Scott Bordow: Vontaze Burfict has a simple philosophy about football. “Just run to the ball and hit somebody,” said Burfict, Arizona State’s freshman middle linebacker. OK, so it’s not real deep. Who cares? Burfict isn’t the highest-ranked high school player ever to sign with the Sun Devils because he sees football in existential terms.
Vontaze Burfict has a simple philosophy about football.
“Just run to the ball and hit somebody,” said Burfict, Arizona State’s freshman middle linebacker.
OK, so it’s not real deep. Who cares? Burfict isn’t the highest-ranked high school player ever to sign with the Sun Devils because he sees football in existential terms.
He hits people. Hard. And often.
“It’s a violent game and you have to have violent people to play it,” Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson said. “He’s like that.”
Just ask wide receiver Gerell Robinson. During Saturday morning’s scrimmage inside ASU’s practice bubble, Robinson ran a slant pattern from the right side of the formation.
As the pass from Danny Sullivan approached him, Robinson slowed up and brought his hands toward his body rather than extending them to the ball.
The reason: Burfict was in full stride and poised to knock him into Sunday.
“He (Robinson) didn’t want to get hit by him,” defensive coordinator Craig Bray said. “Vontaze would have blown him up.”
Said Robinson: “I had to try to adjust my body instead of getting killed.”
The ranking of high school football players is often a ridiculous exercise. No one had heard of Tedy Bruschi when he went to the University of Arizona. Similarly, wide receiver Derek Hagan, who leads ASU in career receptions, was a lightly regarded two-star recruit out of high school.
But the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Burfict may actually be worth the hyperventilating. Erickson has compared him to Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, a future Hall of Famer.
Bray said, “He’s one of the better high school linebackers I’ve seen on film in a long, long, long time. We were extremely fortunate to get him. He will be a force as he grows and matures.”
What makes Burfict special — aside from the physical intimidation — is his instinct for the game. Both Erickson and Bray noted that Burfict seems to have the innate ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Bray said Burfict has a better feel for what’s happening around him than Mark Fields, a standout linebacker for Washington State in the early 1990s and a first-round pick by the New Orleans Saints in 1995.
“He does some things in practice you just can’t coach,” Bray said.
Here’s what Burfict says: “You have to have instincts if you want to be able to hit somebody. That’s what I do.”
Anyone else think he sounds like Dick Butkus?
Burfict has yet to crack the starting lineup — he’s currently running with the second team — but give him time. He spent much of the summer in school — he’s still waiting to get the thumbs-up from the NCAA Clearinghouse — and he’s been nursing a hip flexor the past few days.
Yet he hasn’t missed a practice, and on Saturday he made several big plays, including a tackle that nearly killed running back Jarrell Woods. Fortunately, it was Woods’ helmet that rolled onto the field and not his head.
“I think he showed some violence today,” Bray said. “He obviously has a lot of talent.”
Talent, instinct and violence.
Sounds like the perfect middle linebacker.