The Butkus Award winner and two-time All-American decided to forego his senior season and the Carolina Panthers were happy that was the case when they selected him ninth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Kuechly will add stability to a Panthers’ linebacking corps that was anything but that last season. Starters Jon Beason and Thomas Davis combined for just 16 tackles as both missed virtually the entire seasons with injuries.
And while Kuechly will plug a big hole for the Panthers, it raises the question as to who will plug the hole that he's vacating at Boston College.
Replacing Kuechly won't be easy. After all, he led the nation in tackles the last two seasons. But if there’s a team that has enough depth at the position to allay the concerns, it might be the Eagles.
Sean Duggan is set to slide into the middle where Kuechly used to start. Duggan started three games on the outside as a true freshman last season and mopped up 39 tackles, three tackles for a loss, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Junior-to-be Kevin Pierre-Louis brings the experience following a 74-tackle season. He also picked up six tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery. He looks like a really good player in the making and will definitely be relied upon for some leadership as well.
There are also high expectations for Steele Divitto, who took care of 72 tackles last season while picking up 3.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and an interception. He's a meticulous worker and could be ready to blossom after the attending the Athletes' Performance training in Phoenix, Ariz.
Also, Nick Clancy, who took some big steps last season and led all players with 10 tackles in the spring game, will be expected to take another stride forward.
Overall, there's no superman just yet. Clearly, Kuechly was the hero of this defense in many ways and players like him aren’t easily replaced – if ever. But if there is one area on the football field where Chestnut Hill has become synonymous with production, it's linebacker. And as the 2012 team is being shaped in the offseason, it doesn't look like Kuechly's departure will cripple the team.
The Eagles are fully stocked at the position and while they may not have a superstar just yet, they clearly have enough talent and depth to break up the workload in three parts.
Now if only the offense could get their gears going, the Eagles might have a good chance to carry over some momentum they built up down the stretch of the 2011 season when they finished with wins in two of their final three games (the lone loss was by two points to Notre Dame).
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