ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – One of the top players in the country, regardless of position or grade, played a game Friday night close to where many Iowa fans hope will eventually be his college home.
Class of 2017 Edwardsville (IL) High Defensive End A.J. Epenesa, son of former Hawkeye Eppy Epenesa, and his teammates took on Rock Island (IL) High here in the Quad Cities. The Tigers traveled more than four hours to play the game.
The trip proved to be worth it for Edwardsville. The Tigers left town with a 30-10 victory in a game dominated by Epenesa and the defense. He registered three of his team’s five sacks.
Here’s our Evaluation followed by Game Film of the 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior:
As you would imagine, Epenesa receives a lot of attention from the opposing offense. He rarely faces a single blocker, most times meeting up with a running back or H-Back when he passes the tackle.
When I first watched the game, I didn’t appreciate just how disruptive was Epenesa. Despite playing offense, defense and most of special teams on a very hot night, he shows a strong motor.
Epenesa explodes off the ball and his burst towards the backfield overwhelms offensive linemen. He’s quick off the edge but mixes in an inside move effectively.
Epenesa boasts a thick, powerful base that allows him to power through multiple blockers and serves him well for balance purposes. He rarely gets knocked off his feet.
Epenesa didn’t showcase much pass-rush technique outside of straight speed and power, which is more than enough at this level. He’ll become even more of a handful once he hones his craft and adds moves to his repertoire.
Epenesa also will benefit from a decreased workload at the next level where he won’t need to play tight end, long snap and fill other roles.
There aren’t many weaknesses in Epenesa’s game at this stage. The canvas is impressive and could be a masterpiece as he continues to add strength and develop as a player.