OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Tyus Bowser gave up playing basketball after two seasons at the University of Houston. He still looks like a dual-sport athlete on the football field, though.
Bowser, the Baltimore Ravens‘ second-round pick, is one of the most well-rounded defenders in this draft, whether it came to crashing the edge to sack quarterbacks, dropping back to cover tight ends or chasing down running backs from behind. His ability to impact the game all over the field gives him a good chance to start opposite Terrell Suggs at outside linebacker.
He noticed that his improvement in football coincided with him focusing on just that sport.
“Growing up with my mom, she always taught me to put in the effort in whatever you are doing,” Bowser said. “This is what I am doing — playing football. I am putting 100 percent effort into it. Anything that I am doing, I am making sure I am being my best at it.”
Coming out of high school, Bowser totaled 24 sacks in football and averaged 16.8 points per game in basketball. He stopped playing basketball at Houston after only getting into four games in two seasons.
Where his basketball skills come into play the most is in coverage. Bowser dropped back on nearly half of the third downs that he played.
“I played shooting guard, so I am out on the wing trying to play against quicker guys,” Bowser said. “I just felt using that and what I did in basketball to be able to cover receivers and running backs and tight ends — I feel like that contributed a lot.”
Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said Houston dropped back Bowser more than you would like because he’s such a great pass-rusher. But this area of his game showed off his unique tools.
“Just watching him move in coverage, he opens his hips, he runs with guys vertical, and he’s just got a good feel and spatial awareness, which I think playing basketball helps guys on defense,” Hortiz said. “Especially out in space, he can feel the guys coming into zone and close up well. So you see the basketball player when he’s in coverage, certainly.”
Bowser is also a high-level pass-rusher. He can dip his shoulders coming off the edge and brings an explosive, low first step off the snap.
His 8.5 sacks in eight games last season led Houston, and his 21.5 career sacks ranked as the seventh-most in school history.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. raved about Bowser’s long arms, great closing speed and tremendous athleticism. At the NFL combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds (fifth-fastest among linebackers), registered a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap (led all LBs), recorded a 10-foot-7 broad jump (third among LBs) and bench-pressed 225 pounds 21 times (tied for eighth among LBs).
“He’s one of the most underrated pass rushers in college football,” Kiper said. “He’s ideal for 3-4 teams coming off the edge.”