|In-Depth With Luke Kuechly||10.10.09 at 11:57 am ET|
On Wednesday, after freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly was done talking to the media, one reporter turned to another and whispered, “Clark Kent?”
The other reporter laughed and nodded.
Kuechly, the 18-year old dynamo, is an unassuming fellow off the football field. He is polite, grounded and, like Superman’s alter ego, wears black rimmed glasses and has short black hair.
“It looks like he is going to go to a science experiment or something,” senior middle linebacker and co-captain Mike McLaughlin said. ”If you saw him walk in and say ‘hey, that is Luke Kuechly, he leads the team in tackles and this and that’ he would saw, ‘come on, you’re kidding me right?’”
The first-year from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati does indeed lead the Eagles in tackles through the first five games with 45 (18 more than the next guy on the list, senior strong safety Marcellus Bowman). He has provided the big stops when they have been needed, such when he burst through the line on second-and-goal last Saturday to crush Florida State running back Lonnie Pryor before anybody else on the field knew what was happening. The Eagles were able to hold the Seminoles on the goal line stand, which proved to be the pivotal series in the game.
It looked pretty simple for Kuechly. He saw the ball, he went to the ball, he made the tackle.
“The kid just drops back, looks where the ball is and goes and gets it. You wouldn’t believe football is that easy,” McLaughlin said. “I believe the kid is going to be an All-American.”
McLaughlin is prone to hyperbole, but this assessment does not seem far off the mark. Kuechly’s instinct on the gridiron are amazing. If there is a big hit, the “whoa” hit, chances are that number 40 is somewhere in the vicinity. At the same time, Kuechly is not yet at his physical or mental prime. He has the body of an 18-year old linebacker — big but not yet filled out at 6-foot 3-inches, 225 pounds and the brain of an 18-year old linebacker — big, but not yet filled out.
“It’s funny, it is not like he can tell you the game plan exactly correctly or tell you what his teammate is running,” McLaughlin said. “It is not like he is physically man-handling people or anything like that. He just sees the ball and goes and gets it. It is not like he is doing things physically unbelievable or mentally. It’s simple to him, which is amazing.”
Boston College head coach Frank Spaziani has been careful to say that “we are not anointing Luke” but the freshman’s play has forced Spaziani’s hand. When McLaughlin came back two weeks ago from a right achilles injury it was time for the captain to take back his position in the middle, a spot Kuechly had been keeping warm for him. Subsequently Spaziani moved Kuechly out to the Will linebacker spot on McLaughlin’s left, a position he had not played since his junior year in high school.
“I am still progressing, still have a lot to learn. It is definitely a little bit different, the perspective, the angles you take are different. What you got to do is totally different too from the inside,” Kuechly said.
That is just a sample of the answers you will find from Kuechly. He is always the first to praise his teammates and the upperclassmen for helping him succeed and, so far, has deflected the hyperbolic praise that could very much get into the head of an 18-year old on a big time college campus.
“He has his head on straight, you can see that from a mile away, he has his head on straight,” Bowman said. “You don’t have to worry about him getting into any trouble off the field, in the classroom. He is going to be very special here.”
Kuechly almost did not end up at Boston College. His choices were between Stanford, Virginia, Duke and BC. There were a variety of reasons that brought him to Chestnut Hill. Stanford was too far from home.
“Stanford was beautiful, the coaches were great, they had a plan set and I think they are doing a great job turning around the program. It was just so far away,” Kuechly said. “I really liked it out there it was just far away. When I was out there it felt far away too. Like, I thought I would go out there and it was just a plane flight just like is here and I wasn’t going to feel far away. But, I got out there and you think about it – California . . . Ohio.”
Virginia and Duke were too big, at least when it came to the campuses.
“Virginia was cool. I kind of like the smaller schools and I felt that Virginia was kind of big. Same thing with Duke. I know Duke is a small school but it kind of felt spread out a little bit,” he said.
Ah, but Boston College was just right. Smaller enrollment, smaller campus and a Jesuit school ta’boot.
“The biggest thing really for BC is that it is a Jesuit school my high school was Jesuit. Most of those schools don’t have a Jesuit aspect,” Kuechly said. “There are a lot of Cincinnati guys here who really liked it and the Jesuit thing was a really big deal.”
With the injuries and losses that Boston College has suffered on the defensive side of the ball this year, they are sure glad that Kuechly decided to come. Yet, it was not supposed to go this way. When Kuechly came in the spring he figured that he would redshirt, work hard and make the team next year. Then McLaughlin hurt his achilles, All-American Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma and Will Thompson has been sidelined as well. If those three were manning the linebacker positions this fall then Kuechly would probably have been slated on the third string behind Dominick LeGrande, Darius Bagan and Alexerand DiSanzo. But the sequence did not work out like that and Kuechly has made the most out of the opportunity.
“I thought I was going to come in here, get redshirted, work hard and get prepared for the next season but I guess some things popped up, as you guys know, and had to switch my role a little bit,” Kuechly said.
McLaughlin thinks that Kuechly could be the “best of the best of linebackers at BC” and thinks it is just a matter of time before the strength coach gets a hold of him and he spends a couple more years with defensive coordinator Bill McGovern. Bowman just has to remind himself to do his own job . . . as opposed to watching Kuechly.
“The brightest future ever. I have to do my responsibilities but I almost want to watch him to see what he is doing while I am on the field,” Bowman said. “It is the way he attacks the ball, the way he is just physically blessed, the way he is able to get there, I mean, he is going to be a great linebacker here.”
Kickoff between Boston College and Virginia Tech is minutes away in Blacksburg. Stay tuned to the BC Blog for updates throughout the game.