49ers Spoke With Towering Rusher With ‘NFL Caliber Frame:’ Report

Nick Bosa Charles Omenihu

Getty Nick Bosa and Charles Omenihu celebrate a sack on December 4, 2022. Omenihu is set to enter free agency on March 15, 2023.

With the San Francisco 49ers being in a position where the versatile and long Charles Omenihu is an unrestricted free agent, the team can begin looking at towering edge rusher possibilities at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Turns out the 49ers conversed with one possibility at Lucas Oil Field — who’s from Conference USA and from Omenihu’s former football city.

Per 49ers analyst Brad Graham of TheSFNiners on Wednesday, March 1, Rice defensive end Ikenna Enechukwu met with the franchise during interview sessions with team personnel.

‘NFL Caliber Frame’

The Owls edge rusher stands at 6-foot-4, 269-pounds and earned All-Conference USA honors in his career at Houston. That kind of towering frame was the first strength pointed out by draft expert Lance Zierlein of nfl.com in his evaluation. He also added:

“Enechukwu clearly has the frame and length to garner attention as a developmental prospect, but his lack of fluidity and athleticism could require a move inside. With additional size, he’s tough enough to play as a 3-4 end. He flashes bull-rush potential and good upper-body strength to build on, but the skill set needs further development for him to have a solid chance in the NFL.”

Zierlein believes Enechukwu would qualify for a bottom of the roster spot or practice squad candidate. Yet, one look at his versatility and past body of work in an Owls uniform, he could have a home as an unheralded edge rusher who gets turned loose by defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.

Enechukwu went on to deliver 10.5 career sacks for the Owls. And that includes snatching Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of USC in the 2022 season opener. That game showcased his versatile and disruptive side that helped get him on NFL boards.

But before facing the Trojans, he described his game to NFL insider of NBC 2 Houston Aaron Wilson as a defender “who can do it all.” He added that the Owls made good use of his length by plugging him in different gaps.

“I’ve definitely lined up a lot at every single position,” Enechukwu said to Wilson in August 2022. “You’ll mainly see me in the C or B gap. That’s where I spend most of my time. I feel like I can do it all. I have the strength and mentality to play any position. What makes the most sense is to be that C-gap defensive end.”

Breakdown: How the Owl Could Fit the 49ers

With the ends and linebackers set to kickoff the field portion of the combine on Thursday, March 2, names of potential edge rush ideas have sprouted for the 49ers.

Already, Thomas Incoom of Central Michigan has been called a “prospect to watch” during drills by 49ers insider for The Athletic David Lombardi. Incoom’s burst and long arms were called fits for Kocurek.

But in scrutinizing Enechukwu, he’s another Kocurek type. Although he’ll be considered shorter and leaner compared to the 6-foot-5, 280-pound Omenihu, he could be developed the same way Omenihu was. Plus, bear in mind that Kocurek has thrown undersized defenders on the interior before and each came out producing career-best numbers. Names like Arden Key, T.Y. McGill and Kerry Hyder come to mind as ones who swung inside. Graham is another who has taken a liking to the Rice defender.

“I am extremely intrigued by Ikenna coming out of Rice. Said he can play 0-9 tech on the DL and has great length/motor — could be a nice prospect for the 49ers to target mid-late round,” Graham said.

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