Holiday Bowl Matchup: A.J. Epenesa VS. Austin Jackson

Friday night's Holiday Bowl will give us an early opportunity to see how one of the top Edge Rushers, A.J. Epenesa, matches up against an NFL caliber Tackle: Austin Jackson.  

Coach Leslie is currently the Linebackers coach at Chavez High School in Texas. He has over 4 years of coaching experience in defense and special teams. He is a Scouting Academy Alumni and attends NFL and NCAA coaching clinics in the off-season.

Expect a large contingent of NFL scouts to be on hand at the Holiday Bowl for an excellent match of two prospects that are rising up draft boards. 


Austin Jackson

While he hasn’t yet declared for the draft, Austin Jackson has become a popular name in NFL circles over the past few weeks and it’s easy to see why, he is an athletic specimen, listed at 6’6 310.  Brian Lamb recently had Austin Jackson off the board at 19 to the Miami Dolphins in his latest mock draft.  He played both Tackle and Defensive End in high school which shows his athleticism. 


What The Scouts see:

Turn on his high school highlight tape on Youtube and it’s easy to see his potential.  Think of him as a piece of clay that is still learning the intricacies of the position.  He does a solid job of keeping his hands low in pass protection and engaging with defenders after his second kick slide.  His athleticism allows him to get to the second level with ease and they will use him to kick out and block on bubble screens. He does however struggle to keep his “post foot” (inside foot) pointed up field, which will cause him to “sloop” or turn his hips away from the line of scrimmage.  He also struggles with his inside hand in pass protection, which will cause him to get beat on inside moves. 


A.J. Epenesa

A.J. Epenesa, listed at 6’6, 280 lines up as a LDE and a RDE and hopefully in this game we will see him line up against Jackson quite a bit.  He has 9 sacks this year, but has come on as of late with 6 sacks in the last 5 games.  He is another physical specimen and it’s easy to see why NFL scouts are intrigued with his potential. 


What The Scouts see:

He gets quite a few of his sacks on effort, which is good to see in a Defensive Lineman.  Epenesa likes to use his bull rush and then does a great job of using his outside hand to swipe away the hands of the Tackle, and bend to get to the quarterback.  He has some limitations as far as his speed, but his BGO (Ball Get off) is pretty impressive.  It will be interesting to see how strong and quick he tests at the combine in the upcoming months. 


What To Watch For:

Keep an eye on Jackson (Left Tackle) getting burned on an inside move by Epenesa. Highlighted by the video below, you can see him struggle with his Bull Rush on vertical sets. 

It will also be interesting to see if Jackson can reach block Epenesa in the run game.  Two physical athletic freaks with a lot of potential matching up should provide for an interesting Holiday Bowl.  

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