Does Kent State have a sleeper?

One of the fun things about writing for the NFP is that agents I have known for years will often send me tape and ask how I feel about some of their players. After I look at the tape, I may write an article about the player if I feel he has talent.

Recently I got some tape of Kent State from this past season. The player I was asked to look at was a huge defensive tackle by the name of Iahmaa’ily (ish-MAIL-ee) Kitchen, who is flying under the radar. I watched six tapes (Alabama, Kansas State, Temple, Akron, Louisiana-Lafayette and Central Michigan), and came away feeling that this is an interesting player. Kitchen played hurt most of the year, injuring his arm and missing three games and parts of others. When he came back from the injury he was wearing a large brace on his arm to protect the injury. Clearly he wasn’t 100 percent. Still he flashed talent.

Kitchen is a short but large man who looks to be about 6-0 and 343 pounds. Despite his size he moves around well, showing a burst with good balance and agility. He has good arm length for a shorter guy (32.6) and plays with good natural strength. While he is very strong, he is not as explosive as I would like. While you see power on tape you don’t see a lot of snap.

With his bulk and strength, Kitchen does a good job of occupying blockers. He consistently takes on two blockers and you seldom see him give ground. Though he doesn’t make a lot of tackles, he gets penetration on a regular basis and disrupts plays. He has fairly good hand use but still needs to shed blocks more quickly. I can’t help but think that the arm injury had something to do with that. In some of the early games (Alabama and Kansas State) he did a much better job of shedding.

The Alabama game may have been one of his better games as far as stats. I had him for 1 tackle, 4 assists, a pressure and 2 hits on the quarterback. Kitchen shows the ability to get off the ball quickly with a good first step. He stays low and has good leg drive to get penetration. He has just average instincts and will lose track of the ball at times but he consistently plays hard and stays on his feet. Early in the Alabama game he was having some trouble with “cut” blocks but adjusted and did a much job better handling these low blocks after the first quarter. As a pass rusher, he can drive his opponent back, but he doesn’t show the counter moves to get a lot of pressures.

Early in the season, Kitchen was starting, playing in a rotation and getting about 70 percent of the defensive snaps. After he came back from the arm injury, he lost his starting job but was still playing in the defensive line rotation. His play time dropped down to about 45 to 50 percent of the defensive plays. The Kent State coaches obviously felt that he wasn’t as effective after the injury. Still, he is a competitive player who goes all out on every play.

As a junior, Kitchen was not a starter but played in a rotation and had 22 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Overall, what I see is a good developmental defensive lineman. He has the traits that many 3-4 teams are looking for in that he is thick and strong, can hold the point, occupy blockers and disrupt the running game. His best position is at nose tackle. While he may be best in a 3-4 there are some 4-3 schemes that he “fits.” At 343 pounds, Kitchen needs to lose some weight. He may be best at about 325-330; at that weight he should get a little quicker and become more explosive. He has more talent than some of the defensive linemen invited to the combine and though he may need a year on a practice squad, he WILL play in the league. Players this big and strong and with Kitchen’s athleticism are hard to find. Don’t be surprised if you hear Kitchen's named called in the later rounds of this year's draft.

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