NAME: Otaro Alaka
SCHOOL: Texas A&M
JERSEY: No. 42
RECRUITMENT RATING: 4-star recruit
WT: 240 lbs
Key & Diagnose – Processing has improved over the course of his career at Texas A&M. Not quick to the trigger, but will stay active on the balls of his feet, processing information and working for an advantageous path to the ball carrier. Needs a big gap to get on his horse into the backfield. Won’t be described as a downhill player, but he steps hard enough to not get buried at second level.
Range – Below average range. Athletic tools are not a strength. Can open up and run better than he changes direction, but consistently failed to get to the perimeter and often took disadvantageous angles to the football as well. Won’t be labeled as a run-and-hit linebacker, does his best work around the box.
Tackling/Finishing – Finishing in space is a chore. Tight in the hips and can be overaggressive to leave himself no room for error in recovery. Paths to the ball when it gets out wide force him to tackle outside his frame, which is more hit or miss. When he can square up a ball carrier, delivers a blow with some solid hitting power. Good form to target low and wrap up.
Coverage – Not asked to do a ton in coverage for the Aggies, as they often use him as a blitzer. When he is in zone coverage, simply isn’t quick or explosive enough to close down space in a hurry on underneath throws. Not a playmaker in coverage. Can’t see man coverage being a strength due to lack of athletic tools.
Block Deconstruction – Clear area of strength the majority of the time. Will take on blockers with his hands inside and a nasty attitude behind his punch. Have seen him toss blockers aside, but also have seen him get hung up on contact/1v1 battles and fail to find the ball carrier. Play strength will not be an issue, however.
Change of Direction – Simply not a good enough athlete to play in space with a high rate of success. When he throttles down and plays under control, can at least slow opposing runners down. Ball carriers with a plan slipped his attempts easily. Lack of short area agility could make more advanced coverage responsibilities an adventure.
Competitive Toughness – Super tough, super physical, plays with a non-stop motor. Won’t back down from anyone and brings the fight on every play. Talks trash after the play, will get in opponents faces and plays with an edge. His demeanor will be a welcome addition to any locker room, and should translate nicely to a special teams role.
Pass Rush – Often asked to rush the passer for Texas A&M, even off of the edge. Shows the ability to convert speed-to-power a little bit and dip his shoulder to corner on occasion. Not overly dangerous in this role, but physically capable of winning 1v1 against backs and tight ends due to his size, strength and temperament.
Discipline – Can get pulled slightly out of his assignment by misdirection, but generally doesn’t overcommit to backfield motion or play-action fakes. Can however lose his gap assignment by being a beat slow to arrive at the point of attack, allowing blockers to get down on him at the second level. Will take curious routes to defend his gap at times, allowing himself to be sealed off.
Athleticism/Size – Size is excellent. Athleticism is average. Fits the old school mold of a linebacker as a thumper between the tackles that can blitz, but isn’t quite instinctive enough to really even be a desirable starter in that role.
BEST TRAIT – Competitive Toughness
WORST TRAIT – Range or Coverage
BEST FILM – LSU (2017)
WORST FILM – Alabama (2018)
RED FLAGS – None
Otaro Alaka is a physically-imposing linebacker prospect who fits the mold of a traditional SAM ‘backer. Likely a two-down player unless he continues to make strides as a rusher, Alaka will bring the fire every single snap, but simply isn’t talented or instinctive enough to do more than maximize his average traits. He’s a generally disciplined player who tackles well inside his frame, but the limitations in space, coverage and range will likely keep him from being a desirable starter for most NFL teams. I could see teams being interested in what he looks like as a standup 3-4 outside linebacker, a spot he will probably see time at during whatever all-star bowl he ends up at in January. A backup role as a special teams player is more likely to be his future in the NFL if he makes a roster.