USA TODAY US Edition
NFL draft preview: Linebackers,
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Boston College defensive coordinator Bill Mcgovern was showing a visiting NFL coach tape of Luke Kuechly in which the projected first-round linebacker made a slick but unorthodox move to avoid a blocker.
“Is that a technique you teach?” the coach asked.
“No,” Mcgovern replied. “That’s something he has.”
Kuechly (KEEK-LEE) has that indescribable something that allowed him to get to the ball time after time during a record-setting career.
“He has all those things you can’t coach,” Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani said. “He has the ‘it’ factor. He does things you wouldn’t coach and gets the results you want.”
The 6-3, 242-pound inside linebacker says, “I try not to think too much out there. I just go out, have fun and play football.” And make tackles. He set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 532 career tackles despite leaving the Eagles after his junior season. He established the conference’s single-season mark with 191 stops in 2011 without playing in a bowl game.
Gil Brandt of Nfl.com raves about the All-american, who won the Nagurski (nation’s top defensive player) and Dick Butkus (top linebacker) awards.
“He’s one of two or three in this draft you can feel certain will be a good NFL player,” he said. “We don’t usually draft inside linebackers high, but he has the chance to be in the 10, 12, 13 area and will play a long time.”
Nolan Nawrocki, a senior editor at Pro Football Weekly, also views Kuechly as an extremely safe selection. “I think he’ll be a 10- to 12-year starter,” he said, “and lead his team in tackles from the moment he walks in the door.”
Mcgovern is confident Kuechly’s new teammates will welcome his approach. “He’s a very unassuming young man,” he said. “It has never been about him or having the spotlight on him.”
There are few questions surrounding Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles the last two years. One involves speed.
He tried to allay concerns by running the 40 yards three times at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. His times ranged from 4.58 to 4.76 seconds. The 4.58 ranked third among linebackers at the combine, trailing California’s Mychal Kendricks (4.47) and North Carolina’s Zach Brown (4.50).
Brandt sees Kuechly as having the ability to play all three linebacker spots.
“Some guys run fast but they can’t find the ball,” he said. “This guy runs fast and he can find the ball.”
Nawrocki thinks Kuechly’s grasp of the game helps offset any physical limitations. “Because he can read things so quickly, he tends to move before the ball is snapped,” he said.
Because Boston College relied heavily on zone defenses, Kuechly must demonstrate that he can handle the coverage demands of the pass-happy NFL if he is to be a three-down player.
“I haven’t done a lot of man coverage. I can’t tell people I’m off the charts with it,” he said. “It’s a lot of technique work and picking it up on the fly.”
If history is an indication, he will figure it out.