on almost every down. Sometimes the offense won. But more often than not, it was Vea who pushed back. In the end, this 2018 NFL Draft has plenty of running backs and quarterbacks. If my NFL team needs defensivel linemen, and Vita Vea is on the draft board in round one, I’m screaming at the monitor for his name to be called. He is already being compared to Haloti Ngata. And from what I’ve seen, it’s a fair comparison.