Nice feature on GS alum Carl. Carl came to Gamespeed to get ready for the combine in 2011. He signed as a free agent and made the Chargers practice squad. He’s now with the Raiders with a solid chance of making theirs at the Linebacker position. Carl’s a great guy who keeps in touch and even stopped by last month. He’s been too busy to get in but we wish him the best and are rooting for him. A class act he even participated in our big move into the Dublin facility.
Oakland Raiders roster hopeful Carl Ihenacho shows pass rushing prowess
By Jerry McDonald
NAPA — It felt like old times for Carl Ihenacho, a scene played out on three occasions during his career at San Jose State.
Lining up with his hand on the ground at the end of the third quarter, Ihenacho blew past Arizona tackle D.J. Young, sacking quarterback Ryan Lindley for an 11-yard loss and stripping the ball free with his right hand.
Teammate Hall Davis scooped up the free ball and ran 9 yards for a touchdown, with the Raiders tying the exhibition game 24-24 before losing 31-27 Friday night.
In college, Ihenacho forced strip-sack turnovers against UC Davis and San Diego State in 2008 and against Boise State in 2009.
Life was simpler then, when the Spartans basically turned loose a raw but developing talent and asked him to chase the quarterback.
Rushing the passer is now only part of Ihenacho’s job. He’s been moved to outside linebacker, and at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds is asked to play much of the time standing up. He has covered more tight ends and running backs out of the backfield in two exhibition games than he did his entire career at San Jose State.
“It’s different, but I’ve always been a fast learner,” Ihenacho said Sunday. “I’m trying to be a sponge out there. I’m always in my coaches’ ear. How can I improve? What do I need to work on? I take any criticism I can and try to learn from it.”
Undrafted out of San Jose State in 2010 in part because of a knee injury, Ihenacho spent camp time with the San Diego
Chargers last year but was released. He stayed in shape, watched his brother Duke play for the Spartans, then was added to the Raiders practice squad in December.Once he was signed to the roster after the season, Ihenacho began learning the linebacker position in earnest from defensive coordinator Jason Tarver.
“I think that’s where (organized team activities) came in handy,” Ihenacho said. “Tarv really took time to say, ‘OK, let’s work on your footwork.’ ”
Ihenacho has come a long way but still has a long way to go. Still, he been working with the second-team defense, has shown prowess on special teams, and with linebacker Aaron Curry out with knee issues, stands a chance at making the 53-man roster.
“We’ve been impressed with some of his ability to rush the passer. He brings that element to our defense,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I think he’s still learning the linebacker position, especially when we play him off the ball, but he’s done some nice things.”
Ihenacho didn’t play football until his senior year at Serra High in Gardena, because his mother disliked the contact and took him home from a youth football tryout before he ever got the chance to get on the field.
Duke, who talked his way on to the field first, talked Carl into playing. Like Carl, Duke signed as an undrafted free agent and is hopeful of making the roster of the Denver Broncos.
“I think right now we’re both working our butt off to make it and be on that 53-man roster, to be on a team and help any way we can,” Ihenacho said. “If that time comes, we’ll both thank God for it.
“It’d be funny, though. I wouldn’t mind hitting him on special teams. I wouldn’t mind getting a shot at him.”