Thursday, April 12, 2012
Kuechly welcomes every challenge
By Matt Fortuna
In an article Thursday that will probably resonate with many ACC fans, Jeffri Chadiha catches up with Luke Kuechly and his family as the former Boston College linebacker readies for the upcoming NFL draft.
Mock drafts have seen Kuechly go as high as 11th following a three-year career that saw him rack up ACC records in career tackles (532) and single-season tackles (191), in addition to notching Nagurski and Butkus honors during a remarkable junior campaign this past fall.
Anecdotes like this one help explain his performance:
Luke was just as driven to win when he started playing football in the fourth grade. One day Tom [Luke's father] stood on the sideline and watched Luke sidle up to his coach for a conversation. After a few moments, the coach pointed off in the distance and Luke sprinted away for a lap around a phone pole. Upon his return, Luke again engaged the coach in a conversation, which only led to another lap around the phone pole.
After Luke returned for his third attempt at a talk with the coach, the man threw up his arms in exasperation and sent the boy into the game. When Tom asked the coach afterward why he had made Luke run twice, the coach said, "He wouldn't leave me alone." Tom grinned at that. "I'm glad I'm not the only one," he told the coach before walking off with his boy.
Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench breaks down Kuechly on Thursday, further describing what has made NFL teams fall in love with the inside linebacker through the evaluation process.
Kuechly's instincts are impressive. He consistently reads his keys, tracks the ball well and beats blockers to the point of attack as a run defender, while he reads quarterbacks and shows above-average awareness in underneath coverage.
There's also a lot to like about his range and tackling. At 6-foot-3¼ and 242 pounds, he's fast enough (4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to make plays from sideline to sideline. He's not perfect, though. Kuechly could do a better job of taking on offensive linemen and doesn't have the fluid hips to match up with quicker backs in man coverage.
Kuechly ends up in Kansas City in Todd McShay's latest mock draft, which makes sense from both a value and need standpoint. The Chiefs could take Memphis DT Dontari Poe (grade: 94) to fill their need at nose tackle, but Poe is too much of a reach there. Kuechly is the safer pick and Kansas City has a pressing need at inside linebacker, where the Chiefs have struggled to find a quality starter alongside Derrick Johnson in their 3-4 scheme.