- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly has grown accustomed to the comparisons with Clark Kent – especially when he’s wearing his glasses. After all, there is a bit of a physical resemblance, and Kuechly’s unassuming demeanor is a complete contrast to the phenom he becomes on Saturdays.
Try as he might to blend in with the other students at Boston College, though, Kuechly can’t cloak the fact that he is one of the best linebackers in the country. Kuechly is coming off an All-America performance as a true freshman last year, but with the majority of his career ahead of him, it’s hard not to wonder just how good he can be with a little more experience.
“I think I really did surprise myself,” he said. “I really didn’t expect to come in and have the kind of season I did, but with the help of the older guys on the team and the coaches it made it the transition for me a lot easier.”
Kuechly is a smart, laid-back player from Cincinnati, Ohio, who takes his fly fishing seriously and has good friends on campus who aren’t his teammates. He’s not one to seek attention, but after being named the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2009, it’s going to be hard to escape in 2010. The progress of Kuechly coupled with the return of Mark Herzlich could potentially give the Eagles the best linebacking corps in the ACC. Kuechly is hardly satisfied, though, and is still working to become better.
“There’s still a lot to improve on,” Kuechly said. “I need to work on a lot of different things, as far as recognizing different sets and plays. Last year, I had guys around me like Mike McLaughlin, and Wes Davis behind me – They know what’s going on in every situation. Now that Mac’s gone, I have to be more on top of what I’m doing.”
Kuechly came out of nowhere last year to lead the league in tackles and he averaged more tackles-per game (12.15) than any rookie since the NCAA began tracking the stat in 2003. Kuechly said he wants to learn more and become more in-tune with the defense so he can play faster and more intelligently, and with more confidence.
Kuechly ranked second in the country in total tackles (158) and solo stops (87). He had the most tackles by a BC defender since 1993. He recorded 10 or more tackles in the final nine games and led the Eagles in tackles in 12 of 13 games. He led BC in total tackles, solo tackles, assisted stops (71), tackles for a loss (13.0) and pass break ups (4).
While his rookie season wowed others, it doesn’t seem to have fazed him.
“You have to remain humble, because there’s always somebody who is better than you,” Kuechly said. “You have to keep your head on straight. The biggest thing I took from last year is how hard you have to work. All of the seniors around me worked extremely hard and that’s how they got to where they were.”
The scary thing for the rest of the ACC is that Kuechly still has a long way to go.
2dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney