The Boston College Eagles have had quite the disappointing football season, failing to reach the postseason for the first time this millennium.
They have a young team loaded with inexperienced and undeveloped players, and those players have had their share of struggles since the opening kickoff against Northwestern University at Alumni Stadium.
Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly is not one of those players.
As you may have heard by now, the 6'3", 237-pound junior from Cincinnati, Ohio, is an absolute tackling machine. He broke the ACC career tackles record during BC's 16-14 loss to Notre Dame last weekend, and he stands just two tackles shy of breaking the BC school record for tackles in a career. Kuechly has registered 523 tackles in his 33 games as an Eagle.
Without question, it has been the tackling stats that have garnered so much national attention for Kuechly. Some predict that he will be a top 10 selection in the NFL Draft, while others believe that he isn't built to be a top draft choice.
After all, doesn't Kuechly just rack up so many tackles because of the weak defense around him and because of the amount of time that defense spends on the field?
Whether or not his tackle numbers are inflated, Kuechly is among the very best linebackers in the country.
Does he hit as hard as Ray Lewis? Does he have the speed to match up with some of the best tight ends in the game? Will he crush quarterbacks' bones and force fumbles every week? The answers to these questions may not be what you would hope for in an NFL star, but Kuechly's intangibles and his football IQ will make up for what he lacks in some of these areas.
Will Luke Kuechly be an impact NFL linebacker?
For a team drafting in the top 15 spots, Luke Kuechly is going to be a fantastic name to read at the podium. He is a linebacker with a nose for the ball who can play in several situations. He demands to play on special teams, and he is a born leader on the football field.
Wherever he goes, he will anchor his team's defense in much the same way that guys like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel manned the defense in New England at the turn of the century.When you watch Kuechly play the game, nothing really jumps out at you. He finds the ball and he makes the tackle. He's usually not knocking players' helmets off or making hits that appear on the Jacked Up! segment of NFL Live.
What is remarkable, though, is watching him hawk the ball carrier on each and every play. It almost seems unfair at times. Does Kuechly know our play-calling signals? How did he sniff out that bubble screen before our quarterback even threw the football? Wait...wasn't he on the far sideline just a second ago?
Kuechly is a sideline-to-sideline player, and much of that is due to his football IQ and his ability to read the way a play develops. Oftentimes, he makes that read before the development even begins.
He's an extremely studious young man, and he takes his classes very seriously. The kid you see walking around campus with his glasses and his backpack doesn't really resemble Ray Lewis in all that many ways.
He may never become a Pro Bowl linebacker. He may never lead the league in interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss or forced fumbles. How will he translate to the NFL?
Luke Kuechly will be the guy in the middle of a defensive unit who keeps everyone in check, acts responsibly as a leader, hawks the ball carrier on every play and leaves everything he has on the field.
After breaking the ACC tackling record against Notre Dame, Kuechly responded with a degree of indifference.
"I play football to win. I don’t try to set any records. If we would have won, it would have been cool. But we lost. We play to win at B.C. The record is cool, I guess, but we didn't win.’’
That sounds like a man I would want on my football team.
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