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Carolina Panthers Select Luke Kuechly
Read & React: Intelligent player who knows his keys and "feels" his way to the ball. Aggressiveness allows him to be fooled by those keys, like pulling guards, on misdirection and takes a false step forward on play action, but also recovers well and regularly sniffs out reverses and other trick plays to prevent big gains. Run defense: Constantly around the ball, fights traffic easily and steps into gaps instead of waiting for the ballcarriers. Tracks the ball to either sideline but needs perfect angles to beat NFL tailbacks to perimeter. Anchors and can stick bigger backs with lowered pads. Doesn't have elite size to stand up to NFL-caliber linemen, but regularly rips off blocks with strong hands and can make
plays even if initially knocked backward
Summary: Luke Kuechly has been one of the most productive players in college football, at any position, over the past two seasons. He set ACC and school records for career tackle totals with 532 stops. Even without a bowl game in 2011, he made 191 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up and three interceptions. In 2010, Kuechly had 183 tackles (110 solo) with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.
Kuechly admittedly lacks special foot speed, but he makes up for it in instincts and intelligence. There is no doubt that he is a fabulous run defender who produces good down-and-distance situations for his defense. His read and reaction skills are top-notch. That allows him to get in position to make tackles near the line of scrimmage. Routinely, one would see Kuechly shed a block and make a tackle for a short gain.
Kuechly is extremely sound in pass defense. He does very well in zone coverage and is adept at reading quarterbacks' eyes. Kuechly has enough speed to get deep in his drops and cover more ground than one might think. While he was rarely called on to blitz, he showed some quality blitzing skills in limited opportunities.
Kuechly looks like one of the safest picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. He should be able to play immediately in the NFL, and before long, he could be one of the better run-defending linebackers in the NFL. Kuechly has the ability to play in a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense. Adding weight to help him fight off NFL blockers would be a good idea, especially if he were in a 3-4.