USC Football: George Uko and the Three Technique, a la Warren Sapp


After Thursday’s spring practice, Lane Kiffin mentioned to the media that defensive tackle George Uko is “the perfect three technique”, a position that Warren Sapp made famous more than a decade ago.


Warren Sapp was a big part of the Tampa-2 defenses that the Monte Kiffin ran with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as he played the three technique on Kiffin’s Super Bowl XXXVIII winning defensive line. The three technique, the position that puts an interior speed rusher on the outer shoulder of an offensive guard, allows for the defensive line to get maximum pressure on their rushes, by forcing the guard to pivot and overload the tackle, who still has to protect the edge against the defensive end. Sapp excelled while playing the three, as evident with his 16 and a half sacks in 2000, a number that’s unheard of from an interior lineman.

What made Sapp so dynamic and the so-called “prototypical three technique”? His speed. Much like Sedrick Ellis, who was one the fastest defensive lineman at the college level, Sapp’s ability to shoot the gap between the guard and tackle at lightning speed, made him the player he was, as the three technique is predicated on getting into the backfield as quickly as possible.

George Uko, who currently plays the three technique at USC, has shown similar speed, warranting the “perfect” tag from head coach Lane Kiffin. It was a big compliment for Uko, who had just been relegated to the second team after coaches noticed that he was loping too much on the field. The added motivation paid off and Uko had one of the best individual practices of the spring, as a result of the fire being re-lit under him.

The media asked Uko about Kiffin’s comment after practice and his answer was spot on with what the three technique fully encompasses. “Perfect three technique? I feel like I got a lot of stuff to work on, but maybe [because of] my quickness. I might get off and be able to run sideline to sideline, and just play vertical.” Given Kiffin’s strong praise Uko, he does just that when he’s not being spotted for loping.

Uko’s been timed at 4.9 in the 40-yard dash, which is right in line with most play-making interior lineman, but it’s the first step that is more important when analyzing a lineman. Uko has a long way to go before he’s toeing the line on Sundays and getting the title of “Baby Sapp”, but having the son of one of the originators of the three technique mention that Uko is “perfect”, is quite the first step. He’ll without a doubt expand on his one and a half sacks total from 2011, in 2012.