SCHOOL: Cleveland St. Ignatius
SIZE: 6-foot-2, 215-pounds
RANKING: Four-star prospect
RECRUITING: Committed to Ohio State
Berger's Backstory: After seeing Berger in action in late September last year, I felt he was a player of note in Ohio, but I wasn't quite ready to go overboard in praising the linebacker. My first-ever story on the St. Ignatius star included the following:EVALUATION: After seeing Berger play against Mentor, what stands out is his speed and length coming off the edge. He showed the ability to cover a lot of ground and was a very sure tackler. Berger is definitely one to watch in Ohio for the 2014 class.
Fast forward another month, and after seeing Berger dominate Cleveland Glenville, I decided to list him as one of the top players in Ohio, and the top overall linebacker. With players like Michael Ferns and Dante Booker holding offers from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and others, while Berger didn't even have a MAC offer, I knew I was out on a limb. But I also knew the talent I had seen over two full games, and soon the offers began pouring in for Berger.
WHAT IS THERE TO LIKE? With this player, I almost want to answer "Everything." When you add in the combination of size, speed, length, quickness, toughness, leadership, intelligence and game awareness, Berger is the perfect outside linebacker candidate. He lacks nothing in terms of being an impact player at the college level, and he only needs to refine his skills and continue to improve on them. I expect Kyle Berger to be in the rotation at linebacker soon after fall camp begins his freshman season, and he should be a special teams demon from the start. In time, he should be a starter at either outside linebacker spot for the Buckeyes, and that could happen within the first two years.
WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS? The coaching Berger receives is so advanced that you sometimes worry about these types of kids peaking early and not having much ceiling. That absolutely is not the case with Berger. He will fill out and add muscle as he matures, which will make him even better playing the run. He has the speed and hip turn to be successful in pass coverage, but he has not been asked to do that at St. Ignatius, so we do not know he can do that yet. Will he get stronger? Can he defend in pass coverage against fast runningbacks and tight ends? We don't know either answer yet, but my guess will be "Yes."
WHAT ARE THE INTANGIBLES? One play stands out to me and I will never forget it. Against Glenville, Berger was hit late by Marcelys Jones with a forearm shiver to the back of the neck. Berger's reaction? He wheeled on Jones, got his hands on him and threw him to the ground with mayhem on his mind. The referees had to separate the two, and Berger's coaches weren't pleased with him, but I loved it. Nobody from Glenville laid a glove on Berger the rest of the game either, before or after the whistle. You also wonder about a player being able to pick up a complicated defensive system at the college level, but with Berger that won't be a problem. He wants to major in medicine some day, and his football IQ matches what he does in the classroom.
PLAYER COMPARISON: You almost hate doing these for high school juniors, because it seems you're setting fans up for disappointment. To me, Kyle Berger reminds me so much of Bobby Carpenter as a high school junior. The speed and athleticism is so similar, as is the length on the outside. I would expect Berger to have a similar career at Ohio State as Carpenter, and that should have Buckeye fans smiling.