Sticking with defense, the Miami Dolphins took Utah defensive end Koa Misi with the 40th overall pick and eighth selection in the second round this evening, banking on the disruptive pass rusher to fill one of its needs coming off the edge and rushing the passer.
Misi was a teammate of second-year cornerback Sean Smith in college and seems to fit the prototypical hybrid defensive end/linebacker in the 3-4 defensive scheme run by the Dolphins. At 6-foot-2 and 251 pounds, Misi is another one of those high motor guys who showed some serious versatility while with the Utes as he played nose guard, defensive tackle, both right and defensive end and even some linebacker. He can rush the passer with his hand in the ground or standing up and had a positive message for his new employer and the fans.
“They can expect someone that’s going to work hard and play hard,” Misi said. “I have a great motor when I play football and I have great determination. I don’t like to lose and I hope Miami fans are ready for someone like that. I’m a hard-working guy. I like to learn. I’m very coachable. I listen very well. I play even harder. I don’t like to give up on things. This is my dream and I’m finally here and I’m ready to play.”
Misi, who is from Tonga and whose parents grew up in Hawaii, had 71 tackles (34 solo), five sacks and 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while forcing three fumbles as a senior last year. He earned first-team All-MWC honors and played at the Senior Bowl. Of course, the Dolphins’ coaching staff was in Mobile, Alabama.
Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker and former Miami Hurricane Ray Lewis is the player Misi said he looked up to growing up because of his intensity and he joked that he’ll try to bring the pre-game screaming ritual to South Florida. Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland remembers seeing Misi “terrorize” Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago as he recorded three sacks, and then he saw Misi again at the Senior Bowl and became even more impressed with him.
“He’s a great kid with a great motor and is a very versatile athlete who is tough as nails,” Ireland said. “This kid’s played defensive line, he’s played defensive end, and he’s played outside linebacker and inside linebacker. He does a lot of things and the versatility of the player really enticed us to take him. I think he’s going to play outside linebacker for us. He’s a good pass rusher. He gets out of trouble, stays on his feet and again I can’t say enough about his character and his motor.”
Considering the road he took to get to this point, a road that took him from Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, California to Santa Rosa Junior College and then eventually to the Utah, Misi does not want to let this opportunity go to waste. He credits his father, Sione, with making him such an intense player.
“It’s something I developed as I grew up, having my dad at my games. If my intensity wasn’t there, he made sure it was there,” Misi said. “In high school he came down on the field one time and told me to wake up by hitting me with his head and then I was ready to go. I had my helmet on.”
Misi tied for the best vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis with a 38-inch jump and at a campus workout he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds. Over his three-year career at Utah, Misi racked up 206 tackles (94 solo), 10.5 sacks, forced six fumbles and recovered three.
Ireland has very little concern over how Misi can develop physically as he saw him fluctuate in weight over his career from 275 pounds as a sophomore defensive tackle down to 244 pounds at the Senior Bowl and was back up to 251 pounds at his Pro Day. So his ability to put on weight or take it off is appealing and his ideal weight at this level according to Ireland would be in the 255-pound range so that he can handle the dual responsibilities of rushing the passer and dropping into coverage.
“I really like him in pass coverage. He’s tremendous,” Ireland said. “For a guy that really played most of the game going forward, when you saw him at the Senior Bowl and versus Air Force where he was playing a little bit of inside linebacker you don’t have any problems with him in coverage. He showed us a lot of man-to-man, one-on-one stuff when he was playing inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, so coverage is going to be a strength of his in my opinion.
“As a pass rusher, he’s got great hands, he’s got quick hands. He knows how to leverage big tackles. He can get around the edge, he can counter back inside and he’s got a nice repertoire of tricks with him. He’s not Cameron Wake in terms of the outside speed that way but he’s a very creative rusher with his rushes.”