If you had Texas defensive end Sam Acho in for a job interview you’d hire him in a second. The well put together and articulate Longhorn has been an Academic All-American multiple times and in 2010 won the William V. Campbell trophy, known as the academic Heisman. Acho has production on the field to match, but projecting a home for him in terms of position has some NFL talent evaluators debating where he fits best.
Measuring 6’3 ¼” and 257 pounds this week in Mobile, Acho could conceivably stay at defensive end for a team employing a 4-3 defensive front. Some wonder if he’s better served as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. If you ask Acho there’s little doubt in his mind that he could make either position work at the next level.
“I am prepared to switch to a stand up linebacker position,” said Acho, who played defensive end at Texas. “There are a lot of 4-3 and 3-4 teams in the league so depending on which team picks me I may have to make that transition and I played that position my first two years at Texas, so I’m comfortable with it.”
Bills head coach Chan Gailey has been a bit hindered by the playing rules of the Senior Bowl as teams have to employ a 4-3 defensive front. It’s limited Gailey’s staff from seeing how capable Acho is in handling the transition to outside linebacker in the practice setting.
“I’ve not had him there enough to say he can or he can’t,” said Gailey. “He’s an interesting projection. Whether he can keep his hand on the ground and be physical enough to play every snap with his hand on the ground at this level I don’t know. He may need to stand up and play that outside backer position in the 3-4.”
What could help to convince NFL scouts that he can handle either role is his production the past two seasons. Stepping into the role vacated by Brian Orakpo at Texas, Acho doesn’t have quite the explosion or off the charts physical ability that Orakpo did. His ability to make plays was pretty comparable, which is why most projections have him as a late second or early third-round selection.
Acho had 59 tackles as a senior defensive end, 17 of which were for loss, nine sacks, five forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries which led the nation. Not much was different his junior year when he had 63 tackles, 14 for loss, 10 sacks and four fumble recoveries.
Impact plays and takeaways seem to come naturally to the Dallas native.
“I would attribute that to effort,” Acho said of his numerous fumble recoveries. “Relentless effort to the ball is what we’re taught at Texas. I think I’ve had five fumble recoveries this year and and four last year. Relentless effort is what my team coached and that’s how I play. I have a motor that never stops.”
Not surprisingly, Acho had a fumble recovery in Monday’s Senior Bowl practice.
Though Gailey is not sure at this point whether Acho would be a fit for the Bills there’s no denying his ability to get to the quarterback with 19 sacks and 32 pressures the past two seasons.
“He can rush the passer. He can come off the edge,” said Gailey. “He seems to be a smart player. I haven’t been in the meetings with him as much as some of the other guys, but he seems to be a smart player. It’ll be interesting to see how he’ll continue to perform and play in the game on Saturday.”
Acho admits he loves racking up sacks or forced fumbles on the quarterback and had his skills on display in one-on-one pass rush drills. Whether he’ll be doing it out of a two or three-point stance at the NFL level looks to be the only remaining question.
And though his intangibles help to solidify his stock, Acho is hoping his play this week at the Senior Bowl is what convinces the NFL decision makers.
“I’m proud to be here at the Senior Bowl,” he said. “I’ve won a lot of awards on the field and off the field, but this is what it’s all about. It’s to play against the top talent nationwide and showcase your skills and talents to every NFL team, coach, scout and general manager out there. So I’m really honored to be here and represent my team and the University of Texas.”