Charles Omenihu likes to do his research.
As a highly regarded, NFL edge-rushing prospect, the former University of Texas standout wants to know not only what allows the best players at his position to excel, but what it takes to become a first-round pick.
That’s what drew Omenihu to Shaq Lawson after the Buffalo Bills made him the 19th overall choice of the 2016 draft.
“I've spoken to Shaq Lawson quite a few times,” Omenihu said while preparing for last month’s Senior Bowl college all-star game in Mobile, Ala. “I've picked his brain, especially when he was coming out from Clemson. Shaq Lawson was drafted high, so I wanted to know, 'What did you do to separate yourself?’ ”
“He told me, ‘When you come to the NFL, don't try and match too many moves. Find out what you're good at. Match that and stick with it and perfect it,’ ” Omenihu said. “So I've definitely done that. On tape, my moves might be repetitive, but they work.”
In his senior season with the Longhorns, Omenihu had a career-best 9.5 sacks – giving him 16.5 for his college career – and was named Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Omenihu figures to have enhanced his draft stock at the Senior Bowl. First, he was measured there at 6-feet-5 5/8 inches and 274 pounds with 36.5-inch arms, longer than any Senior Bowl participant since 2013. Then came his high-impact showing in the game.
Playing for the North squad, Omenihu was credited with three tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry.
Draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah wrote the following about Omenihu’s Senior Bowl performance for NFL.com: “He has some physical traits that you love, including rare length, and he played really hard … Some of his big plays were made off of effort and just not quitting on the play. He’s not a finished product, but there’s a lot to work with, and he helped himself in Mobile.”
Before the game, Omenihu said his primary mission was to verify what he believed he showed during his final season at Texas: that he’s equally “dominant” against the run as he is rushing the passer.
“I wanted to be in this position, I wanted to have this kind of spotlight just to show that I'm real good,” he said. “If you invest in a high pick in me, it won’t be a failure. I promise that I’ll be able to do everything that I need to do to improve the team.”
The Bills, who own the ninth overall pick in the April 25-27 NFL draft, have a need for pass-rushing help. According to Omenihu, the Bills were among many NFL clubs that had representatives speak with him in the days leading up to the Senior Bowl.
“I haven't hit my ceiling at all,” he said. “I had a question, ‘From one to 10, where do you think you're at?’ I said, ‘Six.’ They asked me, ‘How do you describe your career at Texas?’ I call it, ‘Upscale.’ From my freshman year, I wasn't really doing much. My sophomore year, I was kind of here and there, sprinkled in. My junior year, ‘Flashing.’ That was a word that came up a lot with me.
“Then, my senior year, putting it all together. And I didn’t put it all together all the way. I could have had more sacks.”
Besides reaching out to Lawson, Omenihu has made a point to study video of standout NFL edge rushers Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals, and Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers.
“Khalil Mack is smarter than me, but I study his pass-rush move,” Omenihu said. “He does kind of the same thing that I do. Then, as far as when I bump down inside, I look at (Los Angeles Rams tackle) Aaron Donald.”
“It’s on tape,” Omenihu said of his versatility. “I’ve been doing that and I know teams understand. I just want to show that I’m just as good as playing the five (technique) as I am playing the three tech.”
Separating himself at the Senior Bowl was no easy task. The North squad, alone, had other impressive edge-rushers, including Zach Allen of Boston College, Jalen Jelks of Oregon, L.J. Collier of TCU, and John Cominsky, who managed to gain attention despite coming from a small-school program at Charleston.
Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat, a member of the South squad, was widely viewed as the Senior Bowl’s best edge rusher during the week of practice. Other South squad edge rushers that have the attention of the Bills and other NFL teams are Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson and another small-school standout, Old Dominion’s Oshane Ximines.
Asked what he thought stood out the most about his game, Omenihu said, “Just my effort. You don’t coach effort. Effort's either you’ve got it or you don’t. So my effort’s a big thing that I know that I'm going to have to … whether it’s running to the ball or running to a drill or after a drill, whatever the case may be. And just doing that will separate myself other than just my play.”