Vontaze Burfict : First Hand



Let me just preface this by saying I am an ASU student, I get to watch Vontaze Burfict live, and I have probably watched 95% of his starts at ASU.  I saw the post today (Note : This took so long it's tomorrow on the East Coast) about Mel Kiper's take on the 4-3 Linebackers for the 2012 Draft.  I thought, since I get to see more Vontaze then most of the BGN community that I would give my thoughts on the good, the bad, and how I think he would translate to the Eagles system if they draft him.  I also think it would be really cool if there are BGN members that watch a bunch of Boston College, Notre Dame, and North Carolina games to write similar posts about Luke Kuechly, Mant'i Teo, and Zach Brown.  Anyways what I have seen, and some good game tape of 2010 and this season to date after the jump.

First Thoughts : My god he is fast.  Really fast.  When he reads a play, his closing speed is scary.  It is a huge reason he has such big hits, he reads a play and covers seven to ten yards in the blink of an eye, sometimes before a ball carrier even knows he's there.  Look at 2:10 of TMB Draft Analysis Video of 2010 and 5:37 in that video.  When he is on, man he is scary.  Also 6:06 is just awesome, he hurdles Stanley Havili going after Matt Barkley. 

What You May Not Have Heard:  Everyone makes a huge deal of how Physically imposing Tez is, and his ability to just split lineman, but, his best quality is his ability to play in space.  He is so fast, and so athletic.  Some linebackers that are thumpers don't play as well out in space.  Not the case with Vontaze.  The ASU coaches have said that they are trying to get him lined up playing in space more this year.  

Most Publicized Negative : All of his Personal Fouls.  Burfict plays like an animal, and he doesn't stop at the whistle, he is a "dirty player"  He will take every opportunity he can to ding a player in the course of a game.  That said I think a lot of this has to do with Coach Erikson.  Burfict is not the only ASU player with discipline problems.  Erikson takes a lot of talented JUCO players that have "character issues" and doesn't hold the team to a high standard of discipline.  Mix Burfict's natural overflowing intensity with Erikson's lack of discipline, leads to what you see on the field.  I think if he ends up on a team that has strong leadership on defense, players and coaches to stay on his ass, he will succeed, and be a monster.  

2011 Unusual Negatives :  He just looks slower this year, you can compare the Oregon tape for 2010 in the TMB Draft video, to the Oregon tape of the game last Saturday.  He looks slower.  I think a lot of it has to do with him playing hesitant this year.  He really takes the personal foul penalties hard, he doesn't want to hurt his team, or his draft stock, and as a result you are seeing his game suffer.  2011 has not been a great year for him.  Also Burfict looks bigger, some people think he might be out of shape here around campus, I'm not really buying that, if he is out of shape, he isn't grossly out of shape.  Burfict has also been dinged up in multiple games this year, I think he is playing through some minor injuries, which could also be part of the decline in speed.  It is most likely a combination of the three, but if you watch his 2011 Tapes I have below (Illinois, USC, and Oregon)  he just looks hesitant on plenty of plays.  I think it is hesitation though, because you see flashes of the speed this season.  

2011 Encouraging Positive : Tez seems to be taking on blockers more.  In 2009 and 2010 his biggest problem, bigger than the penalties, in my opinion, was that he would stand up and let pulling guards and fullbacks get into him.  This year, he isn't getting off of those blocks, but he is trying to blow the blocks up, and having decent success.  He is attacking the lead blockers and trying to create an obstacle for the ball carrier.  He is trusting that Colin Parker or Shelly Lyons will come in and make the play.  Not ideal, but much better.  You can see it in the Illinois game on the first play of the tape where Tez is willing to attack and cut the fullback on a play action pass.  If that had been a handoff the play is dead in the back field.   

General Positives :  He has NFL size, speed and instincts.  As long as the drop of in speed this year isn't permanent he is the best Linebacker in the draft.  He has the most play making ability and it is well documented.  His size and speed lead to violent collisions.  Plays really well in space, and he reads the run really well.  Pretty good in zone coverage, and in man coverage against average tight ends (probably won't be great against NFL level tight ends, since elite College tight ends burn him.)  Can play up on the line, or eight yards back.  Looks comfortable everywhere on the field, when he is on, he is a game changing player.  He also flies to the ball on most plays.  He is almost always in the area of the ball, whether it is a run, or a down field pass.  When he is giving effort, it is 100%

