Looks can be deceiving, and just taking a single glance at Xavier Ubosi’s stat line might leave most college football fans fooled. After finishing the 2018 season with an average of 23.9 yards per catch, one might imagine Ubosi as a one-dimensional speedster on the shorter end of the scale. But just one glance at his tape brings a completely different picture in mind, and by the time anyone, even the defender covering him, has the chance to really look at him, he’s gone.
Ubosi’s path, however, hasn’t always been as easy as running past everyone. Before he made it to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, the wideout played JUCO at Pierce College in Los Angeles. After an impressive showing there, Ubosi received offers to play at several universities, but ultimately chose to join the Blazers. As a reminder, this was the same UAB program which had shut down its football program for two years, only to re-emerge in 2017, the same year Ubosi arrived on campus.
It took some time for the receiver to get acclimated to the offense, but he showed his explosive play potential in a game against Florida where he caught a single pass and took it 74 yards to the end zone.
Therein lies the problem for most defenses — Ubosi has incredible top-end speed and flies past defenders, but he also brings an imposing 6-foot-3 frame onto the field as well. Once he started getting settled into the offense, you could almost see the dilemma defensive coordinators had on their hands trying to find the right way to cover him. When they couldn’t, Ubosi would tear up the football field as he did against the Rice Owls earlier this year.
He had a breakout game that day, catching four passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, including a beauty of a reception down the right sideline. His performance against Texas A&M proved he wasn’t just a one-trick pony, as he caught six passes for 81 yards. Even in a game where the defense bracketed him to take away the deep ball, Ubosi still had an impact in the passing game.
But Ubosi’s finest achievement came in his final collegiate game, and what a way to close out a career it was. On the opening play from scrimmage, Ubosi hauled in a pass after blowing past the defender, and then outraced everyone into the end zone for a 75-yard score. Neither he, nor the team, looked back after that point.
As No. 7 caught passes on the right and left sideline for scores, he high-stepped it into the end zone while making it all look so easy. His final numbers were an eye-popping seven catches for 227 yards and three scores, setting single-game career-highs in each category. Ubosi’s game sealed the victory for UAB, leading it to its first ever bowl win.
Xavier Ubosi might not have had the career statistics of a four-year starter, but in that one game, he proved he could run with, and probably past, the best of them.
– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst