At the East-West Shrine and the Senior Bowl, WalterFootball.com heard from scouts that Texas defensive end Alex Okafor was a projected first-rounder. It really was no surprise as Okafor was a mainstay in the first round of mock drafts dating back to training camp before the 2012 season. Even though Okafor is deep in combine training, his focus is on playing well during his rookie season.
"The combine is a funny thing," said Okafor. "People put too much stock into the numbers. I just want to perform well, but the biggest thing is I want to make sure my body is ready to go for after the combine when I get drafted. I want to go to my team and immediately have a positive impact. I want to get my body ready to play well at the OTAs, training camp and my rookie season."
In Mobile, Okafor had a quality week of practice. He did well in the pass rushing one-on-ones, as he won his share of reps and was especially good in the first practice of the week.
"The Raiders were teaching their scheme," said Okafor. "They wanted their guys to be effective against the run game and get vertical on any type of down block or reach block. I'm just working on getting stronger in the run game to attack these linemen and get penetration.
"In the pass game I feel like I use my hands well. I had some good days but you can always improve. I can drop my hips more effectively and I plan on doing that."
Okafor worked his way on to the field for the Longhorns as a junior. He was one of the top defensive ends in the Big XII that year. He was a First-Team All-Big XII selection. Okafor totaled 58 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three passes batted and two forced fumbles.
In his senior season, he tallied 54 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, a blocked kick and a pass batted. His job got harder as he lost teammate Jackson Jeffcoat during the middle of the year to a season-ending injury. That sent more double teams Okafor's direction. Okafor also dealt with an ankle injury.
Okafor only played a handful of snaps against Kansas State, but he still caused a sack of Heisman finalist Collin Klein. The official scorers didn't give Okafor a portion of the sack.
"The ankle basically kept me out of two important games," said Okafor. "The game against TCU and Kansas State, two key games in our season. It was very disappointing, but I kept grinding away and didn't complain and went out with a bang in the Alamo Bowl."
He certainly did. Okafor dominated Oregon State with 4.5 sacks, eight tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. Okafor came close to a few other sacks and set up his teammates to make big plays. He was dominating the right tackle with speed rushes and bull rushes.
"I was about 100-percent healthy," said Okafor. "The ankle didn't effect anything I was trying to do that game."
Okafor was used by the Longhorns in a variety of spots as a stand-up rush linebacker and an end with his hand in the ground.
"That's what I've been telling scouts; if you draft me you get a well-rounded player," said Okafor. "Not just one that rush the passer or stop the run, but one can do both just as effectively as the other one. Hopefully I'll bring that to an NFL team."
After playing in the Senior Bowl and starting two seasons in the Big XII, Okafor said there was one left tackle who stood out as being particularly good.
"OU beat us down pretty bad, so I have to start with OU. They have a great tackle in Lane Johnson," said Okafor. "It was an honor to go against him during the season and I hope to go against him in the NFL."
In speaking with Johnson, he said that Okafor was the best pass rusher he went against, so there is mutual respect for the former adversaries. After meeting with teams at the Senior Bowl, Okafor wouldn't reveal which squads he met with or whom was showing the most interest in him.
"I've met with a lot of teams but I've been instructed not to expose that information so I better keep that to myself."