General Negatives :  His penalties are correctable.  My biggest concern is that he although he scrapes well through traffic sideline to sideline, he doesn't shed blockers very well, although he has showed some improvement this year.  He also doesn't tackle fundamentally all the time, he goes for way to many kill shots (I wish I had the Mizzou tape to show you, it was terrible.  He went for way to many kill shots on Mizzou QB James Franklin, who is very mobile, leading to the rest of the defense having to react to what should have been a tackle.  Burfict was terrible that game, and nearly gave it away to Mizzou.)  His size and speed combo lead to huge hits every time he connects with someone, his form tackles are harder than 99% of players kill shots, he doesn't need to go for those.  With proper coaching, this could be corrected.  I think this year he is thinking to much about, no penalties, be disciplined, what everyone is saying, his draft stock, and it shows on the field.  If a coach can get to him and get him to play the way he can, and be disciplined, tackle with form, try not to hit anyone on the sidelines, he can a special player at the next level.  He also looks like he takes some plays off, and he can let bad plays linger with him.  

Intangibles :   I personally, have never seen another Linebacker, or player for that matter, that jumps the snap as well as Vontaze.  It's unbelievably, I keep thinking he is going to just jump offsides, but he just knows.  Even when QB's use hard counts, he just knows.  Some of his best plays, including tipped and blocked field goals, have come off of his ability to jump the snap.  Every field goal attempted against ASU I legitimately believe he can disrupt the play, before the kicker kicks it.  Also, his intimidation factor, I can't tell you how imposing he is in person.  He is a monster with amazing instincts, it scares the hell out of opposing back fields, because sometimes he knows exactly what you are about to run, and he is going to punish you.  

Tez Has Heart:  It is what makes him great, and terrible, if he can harness this, which is what ASU fans have been saying for three years, he can be unstoppable.  Now he has developed a bad reputation, and he gets flags now, for very very questionable calls.  Ill show some examples of that on the tape.  


I mostly focus on the good plays, the bad ones are pretty obvious, I do focus on a few, that are really "Typical Vontaze"  Didn't have time to say something about every play.  

2010 Oregon, USC, Stanford Tape From TMB Draft 

Vontaze Burfict NFL Draft Analysis - 2010 Season (via TMBDraft)



Oregon Postives: 

0:09 - Goes through opposite gap, still tackles LaMichael James on cut back.

0:26 - Fights through two blockers after dropping back into coverage, to tackle Barner.

1:18 - Goes through the Oregon Center, blows him back off the line of scrimmage, sheds, and tackles LaMichael James outside of the Left Tackle at the line of scrimmage.  

1:44 - Avoids Left Tackle, tackles Thomas in space

2:12 - Five Yards off of the LOS reads screen after one step into coverage.  Covers 10-12 yards total incredibly quickly to snuff it out.  

2:50 - This is what I am talking about with his ability to jump the snap, Wow!

Oregon 2010 Negatives:

3:30 - Classic Burfict Kill Shot instead of wrapping up, dumb football.


USC 2010 Positives :

5:37 - Great read, great tackle, big hit.

6:06 - Crazy athleticism, Havili doesn't even drop to his knees to cut Tez.

6:31 - Nice job not taking the bait from USC O-lineman (I believe it is Khalil) clearly a late hit on Tez, doesn't blow up, good job.

USC 2010 Negatives : 

8:15 - Brutal penalty, just can't do that.  Typical Vontaze penalty, usually one of those a game at least.


Standford 2010 Positives : 

8:26 - Love this play, read, then explode to the ball carrier.

8:57 - Great job bouncing off of Stanford's RT to make the play

9:06 - Great play, jumps the snap, forces the RB outside.  Then uses his athleticism to scape and tackle the RB short of the first down on a 4th and inches play.  The more I watch this play, the more impressed I am.

9:29 - Waits, Reads, Explodes, and Wraps up.  Solid

9:56 - Just a nice play, to much extra talking at the end in the RB's face, but real nice play.

Stanford 2010 Negatives : 

Here Tez draws an awful Facemask Call.  He grabs the collar, it's not even close to a Facemask.  Tez was out of position, over pursues, and reaches back.  Refs throw a flag.  Vontaze is so upset about the call he starts jawing with the Ref about it, draws an un-sportsman like 15 yarder for arguing, and Game.


USC 2011 : 

Vontaze Burfict vs USC 2011 (via JMPasq)

0:15 - Fights through blocker, scrapes really well, makes the play.  

1:09 - Great read, nice tackle

1:16 - He usually lines up in the middle and splits the lineman to disrupt the kick from right up the middle.  This time he shows off his speed on the outside, one problem, he jumps offsides.  He does force the kicker to push the kick to the left though, he is coming like a freight train.

1:50 - Great job scraping, and fighting past blocks to make the tackle.  

2:23 - Huge improvement from past years.  Doesn't shed the block, but he attacks it, stalling the run, giving the defense time to make a play.  Sutton is in the back field on this play, but Vontaze still does a good job, Sutton just makes a nice play.

