The college football season in Texas starts a week earlier than normal with a Week 0 matchup between North Texas and UTEP. To celebrate us making it through another off-season, we’re counting down the 50 most important players in Texas every day until Aug. 27. The list isn’t necessarily about which players are the best, though talent plays a major factor in most important.
No. 8: Praise Amaewhule, UTEP junior defensive end
A native of Nigeria, Amaewhule relocated to the Houston area and played two seasons of varsity football for Katy Taylor. As a senior, Amaewhule registered 70 tackles, including 23 for loss, and two forced fumbles. He had two sacks and nine quarterback hurries in nine games as a junior. As a late bloomer in football, Amaewhule went under the recruiting radar and ended up at UTEP to start the 2018 season. He took a redshirt that year after playing in only four games.
Amaewhule earned a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team after playing in 12 games and making eight starts. He led the Miners with 5.5 tackles for loss and was tied for the team lead with three sacks and three quarterback pressures. He ended the campaign with 28 tackles, three pass breakups, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick.
His stock rose further as a sophomore in 2020 when he parlayed seven sacks and eight tackles for loss into a second-team All-CUSA season. Amaewhule added 19 tackles, four quarterback hurries, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in an eight-game season. He led the Miners with 13 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, and three forced fumbles during a first-team all-conference 2021 season. He was second on the team with 5.5 sacks.
The 6-3, 245-pound Amaewhule improves every season as his technique catches up to his natural abilities. He was a late comer to football, and his production is beginning to match his potential on a game-by-game basis. He’s a three-down defensive end who can get after the quarterback and make plays against the run. He’s a strong, powerful defender who rarely gets moved off the point of attack. Amaewhule’s first step is too quick for most C-USA offensive linemen. But the thing that separates Amaewhule from his peers is his motor. Few big men play as hard and as fast as the redshirt junior. Effort is a skill, and he never takes a play off.
Amaewhule is a leader within the UTEP locker room. He’s also the best player on a talented UTEP defense. His presence forces opposing offensive lines to slide protection his way, leaving one-on-one opportunities for fellow pass rushers such as Dadrian Taylor. The UTEP front seven is one of the best in C-USA. There isn’t a more valuable defensive position in modern football than defensive end. Amaewhule is a force on the edge and one of the best pass rushers in C-USA. It’s highly possible that Amaewhule leaves UTEP as the program’s all-time leading sacker if he stays healthy the next two seasons.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE LONE STAR 50 COUNTDOWN
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