How can a guy be one of the most decorated defensive players in the history of college football and still have so many doubters? Beats me but I tend to think it's a classic case of over-evaluation, where people almost start to make up reasons not to like him. It is terribly hard to believe that anyone could not like him. He is unassuming off the field and he is a complete monster on it. He plays with intelligence and intensity (I'm looking at you Vontaze). When your nickname is Clark Kent off the field and Superman on it, you've done something right. He is one of the best linebacker prospects you're going to see. That's a fact. How do I know that? Well, here is a list of accomplishments he's put together in 3 years:
3x All American (2x unanimous) in 2009, 2010, 2011
2011 Lombardi Trophy Winner
2011 Butkus Trophy Winner
2011 Lott Trophy Winner
2011 ACC Defensive Player Of The Year
2009 All Freshman Team
2009 ACC Defensive Rookie Of The Year
2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl MVP
2009 Emerald Bowl MVP
Kuechly is the all time leading tackler in history of the ACC conference
Kuechly is the second leading tackler in NCAA history (and he is only 12 behind the leader who set the mark in 4 years, Kuechly did his damage in 3)
Simply put, Kuechly is a legendary college football player. He has achieved almost every individual accolade you can at the linebacker spot in college. But if he is so good, why are there so many concerns about him? Misinformation, that's why and I'll seek to refute the misinformation that is out there.
Concern #1: He Is Too Small
This is completely and patently false. I have no idea where this idea came from. Luke Kuechly is listed at 6'3" and 238 pounds at Boston College and he will more than likely come in at 6'2" and a bit over 240 at the combine. How is any 6'2" and 240 pound linebacker considered undersized? He would instantly be the biggest linebacker on the Eagles if they drafted him.
I think that too many people here have become accustomed to watching Jeremiah Trotter and Stewart Bradley in the middle of the Eagles' defense and have begun to think that anything under 245 pounds is undersized. Well, just to debunk such a ridiculous notion, lets look at some linebackers around the league, shall we? Here are some linebackers and their measurables coming out of college:
Luke Kuechly is 6'2" and roughly 240 pounds. And if you look around the league, that is clearly not undersized. But size doesn't matter, isn't that my entire point? I don't care if you're 6'5" and 270 pounds with 4.5 speed, if you can't take on and shed blocks it doesn't matter. And if you are eeking out yards after contact, you're not worth it either. So without the benefit of being able to put on a Boston College game for you all, lets go to YouTube for some examples of what I'm talking about.
And now I'm kind of boring myself, you get the idea, Luke Kuechly is physical and strong at the point of attack.
A lot of people say that Luke Kuechly isn't athletic, especially in comparison to Vontaze Burfict and Manti Te'o. Well, whats the most popular way to measure "athleticism" amongst the common people? 40 yard dash, right? Well, the last time these guys ran an "official" 40 yard dash was coming out of high school. Lets take a look at those times.
Vontaze Burfict: 4.65 40 yard dash
Manti Te'o: 4.6 40 yard dash
Luke Kuechly: 4.7 40 yard dash
That is HARDLY a big difference, you could blink and miss the difference between the three. This is what they call a photo finish.
But enough about 40 yard dashes, lets take a look at Luke Kuechly on some real plays.
Luke Kuechly runs down and tackles Jeff Godfrey in the open field. Jeff Godfrey is the UCF QB and he has been reported to run a 4.4 40 yard dash.
Luke Kuechly intercepts a Colin Kaepernick pass. He drops back into his zone, reads the QB's eyes, adjusts his body and makes a catch away from his frame. He then gathers himself and nearly returns it for a touchdown.
Watch him break on an underneath pass and tackle his man in space. That really speaks to his short area quickness and burst.
Watch him run down Nevada WR Brandon Wimberly. As you can see, Wimberly is a pretty fast guy and Kuechly ran him down. Tribute to a perfect pursuit angle and his speed.
I urge you to watch the videos in their entirety if you haven't already, notice all the plays that Kuechly makes outside on the perimeter and outside the tackle box. That is athleticism, the ability to get out into the flat and stop the run and make plays outside the hashes is a good sign that someone is pretty athletic. You're not going to see a guy like Dont'a Hightower make many plays outside the tackles for example.
"I had a chance to watch Kuechly on tape; he led the nation in tackles. First of all, [there] are no wasted steps, really good speed and really just the bottom line, just very instinctive. He diagnoses plays quickly, [has] great lateral movement, is able to read things in a hurry and watch ... uses that athleticism that maybe you didn't know he had to make the pick..."
KUECHLY HAS GOOD SPEED AND ATHLETICISM?! SOMEONE GO RUN AND TELL TODD MCSHAY! (I promise he'll have changed his tune by April)
Here are some things that you'll notice about Kuechly if you actually watch him play:
Sometimes people typecast intelligent linebackers. They see the words "intelligent" and "instinctual" under a guys name and they automatically assume that he is an "academic" type per say who lacks a real edge to his game. Is this true in some cases? Absolutely, smart guys fail all the time because they aren't physical enough just like big guys fail because they aren't smart enough. But if you actually watch Luke Kuechly you'll see that he plays with a real edge, he is a very fiery guy who finishes plays.
Luke Kuechly will very rarely miss a tackle, even in space he makes the tackle nearly every single time. He does a fantastic job of breaking down and has no trouble redirecting himself in space. He's like a heat seeking missile, once you're in his crosshairs, it's over.
He absolutely does not give up yards after contact, he's like a brick wall out on the field. He plays with fantastic leverage, he gets low and explodes into tackles. His short area quickness heading into tackles is far superior to Manti Te'o who lacks short area burst and allows yards after contact because he doesn't explode into tackles and carry momentum as well as Kuechly does. This skill is a byproduct of Luke Kuechly's perfect tackling technique and strength. He is also extremely balanced and coordinated out on the field, you will never see a play where Kuechly looks out of control.
Luke Kuechly is a highly instinctive tackling machine with rare three-year production. He embodies the spirit of the Butkus Award, bringing tremendous intensity, competitiveness and leadership to the field, while continuing a legacy of outstanding linebacker play at Boston College.
There are seriously no holes in this guys' game that would suggest he won't continue to be incredibly successful at the NFL level. As a matter of fact, the head coach of Boston College, Frank Spaziani (thats a pretty terrible last name), has been singing Kuechly's praises.
"I forget what the Heisman is [for] … I think it's the best football player in the country. I don't think it's offense or defense. I don't think it's who's the best NFL prospect. I don't think it's the most valuable player in the country. I think that's what it says: the best college football player. And I can't imagine anybody being better at their position than Luke is."
532 Tackles, 44 Tackles For A Loss, 2.5 Sacks, 10 Passes Deflected, 7 Interceptions and 2 Defensive Touchdowns in 3 years.
Draft. This. Man.