2:30 - Nice pick, heads up play.  Barkley loses him underneath blitzing, Tez gets tied up for a second, and makes a nice play on the ball.  Earlier in the week Barkley called Vontaze a dirty player (He probably is) Barkley tackles Burfict, and Burfict picks Barkley up, great sportsmanship, great respect from Vontaze, he respects the elite guys like him.  

2:59 - Displays his skills in space

4:15 - Huge play on 2pt attempt.  Avoids block, blows the play up.  Being in the Stadium, this was a huge momentum swing.  

4:36 - Awful.  Zero Effort to take on this block.  Old Vontaze.  


Illinois 2011 : 

Vontaze Burfict vs Illinois 2011 (via JMPasq)

0:05 - Love this play, this is an evolution I have seen in Vontaze.  He takes out the fullback lead blocker.  Yes this is a play action pass, but watch the running back when Vontaze blows up the fullback.  If this had been a handoff that play is dead in the backfield because Tez is willing to take on a block.  

0:27 - Great job reading the play, staying home and making a good tackle.  Displayed great Gap Integrity on this play.

0:38 - Great Read right here, Big hit on Sheelhaase, may have been late, but no flag.  Solid play.

1:39 - Love how he reads this play here, Overall Nice play.

2:18 - This play is good and bad, he starts out going to attack the blocker, goes really low, and ends up pancaked. 

2:46 - WR Does not establish himself after going out of bounds.  This flag isn't on Burfict for possibly intentionally stepping on that guys Neck and Haynesworthing the guy.  

2:57 - Great play in space against a very athletic running QB in Sheelhaase.

3:29 - Burfict gets Sheelhaase again in space...Wow!

4:33 Again, attacks the lead blocker, play should be stopped, but the ASU defense does a terrible job tackling and swarming to the ball.  


Oregon 2011 : 

Vontaze Burfict vs Oregon 2011 (via JMPasq)

0:25 - This personal foul in my opinion is crap.  The Tight End steps out of bounds and then back in bounds, and he keeps running like he didn't step out, the whistle is blown while Burfict is in the air, because he kept pursuing.  Love the effort here, I think he gets a flag for his reputation on this play.

2:01 - This personal foul is also a reputation flag.  Burfict hits his own team mate in the shoulder, and it was really close to inbounds/out.  Not a good call

3:09 - Six yards deep, reads really well, and drops the ball carrier for a two yard gain on the opposite side of the box.

3:23 - Nice job running this play down

3:54 - Good read, decent angle to chase ball carrier down

4:04 - Bad read, goes through the wrong gap.  This may have been Collin Parker's fault not filling the The gap to the left and going outside.  Either way, defensive breakdown, Tez isn't there to make the play.  

4:21 - Penetration disrupts this play, defense fails to capitalize.  (On a side note, terrible call by the officials here saying "No Fumble" Amazing play by Sutton to save that ball, should have been ASU ball, and they challenged and the Officials still upheld the ruling on the field.  Awful.)

Tez really just shuts it down late in this game, not aggressive, not attacking blocks.  I was really disappointed in his 4th quarter in this game.  


How Does Vontaze Translate to Eagles Scheme : 

I didn't find a ton of Info on this, but my personal understanding of what it takes to be a Wide Nine Middle Linebacker are a few things.  You have to be physical, you have to be able to fight off blockers to fill the big holes left by the line in the run game.  You have to be able to play the Center of the field in a zone for passing situations, and you have to be really good at reading and reacting to running plays.  Also it really helps when your a sound tackler, so that people like Jarrad Page don't have to attempt to tackle people (Too soon?)  I think Burfict won't have to much trouble in the coverage aspect of it.  He can play the zone pretty well.  I think he has the instincts to read the plays at a high level in this scheme.  I don't think he is a very good fit for the Eagles though.  He is not great at shedding blockers, he isn't a sound tackler, and he can't cover NFL Tight Ends in Man coverage.  Yes his big play ability on Defense is fun and exciting, but I just don't think he is what this team needs.  He is a Sexy pick at Linebacker, and if this team had a real defensive leader, or a really respected coordinator, Burfict might be able to learn and excel.  However this team doesn't have those things.  Burfict would be like adding gasoline to this dumpster fire that is the Eagles Defense at times.  There is zero doubt that Vontaze has the highest ceiling of all the Linebackers, maybe even defensive players in the draft, but if he doesn't land in the right situation, he could be a huge bust.  

Just for Fun: 

His Highlight Real Tape.  No doubt, he makes some amazing plays. 

Vontaze Burfict Highlights (via MrCww88)

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