Versatile Odenigbo readying for first season

Ifeadi Odenigbo brings Northwestern high potential and plenty of versatility, which the coaching staff is currently experimenting with. The former four-star prospect, recruited by the Wildcats as a linebacker, has also worked in at defensive end during the first week of practice. Odenigbo's role, whatever that may be, will soon be decided.

The number seven followed Ifeadi Odenigbo through his successful high school football career, and then in the Under Armour All-American game after his senior season. The date was January 7th in which he verbally committed to Northwestern.

When the Centerville, Ohio native arrived on campus in Evanston, he jumped at the opportunity to secure his lucky number for his collegiate career. The problem is that senior safety Hunter Bates currently dons that number on his jersey.

During the first week of Northwestern's preseason practice, both Odenigbo and Bates scampered the field with the number seven on their jerseys. However, when the game uniforms are first worn against Syracuse, Odenigbo and Bates won't be allowed on the field simultaneously with the same number.

"Yeah, it's pretty weird," Odenigbo said with a smile when addressing the number conundrum.

Odenigbo, rated as a four-star prospect in high school, became one of the biggest recruiting splashes during Pat Fitzgerald's head-coaching career. Since arriving on campus, Odenigbo has added 17 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame, putting him at 229 pounds and making him an even more versatile player.

As a two-sport star with Centerville High School, also running track, Odenigbo couldn't add weight. His slender size was a concern entering college, but that is no longer the case.

"Now that I'm focusing on just football, I'm really working on my weight," he said.

Through a week of practices, Odenigbo has played both defensive end, which he played in high school, and outside linebacker, the position he signed to play for Northwestern.

Odenigbo has spent the first day of practice switching between linebacker and defensive line drills. Northwestern coaches have since had him commit to one position each day, in order to receive a thorough evaluation.

"We'll kind of see as things progress," said head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the freshman. "I'm very pleased with what I'm seeing of him."

As a talented sprinter in track with Centerville, Odenigbo's gifted speed translates well to the football field. He believes that will be beneficial at either position.

"I feel like my biggest asset to the team is my speed," said Odenigbo. "Speed can come in handy with pass rush, but speed can also come in handy when you're pursuing the ball."

Northwestern fans have high hopes for the new number seven, whether that is at defensive end or outside linebacker.

Another potential option for Odenigbo is to wear a redshirt this season, allowing him to become more knowledgeable of the playbook while continuing to develop physically. He could also keep his lucky number, too. That verdict has yet to be revealed.

"It's really the coaches' decision," Odenigbo said. "It's whatever's best for the team."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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