Sam Acho is an undersized defensive end that makes plays with effort and hustle. After dominating Senior Bowl practices against some well-respected offensive linemen in this class, Acho continued his performance during the game with a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. His performance earned him the Most Outstanding Defensive Player award for the South team and opened the eyes of scouts who question his ability to be a full-time defensive end in the NFL. A ‘tweener’ by every definition of the word, Acho will ideally need to add bulk if he is to play the 5-technique position in the NFL that he played in college. He may get some looks as a rush backer in a 3-4, but he doesn’t display the agility and fluidity to be able to cover in space, especially at the next level. And he may even be looked at as a right defensive end in a standard 4-3. Teams will either love this versatility or be frustrated by the question of where to play him. Acho’s work ethic, character and intangibles will attract teams enough that he will likely be draft in the early to middle part of the second round.
Acho is an effective run defender who uses his relatively good length to gain leverage and quick hands to shed blockers and make plays. He contains the edge well and is not overaggressive when responsible for the back side of a play. He maintains his assignments well and plays smart. Acho always displays great hustle and has good lateral movement. He is not a particularly good change of direction player, and struggles to adjust and turn his hips when a play suddenly turns direction. He has the speed to run plays down from the backside as well as nice initial quickness to get in the backfield and be disruptive. He is a good tackler who is always active and in on plays. Acho is relatively strong at the point of attack with his upper body, but lacks strength in the lower end to consistently anchor.
Acho is not a classic edge rusher, but instead makes plays in the passing game with his effort and quickness. He has a fairly nice bull rush, and uses his upper body strength to his advantage. He is not fast enough to turn the corner against better offensive tackles and doesn’t show the flexibility to dip his hips and get around the edge. Acho does not project to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, but should be someone who gets 6-7 sacks per year based on hustle alone. He gives excellent secondary effort even when his initial move is ineffective and again uses great leverage to gain the advantage against blockers. He has the speed to chase quarterbacks down from behind. Acho will need to add some bulk to play DE in the NFL. He has the tendency to get swallowed up by larger defenders and will get pushed around until he improves his base strength.
Acho is an extremely smart player who, despite only being a two year starter, plays with great instincts and awareness of what he sees in front of him. He is not fooled by misdirection much, maintains his edge, and plays assignment sound. He understands multiple positions, having played defensive end and defensive tackle in college. If he is to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, he will be learning a completely new position from anything he played in college. If anyone can learn a new position and playbook though, it’s Acho.
Acho consistently plays with good hand placement and uses this skill to gain leverage, mainly as a pass rusher. While his hand placement is usually good, Acho could improve the use of his hands when they are in place. He doesn’t consistently slap or chop at blockers, and doesn’t use his hands to control the blocker at the point of attack. With more experience he should be able to refine this skill.
Acho is probably one of the highest character and smartest players in this entire draft class. He has won multiple awards for academics and community service, including the William V. Campbell Trophy awarded to the nation’s top football student athlete, the Wuerffel Trophy awarded to a player who displays all-around excellence in athletic, academic and community achievement, and has also been named a two-time academic All-American (for the rest of this impressive list see his 2010 awards below). A bit of an overachiever on the field, his smarts combined with his work ethic and hustle, are what make him an attractive player. NFL teams will have to figure out what position will fit him best (i.e. RDE, 5-tech, OLB), but rest assured he will work hard to be a successful player.
Acho graduated in December 2010 from the business honors program in the McCombs School of Business.
Awards & Honors
2010: William V. Campbell Trophy winner (nation’s top football student-athlete). Wuerffel Trophy winner (all-around excellence in athletic, academic and community achievement) and ARA Sportsmanship Award. Academic All-American. 2nd team All-America (Walter Camp). 3rd team All-America (AP). Lombardi Award semifinalist. Unanimous 1st team All-Big 12.
2009: Lott Trophy semifinalist. Honorable mention All-Big 12 (AP, coaches). 1st team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American.
2008: Tabbed first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 6. 1st team Academic All-Big 12.
2007: Named one of UT’s Outstanding Defensive Newcomers.
Prospect Video Clips
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