This was one of my most favorite games to scout to this point in the college football season. That’s because we got to see two of the best linebacker prospects playing on one field in ND’s Manti Teo and BC’s Luke Kuechly. Both of these prospects are unique and awfully gifted, but for much different reasons. They are different players with Manti Teo standing 6-2 255 lbs and Luke Kuechly coming in at 6-2 235 lbs. Each has their own special skill set that will make them attractive to certain teams and the defensive schemes they run, it will just depend which player fits that scheme better. Lets get into each of these linebackers particular strengths and weaknesses as linebackers at the collegiate level and see how their sklls will transfer over once they enter the NFL.

Notre Dame LB Manti Teo-

Manti Teo is an extremely gifted linebacker who's downhill aggressive playing style will entice 3-4 teams looking for a mike LB with all the tools to become great.

Lets begin with one of the greatest strengths of Manti Teo’s overall game as a linebacker. Instincts and the ability to recognize and read your keys and then drive to the football is something both Teo and Kuechly do exceptionally well. You can tell that Manti Teo is an incredibly smart player who not only knows what to look for when analyzing the information in front of him, but also shows great discipline and knowledge in gap control defense. Manti Teo is very rarely caught out of position and understands how to play team defense, which is something that is very important not only on this level but the next. Teo is a downhill defender who attacks the LOS with reckless abandon and is not scared to take on lead blocks and stick his nose in a pile. This physicality and willingness to sacrifice his body is incredible to see and something that really intrigues teams running a defense predicated on having LB’s who can fill a hole and disrupt a play in the backfield. Another area in which Teo excels is in blitzing and getting after the QB. Teo does a very good job at timing his blitzes and shows great closing speed and acceleration to get into the backfield in a hurry. On more than one occassion last night we saw just how effective Teo can be a blitzing the QB as he was able to disrupt the timing, and hurry the throws of ND QB Tommy Rees before the play had fully developed. Teo is such an aggressive linebacker that sometimes it will play against him as he can get caught out of position or sealed off from the play entirely. Although rare, this is something Teo will have to work on to become a more disciplined overall player. At times last night and the game I scouted Teo before (ND vs. USC), Teo was a little quick to diagnose the play and therefore got sucked up into the wash on PA passes. It is in this area that Teo has to play a little more disciplined to become an elite NFL prospect. In coverage Teo shows good overall ability at gaining depth on his drops and reading the QB’s eyes and overall body movements. However, Teo is not as gifted in coverage as a Luke Kuechly, which we will get into later, but shows good overall awareness for players entering or attacking his zone. Teo does have a tendency to play a little flat footed in coverage at times and will need to improve on not stopping his feet or becoming frozen when the QB uses pump fakes or shoulder movements to open up holes and passing lanes in coverage. Manti Teo is a very sound and fierce hitter as he shows a great ability to break down and play with good pad level in getting lower than his opponent when tackling. Teo, however does need to do a better job of not dropping his head when wrapping up the ball carrier to avoid costly injuries to the neck and head that can result from poor tackling form. Overall Teo displays a great ability to take down the ball carrier consistently and plays very fast but in control at all times…he is the real deal. I love Teo’s overall skill set and think he will make for a very good to great linebacker in the NFL. Teo will be able to stick in the middle and shows a very good fit for a 3-4 defense but can also line up in a 4-3 if need be. However, I believe his best fit is in the 3-4 where his downfield attacking style of play can be most effective/utilized. Manti Teo will be a hot commodity in next years draft should he declare, and will have an outside chance of cracking the top 10 when it’s all said and done.

Boston College LB Luke Kuechly-

Luke Kuechly's instincts and overall awareness against the run and in coverage make him a perfect fit for a Cover 2 scheme in the NFL.

