Three years ago a young man by the name of Vontaze Burfict signed a letter of intent to attend Arizona State University. Coming out of high school, Burfict was a 5 star recruit and was already classified as the greatest commitment in ASU history. At 6'2" 244lbs. Burfict is one of those players that likes to make first impressions last on the field, and he absolutely reassured that in week 3 of his freshman season. It was a brisky night in Athens, GA, as the Sun Devils battled the Bulldogs in an epic showdown. Fighting endlessly throughout, the game was tied deep into the 4th quarter when the implausible happened. As the referee was setting down the ball for the play to begin, Vontaze Burfict noticed that the defensive alignments on the the line were completely out of order. Instead of either calling a time out or just going along with it, Vontaze pushed the referee into the line, giving them enough time to set up once again.
The coaches couldn't believe it, the referees couldn't believe it, and ASU's quarterback Brock Osweiller could certainly not believe it, because no one had ever seen it done before! The story doesn't end there, however. Once the defensive line finally reset itself, Vontaze timed the snap perfectly, leaped like a dog eyeing down it's favorite chew toy, and tackled Georgia's fullback for a loss at the play. From there on, that moment is what would define Burfict's collegiate career as the "meanest, nastiest, and toughest player in the game." Vontaze was The Waterboy of real life; a man who's own coach benched him because of his violent makeup, a man that refs would have to keep an eye on at all times, and a man that scared the lives out of all the players that faced him.
What's surprisingly funny about Vontaze is that his on-the-field character is completely antagonistic from his off-the-field character. In reality, Burfict is one the shyest players in the entire NCAA. His soft spoken interviews astonish countless reporters, and his entire way of being is interesting to say the least. So what makes Vontaze the football player he is? What make him the meanest football player in college football? And what makes him so absolutely stubborn on the field sometimes? In truth, nobody knows but him, but we can try.
The Good: The first thing that stands out from Vontaze is his reaction time to a play; especially with the way his body is built. As mentioned before, being able to leap over an offensive line at the exact same time the ball is snapped is something that only future Hall-of-Famers like Troy Polamalu do. Apart from that, Vontaze’s speed is another deadly attribute to his linebacker repertoire. Combine both of these skills, and you have a linebacker ready for the NFL.
Pass defense: Vontaze is known for making big hits, especially on receivers and tight ends. We all know that big hits is only a small portion of the game, but Burfict has a keen sense as the where the ball will end up going, which allows him enough time to attack throws in front of him and separate the man from the ball.
Run Defense: Perhaps the most beloved part of Burfict’s game is his ability to stop the run. His agility and quickness to the ball makes him a threat to the running back every time he touches the ball. In order to get to the speedy running back, Burfict usually avoids lineman blocks in space with quickness, strong hands, and even a dip move, though he lines up seven yards off the line to see them coming. Lastly, because of Burfict's body type, he is strong enough to anchor down against any lineman blocks, giving him an advantage in stopping runners that tend to follow their lineman.
Tackling: Tackling tends to be a small issue with most linebackers cominginto the NFL. Either they rely too much on big hits or they have trouble fulliy grabbing an opponent, this weakness is very common place, however still easy to fix. This can be said of many, except Vontaze Burfict. As one the most explosive tacklers in college football, Vontaze has the NFL smarts to play low in order stop halfbacks in their tracks and then blast them like a downhill missile, which is what forces the turnovers. This is where speed helps Vontaze’s game as well. He is fast enough to get from sideline to sideline and still be able to wrap around the ball carrier for the tackle.
The Bad: "So what you’re saying is that Vontaze is perfect in every way, shape, or form?" No! There are reasons as to why Vontaze will no be drafted in the 1st round, let alone the 2nd, and here they are:
The Combine: Burflict seemed to have had the Monday blues in this year;s Combine as he greatly underwhelmed himself and others in Indianapolis. Vontaze lethargically participated in every drill, and put up some of the worst Linebacker numbers from any player. Burflict ran the 12th slowest forty time (5.09) and played sloppy in almost all of his drills.Not to mention he gained weight. One scout even said, "I wouldn’t even touch him." To have a scout say he wouldn't even touch a player in the draft afer a Combine is certainly a bit eye opening. Vontaze better have a good pro day, or he is looking at Day 3 draft selection.
NOTE: Vontaze was the only linebacker to top 5 seconds in the forty-yard dash
Discipline: No matter how hard you try, there is no way you'll be able to find any other player as badly disciplined on the field as Vontaze Burfict. Come every draft there are always players questioned about their attitude towards the game, but rarely does that affect a their draft stock. That is not the case of Vontaze. His mis-behavior and undisciplined brutality on the field has cost his team multiple personal foul penalties, and sadly, throughout 3 years in college, that never changed. His own coach once benched him because he received too many personal foul penalties. The only reason he was never benched for multiple games was because he was the only inside linebacker ASU had that was explosive. In the NFL, he will most likely be on every referee’s radar; probably even more than Ndamukong Suh and Cortland Finnegan.
So would any team want to come into training camp knowing that there is a ticking time bomb on the defense that needs weeks of attitude readjustment? Who knows. But one thing is certain, Vontaze Burfict is a rare talent and has the capability of becoming an elite linebacker in the NFL. Many covet his physical toughness, but all deny his mental instability. This is the curious case of Vontaze Burfict.