Evaluating Temple Owls defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh’s Week 1 performance

Temple defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh shined in the Owls’ season opener against Bucknell. Between stuffing the run and getting to Bucknell’s quarterbacks, the redshirt sophomore anchored Temple’s defensive line. He finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. 

Maijeh leveraged his 6’2″, 285-pound frame to wreak havoc in Bucknell’s backfield. Maijeh totaled a mere seven tackles in eight games last season, but his role should expand with stud defensive lineman and former Owl Michael Dogbe playing on Sundays for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dogbe led the Owls’ defensive line last season with 39 pressures, per Pro Football Focus, 12.5 tackles for loss, and seven sacks. While there’s a caveat that Bucknell isn’t comparable to any other team on Temple’s schedule this season, Maijeh’s statement game carries some weight.

Run-Stuffing

Maijeh showed how to leverage his hands in order to engage then disengage from blocks. In the second quarter, Maijeh stacks Bucknell’s guard, then releases his hands to pursue the ball carrier. He wraps up with both hands. Maijeh drives forward with his legs to create momentum, which is crucial when locked in battle with offensive linemen. 

Maijeh used his hands to rag doll Bucknell’s left tackle and make his blocker off-balanced. He then has to plow through the pulling right tackle before wrapping up the ball carrier. 

Notice how Maijeh incorporates many moving body parts on these two plays. He uses his hands to dislodge his blocker, his arms to win the battle from a lower position, and his legs to push upfield and in pursuit.

Maijeh’s technique and quickness with his motions allows him to discard Bucknell’s left guard and plug into the A gap for a tackle. Maijeh had an imprint on Bucknell’s ineffective running game this past Saturday.

Maijeh also took on a double team, whether by design or out of necessity from Bucknell’s offensive line.

Temple used a 4-3 defense to match up with Bucknell’s “10” personnel (one running back, four wide receivers) with senior linebacker Sam Franklin lining up against Bucknell’s slot receiver. Bucknell ACE blocks Maijeh with their left guard and center, which frees up senior linebacker Shaun Bradley.

Redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah-Graham Mobley occupies the A gap which forces Bucknell’s running back to cut towards the left. Despite Bradley’s missed tackle attempt, Maijeh meets the Bison’s running back and drags him down. 

Quarterback Pressure

Maijeh disrupted Bucknell’s passing game via his pressure, and he could’ve recorded more total pressures if he played more in the second half of Temple’s lopsided 56-12 victory. He shed Bucknell’s left guard to deliver a punishing shot to senior quarterback, John Chiarolanzio.

He’s a millisecond late in his jump, but Maijeh gets an angle with his hands while moving laterally and disengages with his right hand. He gets low before drilling Chiarolanzio.

There’s a pattern starting to form with Maijeh’s standout moments: hand usage. Battling in the trenches is a duel of wits, athleticism, and strength, among other factors. Maijeh won’t win every time he uses his hands to gain momentum, but he prevailed numerous times.

He overwhelmed Bucknell’s left guard on his first career sack as an Owl and was able to wrap up junior quarterback Logan Bitikofer. Maijeh goes the high route with his arms and simply drives back his blocker before disengaging.

His powerful legs aid him en route for the sack. Maijeh extends with his length to regain an opportunity to get home towards the quarterback, and he places Bucknell in a precarious third-and-long.

Takeaway

Maijeh is the lone underclassman on Temple’s starting defensive line, and to witness him essentially dominate in his sophomore year debut had to have been noteworthy among Temple’s staff. Redshirt junior EDGE Quincy Roche is primed for a breakout campaign after recording six sacks last season, while redshirt junior DT Daniel Archibong brings length in the Owls’ interior. 

Getting push against FBS competition will be paramount for Maijeh to complement an untested Owls secondary. Maijeh’s football IQ and ability to disengage from blocks could make him a vital asset for Temple’s defense this season.