Now, lacks an elite initial burst when asked to click and close on the throw and isn't a guy who can consistently make plays in man. But, possesses a good feel in coverage and consistently is able to get early jumps on the football.
Showcases good instincts at the line of scrimmage as well when asked to read his run keys. Routinely is able to diagnose the football quickly and attack downhill. Lacks great range, but runs well for the position and generates good power through his hips on contact. Possesses a long set of arms, which consistently allow him to wrap on contact.
Now, isn't the most nimble of athletes and will struggle to break down on shifty ball carriers in space, but uses his length well and simply finds a way to get his man on the ground. Does a nice job when asked to set the edge and anchor on perimeter runs. However, he isn't a real consistent stack and shed guy. Doesn't possess a great punch/pop on contact when trying to shed and can be sealed at times from the play.
Impression: Is a good athlete for his size, but is able to play even faster at times due to his instincts. Never quite regained his form from 2008, but slowly improved as the year went on. His medical will be huge in determining his draft stock and if he can prove he's healthy, the guy can a player in the league."
With Boston College searching for a star athlete to build around after quarterback Matt Ryan left for the Atlanta Falcons a year earlier, Herzlich responded, earning the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year award with an all-around season few linebackers could beat -- 110 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns off of his six interceptions, more than any linebacker in the country.
Herzlich had put up similar numbers in 2007 (97 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumbles recoveries, 1.5 sacks, one interception) and had impressed as a freshman by registering 42 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack in limited duty.
Herzlich considered leaving Boston College early for the NFL. He returned because he was enjoying the collegiate experience. Had he left, he would have been a first-round pick. After all, Herzlich was given the top grade among all senior prospects by National Football Scouting entering the 2009 draft.
Herzlich in May 2009 decided to investigate the pain he'd been experiencing in his left leg and was given shocking news by doctors. The pain was caused by a rare form of bone cancer, Ewing's Sarcoma. Though the cancer has approximately a 70 percent recovery rate, the infection was in his left leg. Doctors cautioned that even if Herzlich survived, his football career was almost surely over. Instead, after seven months of chemotherapy and an additional five weeks of radiation, Herzlich was cancer-free.
Despite battling through various injuries that limited him from the time fall camp began, Herzlich played in all 12 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2010. He finished third on the team with 67 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Herzlich's play improved as the season progressed, demonstrating he still has the knack for making big plays with four interceptions.
He might have proven he has ample fortitude and could be considered a second-round pick. But before any NFL team is willing to invest a draft selection in Herzlich, he will undergo a battery of tests performed by NFL team doctors. They'll test for cancer and gauge the strength in his left leg, in which Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted to expedite his recovery.
Read & React: Rare diagnosis skills. Is seemingly always around the ball. Reads his keys quickly and takes excellent angles to beat the football to a spot. Aggressively attacks the line of scrimmage against the run, but can apply the brakes and change direction quickly if initially fooled by play-action.
Run Defense: Good initial quickness toward the line of scrimmage against the run. Slices through gaps, showing good burst, lateral agility and instincts to consistently meet the ballcarrier near the line of scrimmage. Good balance, agility and vision to flow through the trash and the line of scrimmage, as well as laterally to string plays wide. Has an explosive pop to disengage quickly from blockers. Has the prototypical long arms, good upper-body strength and good balance required for breaking free quickly. Rare effort in pursuit laterally and downfield. Goes all out, all the time.
Pass Defense: Gains good depth on his initial drop, staying balanced and ready to turn either direction quickly. Efficient footwork. Rarely takes a misstep. Has good, not great, overall agility and straight-line speed for sticking with his receiver or tight end assignment, but understands the angles of the game, remaining consistently in between his opponent and the passer. Tracks the quarterback's eyes and shows good route-recognition and the burst to break on the ball. Good ball skills.
Tackling: One of the more reliable open-field tacklers in the nation. Excellent balance for his size when breaking down to tackle smaller, quicker athletes. Shows proper technique in running through his tackles and his form is a picture of the hit-lift-drive technique. Shows legitimate explosiveness as a hitter, often knocking the ballcarrier backward. Wraps his arms securely rather than relying on impact when leading with his shoulder or helmet. Possesses the long arms and good hand-eye coordination to trip up ballcarriers in pursuit.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Very experienced as a pass rusher in this scheme, showing good timing of the snap, burst to beat the tackle wide and rare closing speed for a man of his size to chase down the quarterback. Typically relies on his speed or a good bull rush to gain freedom off the edge. Could be that much better off the edge with refinement of his pass-rush technique. Flashes a swim move, but doesn't use it enough. Must be more aware of protecting his knees. To his credit, he gets back up quickly, but is consistently knocked to the ground because he doesn't bend and use his hands effectively to slap away cut-blocks, especially from running backs. Flashes the leaping ability to jump over blocks, but isn't consistent in this area.
