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Vic Fangio: Playing smaller will be key for Lawrence Okoye


49ers defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye essentially got a redshirt year in 2013, spending his first NFL season on injured reserve with a knee injury as he transitioned from discus thrower to football player.

The good news? Okoye has made some strides, Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told reporters Wednesday. But now comes the challenge of the 2012 Olympian from England showing what he’s learned in games and practices — and earning the right to do so.

“He looks a lot better than he did last year at this time. But, we’ll see. We’ll see. He’ll get more action this year hopefully,” Fangio said, according to a transcript from the club. “Hopefully it’s easier for us to put him into some preseason games, give him some more practice reps and actually see where he’s at.”

Fangio believes the 22-year-old Okoye is a more knowledgeable player than a season ago. Also, Okoye — who stands 6-foot-6 — is playing with better leverage, Fangio said.

“There aren’t many guys, if you guys did any research, there aren’t many 6-5 or taller guys that are good defensive players. There’s some. But, there’s not a lot,” Fangio said. “They’ve got to be able to bend their knees and play low, and use their height to their advantage when they can. But, they’ve got to bend their knees and get them down to 6-2 when they need to. So, he’s going to have to play the game lower and use his natural ability that he does have.

“He’s an extremely strong guy. He can run. But we’ll see how he pans out.”

While this is just Okoye’s second season playing football, the Niners probably need to see some material improvement from him to keep him around for 2014. How he solves his leverage problem could determine his NFL future.

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10 Responses to “Vic Fangio: Playing smaller will be key for Lawrence Okoye”
  1. dirtysouthniner says: Jun 18, 2014 11:07 PM

    Good project

  2. jayniner says: Jun 18, 2014 11:09 PM

    As an Olympic athlete, standing at 6′ 6″ means he probably has a 36″ vertical leap.

    I can’t imagine too many QB’s wanting to throw the ball towards a D-Lineman that can basically reach 9 1/2′ – 10′ in the air, easily.

  3. time2speakup says: Jun 18, 2014 11:29 PM

    You’re on offense, imagine if you would, bearing down on you is something bigger, faster, younger, stronger and even more athletic than JJ Watt. Scary isn’t it!

  4. jg78219 says: Jun 18, 2014 11:45 PM

    Get rid of this guy please! He’s taking up a roster spot and valuable playing time from somebody who may need it. Although I suppose if they have kept him around to this point they see something in him remarkable so whatever.

  5. rainponcho87 says: Jun 19, 2014 1:35 AM

    let vernon sit out. Get Okoye some reps at TE. 6 ft 6, speed, 32o. He would be scary!!

  6. boobsanders says: Jun 19, 2014 4:30 AM

    I think he meant “playing better”. This guy will be back to throwing discs around in no time…

  7. ravenswhat says: Jun 19, 2014 7:19 AM

    In other words he has zero shot to make this team.

  8. 93civiccpe says: Jun 19, 2014 8:38 AM

    This guy is a good story.. still yet to be determined if he can play at a professional football level but an inspiring story none-the-less. We need more hard working, classy guys like Okoye!

  9. mostovnik says: Jun 21, 2014 2:33 PM

    Seems to me having him in on passing downs getting in the QBs face with arms raised might be a good application. As a rule I don’t see enough pass blocking attempts in the NFL. It’s not enough to just try and tackle a QB. Bat down those passes.

  10. 4ever9er says: Jun 29, 2014 1:30 AM

    If he can catch he should be converted to an H-Back or TE.

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