By Joe scalzo
When Dubem Nwadiogbu was a freshman at Peachtree Ridge High School in Lawrenceville, Ga., he lined up against a senior in a defensive camp.
“I hit him real hard so my coaches started calling me ‘Bam,’” he said.
Before that, his nickname was “ABC” because he had so many letters in his name.
But last fall, Nwadiogbu said he deserved a different name: immature.
“I was really immature last year,” said Nwadiogbu, who played in 10 games as a true freshman linebacker, recording nine tackles. “I had to get out of that high school phase.
“I kind of grew out of that. My coaches got on me so I knew something had to change, so I made a big change for myself.”
Nwadiogbu (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) has the type of size and athleticism (his sister, Tori, runs track at Auburn) to be an impact player at YSU. With starting Will linebacker Travis Williams out with a concussion, Nwadiogbu has made a strong case for playing time.
“Bam’s been really impressive in there,” YSU coach Eric Wolford said. “He’s done some good things.”
Nwadiogbu (pronounced “WAH-de-a-boo”) said the lightbulb came on against North Dakota State last fall.
“That’s when I realized it’s not about playing around, that it’s time to get serious,” he said.
After not watching film last fall — “To be honest, I didn’t even know the defense,” he admitted — Nwadiogbu has become a film room staple this offseason.
“I know the defense a lot better this year,” he said. “I understand what Coach [Joe] Tresey is telling us. It’s similar to what I played in high school, so it’s a lot easier for me.”
While Wolford has repeatedly said defense wins championships, he admitted Friday his unit will have to play more of a bend-not-break style, at least initially.
“I don’t know that we can necessarily come out of the box and be overwhelming like an Alabama where we’re going to three-and-out, three-and-out you,” Wolford said. “I’ve been encouraged recently by the enthusiasm, the pep in the step [defensively].
“We’re starting to get into a little bit of a groove.”
That groove, senior DT Nick DeKraker said, comes from communication.
“With a new system, everybody’s got to know their plays,” he said. “Everybody has to know what everybody else is doing.”
That goes for starters (such as DeKraker) and non-starters (such as Nwadiogbu) since everyone is one play away from the other. Nwadiogbu isn’t likely to overtake Williams on the depth chart — the Miami (Fla.) transfer started every game last fall as a redshirt freshman — but he knows he needs to be ready when the opportunities come.
“There’s no ones or twos anymore,” said Nwadiogbu. “Everybody can play. If a person gets hurt, the other person has to step up and take their spot.”