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Crabbs | Cichy the next stud walk on linebacker

Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Crabbs | Cichy the next stud walk on linebacker

Few defenders in college football were playing better ball than Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy last year through the end of October. Through the Badgers’ first seven games (including contests against Louisiana State, Michigan and Ohio State), Cichy had logged 60 total tackles (45 solo), with 7.0 tackles for loss. Only 6 defenders in college football had more solo tackles through their team’s first seven contests; and just ten had more tackles for loss in that same time window.

The Badgers’ stifling defense was flying around relentlessly and Cichy was situated at the heart of the unit. That is until he suffered a torn pectoral muscle against the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 22nd and missed the final 7 games of the Badgers’ breakout season.

Cichy was in the middle of a breakout of his own; he’d worked his way into the starting lineup four years after deciding to walk on to the Badgers’ program prior to the 2013 season. The returning starter is one of few high caliber players returning for another year in Madison, with fellow LBs T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel departed for the NFL. Cichy won’t be far behind them.

One of the most impressive parts of Cichy’s overall game is how quick to process action he is. For example, the boundary run below is a great showcase of transitioning out of an initial read step, recognizing the speed option and playing through the pitch player.

Also on display? Cichy’s nose to seek and rally to the football. He does very well here to accelerate through his pursuit and not allow the ball carrier to get his pads up field. The Wisconsin LB shows many instances on film of being able to process action effectively and trust in his keys, such as the below pressure on Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett for a hit in the backfield:

Many LBs would be held by Barrett riding out this mesh point. But Cichy is never held in place, as the Right Guard pulling across the set is the tell for Cichy on where he’s needed to flow. As the Guard pulls across the set, Cichy identifies the crease developing immediately behind the puller and is quick to get up to top speed and burst through the gap, forcing some urgency from Barrett on a throw that ultimately falls incomplete.

But between the ears isn’t the only place that Jack shines. While he isn’t a player that is necessarily going to dominate offensive linemen at the point of attack, he does have the ability to play around traffic with efficiency thanks to some nifty short area agility and comfort working angles in tight spaces.

Here, Cichy is forced to honor that the RB could pop out of either side of the line of scrimmage, so he cannot break too quickly into any initial crease. Instead, he follows the flow of offensive linemen before the ball carrier manifests in the alley. As the ball carrier looks to cut, Cichy does well to flatten himself into a tight area and effectively finish the play with a strong tackle.

One mistake not to make? Don’t assume this is a finesse player. Cichy plays forward fast and is effective penetrating gaps even if he doesn’t have traditional “thumper” strength between the tackles. His ability to time up snap counts was on display both against USC in the 2015 Holiday Bowl (he logged 3 sacks on 3 consecutive plays in the third quarter) and also in the first half of 2016 as well.

There will be ample opportunity to Cichy to showcase his burst, mobility, football intelligence and overall nose for the ball in 2017. If he plays to his potential, he can follow in the footsteps of Temple’s Haason Reddick, a walk-on to make a name for himself with both play on the field and a strong athletic profile; rising through the ranks of 2018’s NFL Draft prospects.

Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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