Intangibles: Highly respected on and off the field by the coaching staff, teammates and fans. Was a fixture on the BC sideline throughout the 2009-10 season while battling cancer. Helped raise over $200,000 for cancer research. Earned numerous honors for his courage and outreach, including the Disney Spirit Award, an honorary Lott Trophy and the ACC Commissioner's Cup. As part of his treatment for the weakening of the tibia in his left leg, Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted in the center of his fibula for support. He battled various other injuries in 2010, including a stress fracture in his right foot and a broken left hand.
Instincts/Play Recognition: Mark Herzlich has the best instincts as a linebacker in his last two years playing in college football. Herzlich had four interceptions this season (he had a cast on his hand for much of the regular season) and caught 6 interceptions two years ago. On and off the field, Mark Herzlich was the leader for Boston College. While he was battling cancer, Herzlich stayed on the team to help coach the linebackers. Tactically, Herzlich is as savvy as linebackers get.
Pass Rush: Herzlich will never be known for his pass rush. He didn't register a sack this season (he rarely rushed the pocket). Whoever drafts Herzlich will not be looking for him to head into the Clay Matthews mold. He could be involved in a few blitz packages, but don't expect him to impress you with his dynamic pass rushing ability. Herzlich will never be known for his passing attack because of a poor first step. If Herzlich can utilize a bull rush tactic he has the chance to negate the first step.
Pursuit/Lateral Movement and Agility: If Mark Herzlich can score well with scouts during the Senior bowl tryouts and time well at the combine, look for Herzlich to be a second round pick. The problem is that the lateral movement we saw in 2008 has still not regained its full shape; as a matter of fact it may never return. Herzlich will use his intelligence to beat the runner to the spot but he had a difficult time chasing the ball carriers this season. These traits will be the X factor to decide whether or not he is worth the risk early in the draft.
Quickness: Within the hash marks, Herzlich can dazzle a lineman with his quickness, but he will never be known for his quickness on the outside. Mark can be seen lumbering toward the ball carrier on many occasions. Herzlich needs improvement in this category if he plans on being an every down linebacker in the NFL.
Run Defense: Mark Herzlich can blow up the offensive blocking scheme from the outset. He's averaged around 7 TFL's in his last two seasons. In an instant, Herzlich can diagnose a rushing play and disrupt the play in the backfield. Herzlich's pure size is enough to intimidate any running back, but his ability to shed blocks has made Herzlich the player he's always wanted to be.
Strength: With restrictions on leg exercises during his cancer treatment, Herzlich decided to focus and build on his upper body during his off-season. When he returned he put his feet on the scale and was nearly the same exact weight he was in 2008. His legs could always use more strength, but that will all come in time. His upper body strength is near perfection for a young man with his body type. Give him an off-season with an NFL training schedule and he'll be able to throw running backs down like it's nothing.
Final Word: The entire country was able to witness the best story college football has seen in a while. Meeting and talking to Mark the game day he announced that cancer had finally been stricken from his body. His personality is perfect for a football player; reserved and kind off the field and a monster once he steps on the gridiron. Look for Mark to be picked anywhere from mid 2nd to the 3rd round."
Positive: One-time highly rated prospect who was slowed by injury and illness the past two years. At the top of his game Herzlich is a playmaker on defense who goes sideline to sideline chasing plays or forcing the action up the field. Gets depth on pass drops, remains disciplined with coverage assignments, and shows skill over the tight end or covering ball carriers out of the backfield. Sells out on the blitz and is tough to stop up the field. Breaks down well and uses his hands correctly. Instinctive and effectively diagnoses the action.
Negative: Lost a lot of quickness and speed upon his return in 2010. Struggles getting off blocks. Displayed a minimal burst. Had difficulty making plays with his back to the ball. Lost a step of speed and was not able to go sideline to sideline.
