DE Oweh appears set for breakout season

Reshirt freshman played in four games in 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK — Jayson Oweh’s freshman season went by in a flash.

After playing in four games — the maximum amount allowed while still being able to redshirt — Oweh’s season was defined by his performance in Week 3 against Kent State.

While the Nittany Lions were up big against the Golden Flashes, Oweh and several other freshmen got a chance to see the field for the first time in their collegiate careers.

In the span of about two minutes near the end of the third quarter, he registered his first two career sacks.

On the second, he blew past the left tackle in an instant and drug Kent State quarterback Woody Barrett to the ground. During the game in the press box and during postgame interviews, Oweh’s speed was a major talking point.

“Before he went out there, I just told him to play as fast as he could, and he did good,” former defensive end Shareef Miller said after the 63-10 win over Kent State. “He had a great time out there.”

But looking back on that game, Oweh now realizes he only showed a small portion of his game. Now heading into his redshirt freshman season, he’s looking forward to showing that he’s not just a speed demon off the edge. He’s excited to show off his strength and technical abilities as well.

“(Against) Kent State I was using more speed to get off the edge,” Oweh said. “I wasn’t using my hands and my fundamentals. People haven’t seen that part of (my) game yet.”

We haven’t been able to see much of Oweh because he was limited to just those four appearances in 2018 and most of his snaps came when games had already been decided. But just stepping on the field cleared a major hurdle in Oweh’s mind.

“(All) four games really helped me because coming into it I was really timid, not knowing if I could play on this level,” Oweh said. “But playing in the Kent State game, it really got my confidence up.”

Aside the speed he displayed off the edge in that Kent State game, Oweh’s known as one of the physical freaks in the weight room.

The New Jersey native was one of the star’s of Penn State’s annual max-out lifting session during the spring semester. Strength coach Dwight Galt couldn’t help but rave about his natural abilities.

“Jayson’s got a chance,” Galt said back in February. “As a strength-speed athlete, which is great for me, but also to really transfer it to the field and do something special on the field.”

Oweh and Micah Parsons went back-and-forth on social media over the offseason, poking fun at each other and competing in terms of squat weight and 40-yard dash times.

“It makes (the offseason) way more fun,” Oweh said of his banter with Parsons. “Me and Micah push each other. That really fuels me.”

Galt said in February that Oweh has put on over 30 pounds of muscle since arriving on campus last summer and Oweh said last week that this offseason has been critical for him in terms of gaining strength.

“I’m so excited,” Oweh said about being able to showcase his strength on the field this season. “Coming in, I wasn’t as strong (as I am now) and that helps when you’re rushing the passer and playing the run game.”

But for Oweh, this offseason was also about honing his natural abilities and turning himself into a well-rounded defensive lineman. Even though there’s still a few months until the season starts, Oweh is excited about his progress.

“I think I did really well very well this offseason,” Oweh said. “Not to toot any horns but I felt like I took the next step, in terms of focusing on the playbook, learning schemes and everything like that. That’s not really talked about because of the stuff in the weight room, but I feel like I’ve done really well (in that area).”

If you’re looking for a blueprint of what Oweh’s 2019 season could be like, just take a look at what Yetur Gross-Matos did as a sophomore last season. Similarly to Oweh, Gross-Matos came to Penn State as a physical freak that was still learning all of the technical aspects of playing on the defensive line.

Then he broke out in 2018, registering 20 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Now he’s looking like a potential first-round draft pick next April.

But if you ask Parsons, Oweh has the same potential to impress people.

“If Jayson puts his mind to it, he can have one of those seasons where people go, ‘Wow,” Parsons said. “You can’t teach his size, his speed. His body frame, man, you can’t teach that. It’s god given. He’s blessed. I think he has the potential to wow people.”

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