- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys project fourth-round pick Akwasi Owusu-Ansah as playmaking free safety.
Just be patient.
Owusu-Ansah is a project who ought to be able to contribute immediately on special teams. But it’s a difficult jump from Division II Indiana (Pa.) to the NFL.
“It’s going to be more of a jump mentally than physically,” said Owusu-Ansah, a phenomenal athlete at 6-0, 207 pounds who played cornerback, free safety and returned kicks in college. “The game of football can be complex.”
Owusu-Ansah’s left shoulder, which was surgically repaired in March after he played most of his senior season with a dislocation, further complicates matters. He won’t be cleared for live drills until training camp. His experience during minicamps and organized team activities will be limited to mental reps.
Secondary coach Dave Campo believes Owusu-Ansah could be an NFL cornerback. That’d make the transition easier for him, as cornerbacks don’t have to worry about making pre-snap calls. However, the Cowboys forecast Owusu-Ansah’s future at free safety and want him to focus on that position.
The Cowboys consider Owusu-Ansah a better athlete than several of the safeties they ranked ahead of him on their draft board. However, unlike those players, he isn’t prepared to immediately challenge frontrunner Alan Ball for the starting job at free safety.
“Upside” is the word Campo said best described Owusu-Ansah, who was a force in a simplistic scheme in college. He has outstanding range and ball skills (10 interceptions over the last two seasons) and is a big hitter, according to Campo.
Owusu-Ansah impressed Campo with his eagerness to learn during his pre-draft visit to Valley Ranch, when he took copious notes while Campo taught him two of the Cowboys’ coverages. The Cowboys just aren’t sure how long it will take until their schemes become second nature to Owusu-Ansah.
“If he didn’t have to do any [pre-snap calls] and we were talking about just go to center field and play football, he’d fit right now,” Campo said. “But it’s going to take a little bit of time.”