Analysis: Herzlich, justifiably considered a potential top ten pick before his illness of 2009, valiantly returned to the football field last year and was one of the better stories from college football. His play on the field was not as explosive or quick as previous years and right now Herzlich projects as a two-down, run-defending inside linebacker for a team willing to take a chance on him late in the draft."
Negatives: Tends to tackle too high, needs to lower pad level when making hits near line of scrimmage... Does not drive feet particularly well when tackling, uses upper-body strength to wrestle opponents to the ground instead of driving through with legs... Has decent speed, but not as quick as top players at the position... Has been clocked in the mid-4.6 range, but is to be expected for a player of his size at the position... Does not have a big arsenal of pass-rushing moves, mostly relies on upper-body strength to shed blockers instead of utilizing spin and rip moves to disengage... Is able to run with most TEs in college, but may have difficulty keeping up with NFL TEs, is probably best suited in zone coverage... Some teams may have questions about health after battling cancer a season ago."
At B.C., he played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2006, gained numerous all-freshman accolades, and racked up 42 tackles and 5 TFLs in part time action. In 2007, he started really establishing himself as an elite college LB, and future draftable commodity. He was named to the 2008 Lott Trophy and Butkus Award Watch Lists and started all 14 games, finishing second in total tackles with 97 (55 solos, 42 assists). Mark also led the team with 12 tackles-for-loss (60 yards) to go with 1.5 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, one quarterback hurry and an interception.
Strengths: Very good LB size. Runs right past or through blockers to create havoc in the backfield. Very productive, and shows good instincts and leadership abilities. Has good flexibility. Brings the hammer with him. Plays within himself and within the framework of the defense. Mature and smart. Has all the measurables and the production to go with it.
Weaknesses: A bit stiff in the hips. Not terribly aware in pass coverage, and may not be an ideal guy to put one-on-one with the TE in coverage, though he has the size to match up. Can overpursue and give up responsibilities for the big play opportunity occasionally.
Projection: Has most of what you want in a starting LB in the NFL. If he declares he should be a first day selection.
Back in 2006 Herzlich was named to a variety of Freshman All-America teams after tallying 42 tackles, 5.0 tackles-for-loss and a sack. He even had an interception and forced two fumbles. By 2007 the 6-4 linebacker was a staple in the lineup and turning into a leader of the Eagles. On the year he totaled an impressive 97 tackles and led the team with 12.0 tackles-for-loss. It was in 2008 when Herzlich went from a great player in the Atlantic Coast Conference to a great player on a national level. Herzlich picked off six passes, ranking tops in the nation for a linebacker and returned two of those for touchdowns. He also led the Eagles with 110 tackles and added eight pass break-ups and two forced fumbles. That effort earned him the ACC Defensive Player of the Year award.
Herzlich's story is an inspiring one and there has been and will be much talk about his heroic return to football. But his football story will continue. Herzlich is a fine outside linebacker who obviously has a ton of heart and work ethic. He is a good athlete too and even if nagging injuries continue to slow his senior season, Herzlich will tough it out and should be a second round draft pick."
Shortly after declaring that he would return for his senior season and pass up NFL riches—the linebacker was projected as potential first-round pick by many in the scouting community—he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. While his road to recovery was the most inspiring story of the 2009 college football season and his return to the gridiron this year will be the feel-good story of the year, NFL decision makers are going to need to see Herzlich prove that he is back to being one of the highest-graded draft prospects. If anyone in college football looks like they were born to fight in Rome’s Coliseum back in the day, it is the Boston College linebacker. Now a red-shirt senior, Herzlich stands at an imposing 6’4” and provides great length for an outside linebacker while carrying his weight very well. Athletically speaking he is blessed with exceptional acceleration and speed for his size, not to mention fantastic strength and rare foot quickness.
Herzlich’s ability to attack the line of scrimmage, engage a lineman, dispose of the blocker and tackle the ball carrier is truly a thing of beauty. He can read the offense’s keys, react quickly, and avoid false steps when chasing down ball carriers or against play-action in pass defense. As a tackler Herzlich is efficient, violent, and technically sound. When the All-American linebacker drops into coverage, his rare foot speed and length make him the prototypical linebacker in pass defense. First and foremost, we wish Herzlich nothing but the best of health regardless of football. When it comes to his draft stock, if he can return to the same form he impressed with in 2008 and be cleared medically we see no reason why Herzlich can’t be a first-round pick next April."
You know the story...
Mark Herzlich, Ladies and Gentlemen.
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