ODU defensive line coach tells us what to expect from rookie edge rusher
Oshane Ximines was different. Old Dominion University assistant head coach/defensive line coach John Commissiong has been coaching college players since 1996, and he figured that out quickly when Ximines was still a lightly-recruited redshirt freshman just trying to adjust to the college game.
“Right off the bat you could tell he was going to be a little bit different than some of the other guys,” Commissiong said this week via phone. “If you trust your instincts you say right off the bat [you knew he was special], but as a coach I’ve been doing it for a while. You wait to see how guys develop and see what kind of players they become.
“Early on in his career you could see he did some things naturally that some other kids didn’t do and you’re sitting there thinking this young man has a chance to be pretty damn good. It was good to see him continue to develop along that path and get to where he is right now.”
Old Dominion re-started a dormant football program in 2009 and didn’t upgrade to FBS status until 2014, Ximines’ redshirt year. When the Giants selected him, Ximines became the first ODU player ever chosen in the draft. Teammate Travis Fulgham, a wide receiver, was selected three rounds later (184th) by the Detroit Lions.
Ximines, now 6-foot-3½, 253pounds, got better every season for the Monarchs.
- 2015: 5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4 passes defensed
- 2016: 7.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles
- 2017: 8.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles
- 2018: 12.0 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss, 3 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles
Ximines was twice named first-team Conference USA.
Not bad for a kid who was the 123rd-ranked linebacker in the country coming out of high school and did not have any offers from Power 5 schools. Per the draft guide of The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, Ximines chose ODU over Appalachian State, Cincinnati and East Carolina.
“He wasn’t a very highly recruited kid to begin with” Commissiong said. “When he showed up on campus, when he got here he just put his head down and went to work.”
Ximines had, in fact, chosen ODU long before the Monarchs chose him. The Athletic [subscription only] tells the story:
Somewhere in his files, Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder still has a copy of the email. It arrived unsolicited 10 years ago from an eighth-grader informing Wilder’s defensive line coach of his height, weight and intentions to one day play for Monarchs.
The author was Oshane Ximines (pronounced Oh-shane Zim-ah-nes), a youngster who wasn’t the kind of football player who’d be getting noticed by a college at that age. In retrospect, it was an audacious move.
But Ximines, from Ahoskie, N.C., a town of about 5,000 in the northeast part of the state, idolized Antonio Vaughan, a receiver from Ahoskie who was a few years older and had committed to be a part of Wilder’s first teams at ODU.
“It’s just one of those things that you get that at the time is like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool,’ ” Wilder said of Ximines’ email. “Because we’re building our brand at the time. It wasn’t as if kids all over America wanted to play at Old Dominion. And then you get this email from this kid that basically says to you, ‘Hey, I want to come play for you.’ ”
Ximines, who was selected in the third round of the draft by the New York Giants on Friday night, had to work for the opportunity — “I definitely didn’t get an email back at the time,” he said with a chuckle — but ODU kept tabs on him. And he eventually followed through on his promise.
Commissiong, who has been with Ximines during the youngster’s entire time at Old Dominion, isn’t surprised by his development.
“Knowing him and how he’s gone about his business and the things he’s been able to accomplish, not surprised at all,” Commissiong said.
“He’s a very genuine person. He comes from a blue collar family. People who showed him how to put his head down and work hard to accomplish what you want. That’s how he goes about his business. What you see is what you get. No fluff to it.”
Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman said when he selected Ximines that it wasn’t just the production that appealed to him, but the way Ximines went about it.
“He has legitimate counter pass rushing ability, counter pass rushing moves,” Gettleman said. “Most of the kids coming out of college have their move when they come off the ball, or they come of the ball they know what they want to do, and if the tackle thwarts them, they don’t know what to do. They’re not power rushers, they get stuck. Oshane can counter punch.”
On Sirius XM NFL Radio this week, Gettleman said Ximines has “a full arsenal, like a whole toolbox.”
How did he acquire that toolbox?
By, of course, working at his craft.
“He’s an instinctive rusher and because of it he does different things,” Commissiong said. “He’s worked at it over the years. As a good pass rusher you have a plan as far as what you’re gonna do, however your plan doesn’t always work out exactly the way you want it to. When that doesn’t happen the ability to adapt and change and react to what’s going on in front of you a good pass rusher has to be able to do that. He definitely can do that.”
Commissiong said “speed and athleticism” are Ximines’ pass rush calling card, but that he can use his hands and counter blockers.
“He does a great job of studying his opponents, too,” Commissiong said. “What do they do? What are they susceptible to?”
Ximines has played both standing up and as a 4-3 defensive end for Old Dominion. Commissiong said he should also be able to drop in coverage because, as a former high school tight end, Ximines “has a pretty good understanding as far as routes he’s going to see, angles he’s going to have to drop out at, how to turn and run with people. He’ll be able to do it, and he has a fairly good understanding of it.”
As with all small-school players, there will be a question of whether or not Ximines can adjust to the higher level of competition, and how quickly he can contribute to the Giants’ defense.
“He’s coming from a small college. There’s going to be some people waiting to see what he can bring to the table because he’s not coming from a Power 5 school. He’s going to have to prove himself, and he knows this,” Commissiong said. “Getting in there, getting to work and showing what he can do, that he can contribute and be a factor for the team is going to be a big part of what he has to do here in the next few months.
“I’m excited for him. He’ll do a great job of it. I know the young man and how he’ll go about his business. He’s gonna have to earn his stripes, but I know he’ll put his head down and get the job done.”
As the one true pass rusher the Giants added in the draft they will need Ximines to do just that.