Post Rex signing on, whenever I look at the Buffalo Bills roster (particularly defense) I’ve tried to keep an eye in the draft on rookies that can help as depth this year and challenge for spots down the road. Hau’oli Kikaha (formerly Jamora) the 6’2″ 246-pounder from the University of Washington was one of the first players I gravitated toward. One word kept coming back to me when I watched him play: relentless. The man would not get tired. And when there was a play that needed to be made, on a team with stars like Danny Shelton and Shaq Thompson, Hau’oli was typically the one that made it.
When coaches talk about leverage, about hand fighting and technique I think of Hau’oli. A former judoka and MMA enthusiast, Hau’oli is great with his hands, staying low and exploding into an opponent at the right time. When watching games it shows in his pass rush and when needed his dropping into zones to confuse QBs, though what happens after he drops – that needs work.
In the combat zone vs offensive linemen or backs in pass pro Hau’oli is constantly trying to get disengaged and his martial arts training has added an intriguing layer to his bag of tricks. Because of illness, Hau’oli is saving most of the true “running” for his April 2nd pro day, but watch any game – the man is an athlete. Because of the ACL issues he’s had in the past, some teams will be leery though.
Against the run Hau’oli is similar to the former “legend” Kiko – if there’s a chance he can get around the block enroute to stopping the runner, or to time his rush in a run blitz to slide by the lineman, he’ll do it. That’s not to say he won’t set the edge; it’s just not one of his strong suits. In 2014 Kikaha had 24 tackles for loss, so his methods were fairly effective, but in the NFL he’ll have to learn how to hold up at the point of attack if he wants to be an every-down backer.
You don’t get 19 sacks your senior year and not know a thing or two about burst, timing and working a tackle.
When going against tackles, Kikaha can try to blow by them with great hand fighting technique, or he can convert speed to power with a little stutter move. On blitzes, he is sudden and tries to take the quickest path to the QB, even if that’s through a back.
In terms of basic hook-curl-flat drops Hau’oli will be fine in getting into the space. However, once he’s there he needs to be coached up on being aware of the route combinations and where he should be in relation to what is going on behind him. Should a team want to keep him on the field for passing downs and not rush the passer, you’re going to get what you deserve. In time he can be effective, but in his rookie year it might be best to put him more successful positions given his skill set.
How He Fits the Bills
Hau’oli would be a great get for the Bills as a reserve edge rusher / linebacker this year and give Mario or Hughes some time to rest on the sidelines. His ability to keep coming after linemen during a game has a multiplicative effect on them – as they get more and more tired during a game, because Hau’oli won’t be an “easy out” when he’s there to spell Mario or Jerry there’s no respite. On runs, he’ll try to run around or through them depending on the play. On pass plays, he’ll use his hands, burst and relentlessness to beat them if they give him a sniff at that QB. Personally, I think he is a player that is the physical embodiment of a Rex Ryan defense – his stamina being near-infinite setting the tone for the defense is infectious.
Because some teams may want to investigate his ACL injuries, I can see him falling between the second and fourth rounds.