Miami Hurricanes defensive end Greg Rousseau developed quite the reputation as an elite pass rusher in 2019 to elevate himself as a first-round 2021 NFL draft prospect.
Accumulating 15 1/2 sacks in a redshirt freshman season where he only became a UM starter about halfway through, the 6-foot-6, 265-pound pass-rushing specialist is working on developing all aspects of his game after opting out of the 2020 college football season to prepare for the draft.
Of course, it would be savvy of whatever pro team that decides to draft him to primarily use his greatest skill, but the mystery of what defensive system Rousseau gets drafted into has him using his time to add abilities he hasn’t shown in college.
“You never know what team’s going to pick you, so I can never neglect dropping back into coverage,” Rousseau told the South Florida Sun Sentinel in a phone interview. “I don’t know if I’ll go to a 3-4 team, and I can’t neglect putting my hand in the dirt because I don’t know if I’ll go to a 4-3 team. … When it comes to scheme, I’m just open to any team that I’m blessed enough to get drafted to.”
That’s one of the benefits of his opt-out: While he’s not getting in-game reps, he can work on things the Hurricanes likely wouldn’t ask him to do, but that he may need to develop for the NFL.
He’s getting prepared to line up anywhere a pro team may want him. While he never stood up as an outside linebacker at Miami, one thing he did show in his stellar 2019 campaign was, on third downs, he could slide inside and beat guards and centers through the A and B gaps with his quickness as Miami lined up extra defensive ends on either side of him.
“I really feel like I can play anywhere across the line of scrimmage, except for corner, of course, but I feel like I can play anywhere on the D-line,” Rousseau said. “I’m focusing on getting better at everything, whether it’s dropping back in coverage, playing inside, getting reps from outside. I’ve been getting right end, left defensive end. … But at the same time, of course, I’m doing the regular stuff like getting more explosive and all that and getting my hands better.”
Since the opt-out, Rousseau has spent much of his time in Pensacola, where he trains with former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith, who comes over from Atlanta to work with him. Rousseau has worked on enhancing such pass-rushing moves as the double-hand swipe scissor move and cross-chop, along with counters off those moves, with Smith.
A Coconut Creek, Fla., native who attended Hialeah Champagnat Catholic, Rousseau still comes back home to South Florida every now and then to spend a week and train locally with Pete Bommarito.
Along with working on technique, Rousseau will study defensive schemes and coverages to be able to draw them up on white boards for NFL teams and show he’s sharp in the mental aspects of the game. He has been steady in the weight room and with speed-training workouts.
“I definitely feel I’m getting stronger and losing my body fat,” Rousseau said. “I feel like I’m getting more explosive, which is something that I emphasized when I opted out. I wanted to get more explosive and get better get-off.”
Rousseau feels his time at UM working with strength and conditioning coach David Feeley helped him be prepared for the type of training necessary for the next level.
“It’s not too different. It’s not too wild of a change,” he said. “I’d say every single strength coach, no matter who it is, they have their different philosophies and they like certain things or they don’t like certain things, so there’s different nuances with working with somebody different. Coach Feeley really laid the foundation for me, so now it’s just like I’m just building from it.”
Rousseau credits Feeley greatly for helping him get over the ankle injury that ended his true freshman season prematurely.
Rousseau likes what he has seen from his college team’s 5-1 start.
“I’m excited. I tune into every single game. I’m rooting those guys on,” he said. “Those are my brothers at heart, and they’ll forever be my brothers, even though I opted out.”
He’s especially pleased that there hasn’t been a drop-off in defensive line play since he opted out.
“I feel like Quincy (Roche) is doing a great job of leading that unit, and I feel like they have a lot of potential,” Rousseau said. “They’re not even tapped out yet. They’re going to keep on getting better. They’re going to keep on gaining chemistry.
“Jaelan (Phillips), he’s just always ready to have a breakout game. He’s a freak of nature. He was a five-star recruit for a reason. He’s really coming into his own. I’m really proud and really happy for them guys.”
As one of the draft prospects that chose to opt out of the season, Rousseau said he could see it becoming a trend in the future but leans toward thinking this was a unique year. He added he would have played were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic.
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