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Cal Football

Bear Insider Video: Senior OLB Odua Isibor

August 14, 2022

If you missed the word that the Bears picked up an outside linebacker in the offseason by the name of Igbinoghodua Oluwatosin Igbinoghodua Osasenaga Orobosa Oluwatosin Akinwale Isibor, don’t feel bad. And before you envision longtime radio play-by-play man Joe Starkey trying to struggle his way through that daunting pronunciation, don’t worry.

The latest addition to the Bears’ 2022 recruiting class via the portal from UCLA -better known to fans as Odua Isibor- may not be known by his formal name but expect that whatever you call him, he’ll be a big contributor to the Bears’ defense this season.

“So, my mom told me my aunt, her mom and different relatives would give me a name and it will become one of my middle names and they’ll call me by that name. For example, my aunt might call me Oluwatosin instead of my first name.”

But surely that full name couldn’t fit on a driver’s license, could it?

“It does,” said Isibor with a smile. “My birth certificate and all of it.”

The sixth-year senior is happy to have found a new home in Berkeley after spending the last five seasons at UCLA, playing in 42 of 43 possible games with 14 starts after redshirting as a 2017 freshman and playing a variety of positions for the Bruins, most recently at defensive tackle.

If the smile on his face is any indication, the move to Cal for the 6-3/260 OLB was a good one after choosing the Bears over Auburn.

“It's really fun,” said Isibor of his experience so far at Cal. “What I like the most is whenever I walk into the facilities, I’m happy. I am happy to be there. I am happy to talk to and meet people. It’s like the highlight of my day versus being sad or being anxious. It’s like I am really excited to get to work and meet my teammates.”

One of the driving factors for Isibor to seek a new home through the portal was to be able to get back to playing to his strengths as a player rather than being trapped out of position to fill a team’s need like he was most recently at UCLA playing as an undersized defensive tackle.

Isibor has been getting a lot of run playing with the starting unit at outside linebacker at Cal and has been turning heads each practice.

“I think it just allows me to play fast,” said Isibor of the move to OLB. “I think one of my assets is being strong and fast. Playing outside linebacker allows me to do that. I can stand up and see the whole field and really just play quick and wreak havoc in the backfield. That’s what I love to do most.

“I don’t have to take on double teams as much so I enjoy that. But I can also play 3-tech still and I still enjoy that, too. I still like wreaking havoc on a guard now and then. I just like playing football in general so anything I can do on the field where I can play football is good for me.”

It’s hard for fans to not get fired up watching the ebullient player at work on the field. You won’t catch Isibor walking away from the tail end of a one-on-one drill or anything of that nature but rather a sprint back to his place in line.

“Definitely coming to a new team and trying to prove yourself, you have to make an effort to run to the ball, run back to the huddle, and do everything in your power to get an edge on everyone else and definitely make an impression. That’s just what football is, but I definitely want to give off the vibe that I’m coming back for the next play. I am not tired, even if I am, whenever I can do that. It’s my mindset when I’m trying to run everywhere. I definitely just want to show people I am ready for business and show the offense I am coming back for more.”

Isibor noted that the perfect fit for him at Cal also extends to his relationship with new outside linebackers coach Vic So’oto.

“It’s really fun,” said Isibor about playing for So’oto. “I feel like he’s a coach that really coaches you for the next level, as well. He definitely puts a lot on you. For example, we install stuff, and he expects you to know it like that (snaps his finger). Of course, people make mistakes but he’s treating us as grown men (because we are) but he’s making sure that we take responsibility and learn and do what we need to do. Be on time, run our assignments correctly, and just making sure we understand that as adults, that’s what you have to do. You don’t really get second chances like that. So, he treats us like adults and gets us ready for whatever we do in the future.”

So’oto’s expectations also require maximum effort every play. He is not a coach who tolerates taking plays off.

“No, he does not,” said Isibor. “We’re always running to the ball. Last guy that didn’t got taken out. So, make sure you run to the ball. Make sure you always are putting 100% effort, that’s definitely coach Vic’s (expectation).”

Choosing likely starters and rotational players at outside linebacker heading into this season is a bit of a guessing game right now with so many players flashing and producing so far in camp. Isibor, fellow OLB transfer Henry Ikahihifo, Braxten Croteau, Myles Williams, Orin Patu and Myles Jernigan have all impressed at various points in camp, if not throughout, not to mention freshmen Curlee Thomas and Patrick Hisatake occasionally flashing, as well.

“It’s definitely competitive in there,” said Isibor of the OLB room. “We’re all competing in every facet of what we do. We’re all getting the extra work. We’re all putting in extra film time, and there’s no second where someone is not trying to better themselves. So we’re all trying to get to where we want to be so it is defiantly competitive.

“Everyone is skilled in there. Everyone has their own skill sets that they’re better at and everyone is good at everything they do. Competitiveness is at the top level right now.”

With pass-rushing specialist Cameron Goode now in the NFL, the Bears will be searching for new ways to put pressure on the quarterback this season. So far, it seems there are several different possibilities to get that done.

“I would say Coach Sirmon has his own plan,” said Isibor. “Right now, myself and everyone else on defense is trying to make sure we’re in that plan. This fall camp, we’re trying to get on the field and do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to play come season. So, I am sure coach Sirmon has a plan and I am sure it is a great one so were waiting on that. The first game of the season, we’ll see.”

A little over a week into fall camp, does Isibor have a sense of if he’ll start for his new team?

“I have no idea personally (if he’ll start), but I would say definitely each day, we’re playing like we're at the bottom of the list,” said Isibor. “So, each day I feel like every one of us is playing as if we’re never going to see the field again. That’s the only way to be successful and the only way to compete when you’re at the bottom.”

After having a week to survey the talent around him live on the field, the sixth-year senior is bullish on how the Bears’ defense stacks up against the rest of the conference this season.

“I think we can be the best in the Pac-12,” said Isibor. “It’s all about knowing where we need to be aligned and knowing our assignments and playing fast. So as long as we can do that, we can be the best.”

Other stories:

Bear Insider Video: Cal Frosh Running Back Ashton Hayes

Bear Insider Video: Cal Frosh Cornerback Jeremiah Earby

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