Kuechly in the middle of everything for Eagles
He has become the Everyman of the Boston College defense.
All the time.
Those all fit the job description of Luke Kuechly.
Kuechly came into his junior season with a well-earned reputation. He was a first-team All American. He led the country in tackles. He has a string of double-digit tackle games that is up to 26 going into tomorrow against Wake Forest at Alumni Stadium.
Heady stuff for a kid from Cincinnati who came to BC as a “tweener’’ recruit - too big and a tad too slow to play defensive backfield and not quite (at the time) big enough to play linebacker.
That has changed. Kuechly is now a sculpted 6 feet 3 inches, 237 pounds, which is up about 20 pounds from when he arrived.
What hasn’t changed much is the enthusiasm for the game that Kuechly carries to each game and practice.
He has been the one constant for BC, which is off to a 1-3 start, is about to face an unpredictable Wake Forest team, and then hits a tough four-week stretch that includes road games at Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Maryland and a Thursday night home showdown with Florida State.
Kuechly has tried to do everything on defense - calling plays, coming up with interceptions, making key stops, as well as boosting morale, which has sagged at times as the Eagles dropped their first three games.
Kuechly is the front-runner for the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker (he finished second to Texas A&M’s Von Miller last season) and probably will opt to leave after this season for the NFL draft, in which he could be a high first-round draft pick. He says his role is multi-tiered on a team filled with freshmen and sophomores who are being asked to contribute perhaps before they are ready.
Kuechly’s presence is felt even there.
Emerging from the depth chart last week was freshman linebacker Sean Duggan, who came out of the same high school in Cincinnati - St. Xavier - that produced Kuechly and a host of other past BC performers, plus former coach Tom O’Brien.
Looking more and more like a star of the future is sophomore linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who has steadily developed next to Kuechly at outside linebacker.
“One of the things that Kevin and I talk about is being willing to work, and I think it’s starting to pay off for him,’’ said Kuechly. “The more you are around football, the more things you can pick up. He’s always working. He’s critical of himself. That has helped him this year.
“There are a lot of young guys who haven’t played a lot. You have to set an example and show kids how to be successful.’’
It is a role Kuechly feels comfortable playing.
“I come here every day and try and put in the work that is necessary to be successful,’’ he said.
As for his fame - Butkus favorite, first-team All American - Kuechly shrugs that off.
“It’s a cliche,’’ he said with a smile, “but it’s what you do next that counts. I really don’t think much about the [double-digit] streak. Winning is what counts.’’
As to the future - with the NFL looming - that is nowhere in Kuechly’s immediate vision.
“Don’t even think about it,’’ he said. “I’m just worried about winning the next game and doing what I can to help this team win.’’
Beating Wake Forest is the immediate goal, and Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe sees the problems that Kuechly can create.
“He’s just got it all,’’ said Grobe. “He’s a bright guy that is always around the football. Anytime you see the end of a play, he’s standing there, either in on the tackle or right there where it’s being made.
“He’s pretty special. He’s a tough, physical kid and does a nice job taking on blocks and getting off blocks.
“Sometimes you look at video and you think, ‘OK, we need to do this to stay away from this guy.’ But because he’s got such good foot speed and such a high motor, he’s everywhere on the field, and I think you just have got to really run your offense and hope that he doesn’t beat you by himself, because he really is a talented kid.’’
Mark Blaudschun can be reached at email@example.com.