Instincts are the key to his game, as he always seems to be in the middle of action whether rushing the passer or covering tight ends. Lavonte will need to stay off blocks at the next level and either gain strength to shed linemen or continue to play instinctually to stay free entirely.
His athletic ability allows him to play loose and fly around, and he should go in the late first round to a team who loves undersized, athletic linebackers.
His footwork is fluid in transition and when moving laterally, he routinely fits up against running backs in the hole and stonewalls them at the point.
He can pursue against the run to the outside and use his instincts to meet players where they ultimately will be, and rarely whiffs on tackles. He can cover tight ends close in man and works well in zone coverage as he has natural, fluid hips to turn and pass set.
Weaknesses: David is undersized, and he can struggle at times when lineman get their hands on him on run plays. If he is free he hits the gap hard, but once engaged he attempts to use his strong hands to fight away.
He can cover in the long-term against tight ends but can also struggle in man against them at the line of scrimmage if they overpower him initially. Speed and savvy can often overshadow these size and strength hitches in Lavonte's game, but they could be exposed more at the next level."
Despite that detour, two successful seasons at the junior college level and an excellent first year in Lincoln has put him on the NFL scouts' radars.
David accumulated 213 tackles for Fort Scott, including 19.5 for loss in the team's national runner-up season, where they lost to future Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton's Blinn Junior College in the final. David spied Newton the entire game and tackled him 18 times according to FSCC head coach Jeff Sims.
Then all David did in his first year at Nebraska was set a school record with 152 tackles (15 for loss, six sacks) and break up 10 passes, earn first-team All-Big 12, conference Newcomer of the Year, and All-American honors.
There's no issues with David's instincts, toughness, or tackling ability, and the fact he had to go the junior college route won't affect his draft stock. Weighing in at under 6-1, 220, however, will take him off many teams' boards as a linebacker. It's possible his ability in coverage could push a team to select him as a strong safety, it's more likely an organization willing to take a chance on smaller, but productive, linebackers will snap him up early in the draft.
Read & React: Tough player with excellent instincts and quick reaction time, involves himself in many run and pass plays all over the field. Occasionally guesses, flying into holes instead of finding the ball then attacking it and leaving his area open to receivers and running lanes.
Run Defense: Plays mostly in the box, flies through creases to wrap up the legs of backs trying to find a hole or attempting to get to the sideline. Despite his lack of size, attacks oncoming linemen with a punch or stiff-arm into their chest and makes tackles in the box with blockers on his back. Gives and gets the worst of collisions inside.
Pass Defense: Strong in coverage, often used as the only linebacker on the field against spread defenses. Possesses the quickness to stay with running backs on wheel routes or trail across the middle. Stays with underneath routes while in zone, able to break up passes in front of receivers with front hand without interfering. Gives up size to most NFL-caliber tight ends and better backs separate during routes with length and strength. Bites on aggressive arrow routes, loses his balance when trying to change directions at times.
Tackling: Hustling chase tackler who hits the thighs and wraps up legs very effectively. Tries to strip the ball when tackle is secured, has good success even against tight ends. Bigger ballcarriers can stiff-arm him in the open field because of his lack of size and length, but it does not happen too often.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Explodes through creases to reach the passer, bringing down most with a strong hit. Also chases down quarterbacks escaping the pocket to rack up sacks. Rips off running back blocks to chase the passer but freezes too often when initially facing them, making him late to reach the ball.
Intangibles: Good football work ethic and intelligence. Possesses strong character and humble attitude, called "coach's dream" by Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini."
Lacks elite straight-line speed/closing range, but is still a plus in that area and can make plays consistently off his frame. Does a nice job avoiding blocks inside, is light footed, feels traffic around him and displays that 6th sense to slip a block and put himself in position to tackle the ball carrier. Reads the interior of the O-line well, consistently gets early jumps on the football and takes proper gaps inside. Is a solid wrap-up guy in pursuit.
Has a snap into contact, explodes through the hips and is more physical on contact than his frame would suggest. Has a strong punch as well when asked to take on blocks at the point. Does a nice job staying violent and will shed.
Takes on pulling guards with good pop and leverage, however, just doesn’t have the lead in the pants needed to consistently anchor. Seems a bit short armed as well, when he gets high in space as a tackler, struggles to get into the frame and can see a stiff arm causing him to fall off his target.
Displays impressive footwork and balance in coverage. Is fluid in the hips, coordinated with his footwork and has the ability to cleanly redirect, maintain balance and close on the throw. Looks natural when asked to turn and run as well, keeps his base down, snaps his head around and quickly and locates the football. Lacks ideal size and can be a target of being boxed out once he gives up a step.
However, can turn and run with the tight end down the seam and gets good depth in his drop. Displays a natural feel recognizing routes in coverage and seems to always be around the football. More than held his own in man vs. some of the Big 12’s best pass catchers and should be able to do the same in the NFL.
Impression: He’s undersized, but is instinctive. Might be limited to more of a cover two type scheme only, but looks like a starting caliber weak side guy to me early in his NFL career."
Agile, athletic and flexible — is able to keep pace with backs and tight ends in coverage and is aware in zone.
Has a passion for the game and it shows in his aggressive playing temperament — stands out on tape.
Take-on strength is limited and size will limit his appeal but can be very productive on the weak side in a 4-3, though he is not exceptionally fast for an undersized ’backer and added approximately 10 pounds of bulk entering his senior season.
Similar to Broncos 2000 second-round pick Ian Gold and could warrant looks as a box safety."
Is a good athlete with fluid hips; is also a real student of the game and is very instinctive; reads the play well and is very quick and explosive; can beat the offense to the point of attack, but can also get off blocks when engaged;
Has shortish arms, but is a very good tackler who drives through ball-carriers; can also blitz and make plays in coverage; had 6 sacks last fall, while breaking up 10 passes; can turn and run with most backs and TEs, but doesn’t have the greatest hands himself."
David's ability to seal the edge and excel in man-to-man coverage make him an exciting linebacker in college football.
Most prospects really do well playing downhill and getting after the quarterback or can dominate when it comes to sheer athleticism, but David is already a solid contributor who can come in with little preparation and potentially start right away.
David doesn't show a lot of flash as a pass rusher at this time. Due to his average height and weight, he struggles disengaging from offensive linemen or having the top-end speed to break the corner on a blitz.
What he can do is use his fluid hips in open space to keep an eye on tight ends over the middle and running backs in the flat. He's a sound tackler who rarely overplays and does well to play within his assignment."