There aren’t too many schools as hot as Louisville on the recruiting trail right now. The staff had already secured 6 commits and yesterday they added another in 3 Star DE Ryheem Craig.
The 6’3 212 lbs WDE held offers from over 15 schools including Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Appalachian State, and Syracuse just to name a few. He is the 56th ranked WDE in the country according to 247sports. Defensive Line Coach Mark Ivey was his primary recruiter while Wide Receivers Coach Gunter Brewer was his secondary recruiter.
Craig plays for Alexander Central High School in Taylorsville, NC. As a junior Ryheem totaled over 80 tackles, 21 TFLs, 10 sacks, and 3 FF. That kind of production, at any level, is remarkable. That’s why Coach Ivey wanted to bring Craig into the fold.
Watching Craig’s highlights, he is an excellent pass rusher. Speed and a quick burst off the snap are his main weapons. He has a few pass rush moves he utilizes as well. Craig lives in the opponent’s backfields and is a play wrecker. Though he loves blowing past OTs on their outside shoulders, he will mix it up and go inside or just go right through them. When he gets to the QB or RB, he’s a very good tackler and he hits hard. Craig is a player that simply wants to get in the backfield and cause havoc.
Craig has some natural speed to go along side his growing strength, which seems to be the theme the coaching staff has been trying to set since they stepped on campus. Craig is a long, rangy defender with a quick burst and really good closing speed. With his long arms he can keep offensive lineman from getting a hold of him, allowing him the opportunity to knock passes down at the line of scrimmage.
Craig uses his quick burst and speed to usually go right past the OT on the outside virtually untouched. The blocker can barely get a hand on him. When he gets to the QB, he is on their blindside many times meaning he’s tackling them from behind. This presents opportunities for a strip sack. Craig is constantly looking to do just that. He flies in and with one arm tries to strip the ball. Make no mistake, he doesn’t sacrifice the actual tackle/sack trying to get a fumble. However, he is aware he’s at an advantage and will try to knock the ball loose.
Sometimes, Craig will hesitate just after the snap and see how the line is blocking. If it’s a zone scheme, he will look for a gap and immediately burst through before the blocker can engage him. He can only do this because of that quick burst he possesses. This is usually when he will attack the inside shoulder of the blocker and have a more direct line to the QB or RB with pressure up the middle. He will also bull rush linemen; getting under their pads, gaining leverage, and just pushing them straight back into the laps of their RB or QB.
Craig definitely understands leverage. He uses his arms, hands, and body so well when pass rushing. On the edge, he will dip his shoulder and get lower the blocker can. He gets around them and sacks the QB. On his bull rush, he gets low and launches his long arms into the pads of the blocker and extends them as he churns his legs forward. The blocker cannot anchor and extend their arms and the battle is over at that point.
When he gets in the backfield, Craig is a sure tackler that hits big. More than a few times, you will see him absolutely engulf poor RBs; wrapping them up and driving them violently to the ground. In fact, he will sometimes toss them and QBs like rag dolls to the ground. In college, he may have to be more careful doing that because that could draw a flag (watch the highlights, you’ll see what I mean). However, I love this because it shows a very physical player that loves to bring the pain. It shows Craig may have some finesse moves, but by no means is a finesse player.
Speaking of moves, Craig has a nice spin move and a nice fakes. While he only uses it once in the high, Craig’s spin is vicious. The poor OT is barely even out of his stance and had no chance to block it. With the fakes, he will take an initial step the the outside before cutting back inside or vice versa. It’s a little like watching a one cut RB. This allows him to get the OL off balance and have easy entry into the backfield.
The strength is quite amazing as well. Despite being only 212, Craig is naturally strong. You can see that when he’s obliterating QBs or RBs or when he’s pushing these big OTs into the backfield. While he truly likes to use his speed and quickness, he definitely doesn’t mind playing a little bully ball and just going through offensive linemen rather than around.
The biggest thing I noticed was the motor on Craig. He plays hard every down and even when it looks like he is out of a play, he isn’t. Craig will keep going until the ball carrier is brought down by him or one of his teammates. The word is relentless. Craig is absolutely relentless on the field. He’s going to attack on every single snap and that fits in with the philosophy of Coach Ivey and Defensive Coordinators Bryan Brown and Cort Dennison.
Ryheem Craig is a pass rusher that we have missed since Jon Greenard transferred out. He is fast and quick both laterally and off the snap. He primarily uses his speed and quickness to dominate opposing offensive linemen, but he has strength to push them directly into the backfield as well. I imagine he will obviously try to put on some more muscle when he arrives on campus. That will make him an even more dangerous weapon. The UofL defensive staff want defensive linemen that can win their one-on-one matchups. They want guys that can move with quickness and understand how to get leverage. Ryheem Craig fits the bill. I imagine that once he sees the field, he will be a force to be reckoned with. The potential is definitely high and the future is bright for both Ryheem Craig and Louisville Football.
With Craig’s commitment, Louisville now has 7 commits for the 2021 class. The class currently ranks 45th nationally and 10th in the ACC according to 247sports. Last year the full class ranked 42nd nationally. Louisville Football is definitely on the rise.