Luke Kuechly is a player who displays an incredible overall feel for the game. Kuechly trusts his eyes very well and is very quick to read and diagnose plays. Luke is also very rarely caught out of position as he trusts his instincts and is nearly always around the football making a tackle. In this game Kuechly registered his 33rd consecutive game in which he garnered double digit tackles. Luke Kuechly is an absolute tackling maching who pursues and flows to the football very well/naturally, although he can sometimes get caught up in the wash by bigger OL. Kuechly shows unique instincts not only as a tackler, but also as a player who moves well laterally while staying clean to make his way to the football. Kuechly does an incredible job of avoiding blocks while never losing sight of where the ball is and which angle is the most desirable to make his way to the ball carrier. At first I had thought that Kuechly may not display the overall range and athletic ability to play sideline to sideline and be able to stay at MLB in the NFL. That notion was very clearly and quickly made moot by Kuechly who shows a more than capable burst and overall acceleration to make plays all over the field and chase down ball carriers from behind. Although he may not display the type of athleticism as Manti Teo, Kuechly has more than enough to make plays all over the field. In coverage Luke Kuechly really excels and displays the ability to be a very reliable/dependable LB who can play on all downs (3 down LB). Kuechly shows incredible awareness and comfort when setting into his drops. He always looks in control and is very quick to pick up players coming into/threatining his zone. Kuechly does an incredible job of reading the QB’s eyes and shows very capable change of direction skills to flip his hips, plant his foot in the ground, and drive to the football once it is released. This may be one of my favorite strengths of Kuechly’s overall game and shows the type of ability he has to become an every down LB at the next level. Luke Kuechly is a very sure wrap down tackler who alomost always stops the momentum of the ball carrier moving forward. However, Kuechly does sometimes tend to hit a little high and needs to drop his hips more to gain better overall leverage on the ball carrier. It is very hard to gauge just how good of a blitzing LB Kuechly is as he is not asked to do that much if ever for BC. Kuechly’s game is much more predicated on using his eyes to diagnose plays and get into position to make the tackle, rather than getting after the QB as a pass rushing LB in my opinnion. Kuechly’s overall skill set makes him a very enticing MLB in a 4-3 defense, particularally in  a cover 2 where his ability to cover a large amount of area as a dropping LB can be utilized most effectivley. Kuechly is an incredibly gifted LB who will make an NFL team very happy. His game is very much reminiscent of Barrett Rudd in my oppinion, but I also see a little Brian Urlacher in him, although he doesnt possess the height, weight, speed ratio of this future hall of famer. With that said Kuechly is a very safe player who will do very well for himself at the next level and find himself at the top of the NFL’s total tackle list on a yearly basis.

Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd-

Michael Floyd displays the type of elite athleticism and run after catch ability to become a legitimate threat in the passing game.

Floyd stands at 6-3 225 lbs. and displays unbelievable quickness/acceleration ability, making him a unique threat as a WR with great RAC ability. Floyd finished this game with 10 catches for 92 yds. and proved to be very useful and explosive on slip/quick screens where he could make plays in the open field. Michael Floyd is a long strider who covers a lot of ground and eats up cushions quickly. BC did a good job of bracketing Floyd and keeping him contained in this game, although there were a couple times he slipped behind coverage. This shows me that BC has incredible respect for Floyd’s deep speed…he isn’t neccesarilly as fast as he is quick and sudden. This is a unique player who can stretch the field and be a very scary player on underneath routes, as he can beat you with his sheer athlteticism and strength as a WR looking to make yards after the catch. Another area that was impressive and has been impressive all season is the dedication and effort Floyd has displayed this year when blocking down the field. Floyd is beginning to show that he can become an all around player who takes pride in not only making an impact in the passing game, but the running game as well. Floyd also showed good spacial awareness with a couple catches along the sidelines that looked very effortless and natural for him. He shows strong hands but did have a drop when he didn’t look the ball into his hands with a LB coming down on him to make the hit. I need to see more of Floyd and really see him show the type of concentration, body control,  and route running to become an elite reciever. I love the way Floyd came back to the ball and attacked it in the air, however due to the lack of downfield throws I am not ready to proclaim him a top 10 pick just yet…although the skill appears to be there. Floyd appears to be right there with OSU WR Justin Blackmon as one of the best WR in the entire country, which should make him a high draft pick next April.

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert-

Tyler Eifert is still developing some aspects of his game, but shows great hands and athleticism to become a solid prospect.

Tyler Eifert took over for former TE Tyler Rudolph who went on to become a 2nd round pick for the Minnesota Vikings in last year’s draft and has not looked back since. Eifert shows impressive size at 6-5 250 lbs. and looks like he has the ability to add another 10-15 lbs. of muscle to his frame. Eifert shows a nice ability to release cleanly from the LOS and can become a threat to stretch the field with above average top end speed. I have been very impressed with Eiferts hands and concentration this year as he has routinely made catches away from his body. Last night he made an incredible one hand stab along the right sidelines. This play showed me just how much physical talent and skill this big man has as a receiver down the field. Efiert also fights for extra yards and showed the type of physicality to fight for a first down that make him a valuable commodity for the Notre Dame offense. An area Eifert will need to improve on is in the run game where he shows the ability to stand up to bigger DL but often loses the battle at the P.O.A. Eifert shows great effort but still needs to develop the strength and overall technique to take on these bigger blockers and become a reliable in line blocker at the next level. With that said I absolutely love Eiferts versatility to line up inside or outside and become a mismatch who uses his big body very well to shield defenders from him and the ball. This makes Eifert an extremely good player you can count on to work the short to intermediate routes and become a useful safety valve over the middle of the field. I believe Eifert has a very bright future but would be wise to come back to school for another season. He still needs to become a more effective in line blocker and could use the extra year to develop more strength and weight to his frame. Eifert will be a player to watch next year and could become the top overall TE prospect if he’s willing to put in the extra work and become the type of player he has the capability of becoming.


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