Defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka transferred to the University of Miami from the west coast to spend his final year of eligibility in a system that better fits his talents.
In 2017, the Sacramento, California native was flourishing in then-head coach Jim Mora’s one-gap front, starting 10 games with 49 tackles, 23 QB hurries, 8.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Those numbers took a serious dip when Chip Kelly returned to the college ranks in 2018 and installed a two-gap system at UCLA. In addition to the defensive overhaul, the new head coach began allocating the redshirt junior’s playing time to underclassmen in an attempt to rebuild a defense that ranked 117th in points allowed.
Fast-forward one year and No. 99 has spent the majority of his lone season in Coral Gables as a significant contributor in Miami’s front-four rotation, backing up junior defensive tackle Johnathan Ford on the Canes’ two-deep.
Except for the Oct. 5 meeting with Virginia Tech, the 6-2, 300-pounder has appeared in every game this season. In his most recent outing, Nnoruka matched a season-high with two tackles during last week’s 27-10 victory at Florida State, equaling previous marks set at North Carolina and vs Georgia Tech.
He also recorded one stop apiece vs Bethune-Cookman and Central Michigan.
Leadership on and off the field
As a disruptive three-technique, his athleticism immediately caught the attention of the coaching staff upon his arrival last summer. However, before even landing in South Florida, Nnoruka had already built the reputation of a “film junkie” while at UCLA.
”Whenever I see good football, I like studying that,” Nnoruka told The Athletic’s Manny Navarro earlier this year. “If you want to be the best, you’ve got to study the best.”
Despite only spending a short time in Coral Gables, that level of dedication should allow the program to reap the benefits down the road. With youngsters like Nesta Jade Silvera and Jordan Miller already cracking the two-deep at defensive tackle, and a handful of true-freshmen not far behind, Nnoruka, and fellow-senior Pat Bethel, can provide a positive example for the future of a position that’s been the bedrock of every great Hurricanes’ defense.
Coming in under the radar
The U wasn’t the first change of scenery for the Nigerian-born D-lineman. Prior to his breakout 2017 campaign at UCLA, Nnoruka spent a year in the JUCO ranks at American River College, earning a first-team All-Nor-Cal League selection.
As a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Sacramento, CA, he recorded 54 tackles and 10 sacks.
Thank you, Chigozie! We wish you nothing but health and happiness during your very bright future!