Notre Dame's most-respected defensive player also 'cement head,' according to Clemson

Todd Shanesy
Greenville (S.C.) News

They might not try pronunciation of his name.

And this is coming from a Clemson football team with quarterbacks named Uiagalelei and Phommachanh. But the Tigers know Notre Dame senior linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah wears jersey No. 6. They call him Six.

They also plan to know where Six is on the field at all times.

“You referring to No. 6?” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Oh, man.”

Owusu-Koramoah this season has lifted his NFL stock, which was already high, into a predicted first-round selection. He seems a sure thing to win the Butkus Award for nation’s best linebacker and is a top-five finalist for the Nagurski Award given to the best defensive player.

That’s not surprising to the third-ranked Tigers, who play second-ranked Notre Dame at 4 p.m. Saturday in Charlotte for the ACC championship. Owusu-Koramoah has nine tackles for loss of yardage, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown last month in a double-overtime win against Clemson.

“He’s a fantastic football player,” Elliott said. “He’s what you would want at that position. He’s very, very instinctive. He’s very, very quick-twitchy. He’s an older guy who has played a lot of football. He knows how to prepare, he studies the tackles, he’s studying anything he can find. And as soon as he recognizes, he’s coming like a heat-seeking missile.”

Clemson offensive left guard Matt Bockhorst referred to Owusu-Koramoah as having a “cement head.” That was a compliment.

“If you don’t know where he’s lined up, he’ll hit a lick on you quick,” Bockhorst said. “You’d better know where No. 6 is lined up because that dude comes with a cement head. He’s a great player, a great athlete. He’s probably going to be successful at the next level. He’s a dude, man. They’ve got other talented guys on that defense, but No. 6, that kid, is a ball player.”

Coming out of Bethel High School in Hampton, Virginia, Owusu-Koramoah, sometimes called JOK, was Just OK. Recruiting services ranked him barely inside the top 500 overall in his class, which included Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence as No. 1. Lawrence was an accurate peg. Recruiting services can also sometimes miss wildly.

“We loved (Owusu-Koramoah),” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “When we spent some time with him, we loved the fact that there was a real love for the game and a passion for it. We recruit guys that have that love and that passion and that intrinsic motivation. That’s another thing he had. Those are some of the intangibles that don’t show up on a recruiting sheet. … That’s really what Clemson looks for, I’m sure, in terms of those traits. That’s what we looked for in him and saw in him. That was really attractive.”

Clemson sophomore linebacker Mike Jones Jr., who missed the first meeting this season with Notre Dame because of injury, said he has the ultimate respect for Notre Dame’s No. 6, who plays the same position.

“I actually talk to Six a little bit, man,” Jones said. “He’s a baller. He’s a dog. For real. Man makes plays. He’s fast, he plays physical. He’s got it all, man, He’s athletic. I’ve seen him make some good plays on the ball. The dude just makes plays.

“I remember watching him last year, it might have been against Louisville, and I was like, ‘Who is that No. 6 over there? Chill, bro.”

Six has no plans to chill against Clemson in the rematch.

Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah tackles Syracuse’s Sean Tucker Dec. 5 at Notre Dame Stadium. Owusu-Karamoah’s ability is a concern for No. 3 Clemson heading into Saturday’s ACC championship game.