At the NIKE Camp at USC this past Sunday, there's a good chance we saw the top linebacker in the country. Corona (Calif.) Centennial athlete Vontaze Burfict has been on our radar since his breakout showing against Mater Dei, Santa last season and he put on an absolute clinic last weekend.
There are many different way to evaluate a football player. Physical tools like size and speed are usually the first things people notice. Then you have other things like toughness, instincts, work ethic and coachabilty as well.
On film, Burfict jumps off the screen. We said it many times last year but Burfict was the state's top linebacker as a junior and it wasn't close. He's a devastating hitter and his size and speed translate ideally to the next level. He racked up 162 tackles, 17 for loss and forced four fumbles while playing one of the toughest schedules in the state.
Just on film alone, Burfict shows why he should be rated among the top 25 players in the country. At last weeks NIKE Camp, the athlete showed he should be rated among the nation's top five players and the No. 2 player in the West behind only quarterback Matt Barkley.
Burfict measured in at a rock solid 6-1.5, 244 pounds. What was impressive is the athlete still has some baby fat around his face showing he's not physically matured yet and is a few years away from peaking physically. While other players we see are already done growing, that doesn't appear to be the case with Burfict.
As far as his performance, he was easily the best linebacker we've worked out this year and that includes stops at always talent laden Miami and Gainesville, Florida.
"I never thought I would work out another player as good as Marcus Ball but Burcfict is right there," lead NIKE LB coach Chris Gizzi said. "The kid is incredible, he can play at the next level right now.
"It's not just his physical tools, it's his makeup and poise he plays with. He's able to slow the game down and people don't understand how hard that is. When you get to the next level and everything is happening rapid fire and you have bullets coming at you, it's those players who can slow things down mentally and play at a faster pace than everyone that become great and he has that."
Burfict isn't just fast, he's exceptionally quick and has incredible closing speed. He's strong, fearless and really sells out to make a play. He's coachable, wants to get better and is a leader. Basically, everything you're looking for in a player, Burfict has it and then some.
The athlete has already committed to USC and although the Trojans are always loaded at the linebacker position, it will be a major surprise if the talented athlete isn't on the field early in his college career.