Emeka Megwa (RB, 6’1” 220, Timber Creek HS, TX)
Looking for our next feature back, Coach Keith Bhonapha headed back down to Texas for the third year in a row. This time, instead of hunting for one of the lesser known “diamonds in the rough”, Bhonapha is flexing his recruiting chops by going after 4-star RB Emeka Megwa. Megwa is a widely-recruited prospect out of Keller, TX (a town within the talent-rich Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex), and seemingly every major program has offered him. Surprisingly, despite having his pick of the nation’s blue bloods, UW seems to be standing out to Megwa. It’s not hard to see why UW is so appealing to Megwa. Outside of the typical academic and extra-curricular offerings, Megwa’s style of play fits perfectly with Jimmy Lake & John Donovan’s gritty offensive identity.
Watching his hudl film, a couple of key traits stand out. First, you immediately notice that Megwa runs hard and is a load to bring down. He keeps his feet churning through contact, and he almost never goes down with the first hit. This sort of contact balance and physicality is critical when mixing it up in the box, and it’s a pretty difficult type of running trait to find in bruising RBs. Unlike Newton’s brand of back-breaking running where he seeks out contact and violently runs through defenders, Megwa’s style is much closer to Myles Gaskin’s type of tough, pinball-esque running where he looks more to bounce/glance off tacklers rather than run through them. That’s not to say that Megwa is incapable of running over defenders, as he has shown that he is more than willing to put his shoulder down in short yardage, but instead he knows that there’s more to be gained from staying up on his feet looking for the crease than putting his shoulder down and plowing forward for an extra two yards.
Speaking of looking for the crease, Megwa’s vision is another trait that is pretty evident in just the first few plays of his tape. His HS offense leaned heavily on counter, power, and inside gap plays that simplified his read-react responsibilities a tad, but he still showed advanced vision in setting up pulling blockers, reading leverage, and attacking defensive flow in tight spaces. He often was able to efficiently string together two or three steps at the LOS that allowed him to evade not just the LB in the hole, but also set himself up to beat the safety’s angle coming down for mop up duty.
Finally, I was very impressed by Megwa putting a number of blocking highlights near the beginning of his highlight reel. I’m sure someone told him that this was an easy way to earn bonus points with potential recruiters, but you can’t add blocking highlights if you don’t have any. Fortunately for Megwa, he has a bunch, and quite the variety of blocks too I might add. In his first pass blocking play in the hudl clip below, Megwa looks well coached in pass protection. He scans the LOS, he immediately steps up towards the LOS at the snap to preserve the cushion between his QB and the blitzer, and he attacks the rush, finishing off with a pancake block. Several plays later we get to see him lead blocking for another running back on an off-tackle run where he again puts a defender on the ground. Finally, on the very next play we see him lined up out wide in a stacked alignment, and he is tasked with blocking the CB on a backside WR screen. The play isn’t even going in his direction, but he still gives max effort and again dominates his assignment.
There were a few other plays where Megwa showed off his receiving ability out of the slot and out of the backfield. Given Donovan’s comments in the past, it seems as though this is an aspect of the offense that will continue to receive more focus moving forward, but it still seems like a bonus rather than a prerequisite for snaps like blocking is.
For a player comp, there wasn’t a clear size-speed-style comparison in recent memory that fit nicely. Megwa isn’t a home run hitter like Ahmed, and he isn’t the same sort of bruiser that Newton is. He has some of the size that made Berry an enticing recruit, and he has some of the versatility that earned McGrew and Pleasant playing time last year. The closest comparison I could come up with is “jumbo Gaskin” or a Gaskin-Coleman hybrid. Like both Gaskin and Coleman, Megwa can be a consistent engine for the offense whose value extends beyond his rushing ability. He brings solid technique and experience in pass protection and receiving, and even his running style is a little reminiscent of Gaskin’s. Just watching his highlights, you can see a familiar choppy gait, slightly upright running posture, and gliding movements across the field. The efficient chunk yardage is there for the taking, but long highlight yardage will be a little hard to come by given Megwa’s lack of elite speed.
Heading into next year, we should hope to see a running back begin to separate themselves after a couple of years with a committee approach. There are a couple of candidates for that role, but if one doesn’t emerge, Megwa has some instant impact ability.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the UWDP Recruiting Notebook series in the stream below.