'09 Unwrapped: Luke Kuechly

In February, Stanford signed linebacker Fred Craig from St. Xavier HS in Cincinnati, Ohio. This year, Jim Harbaugh and Co. are hoping to pull another linebacker from St. X once again. Read on for a quick profile on St. Xavier linebacker Luke Kuechly, the academic bent of his recruitment, and what schools are standing out to him currently.

In 2007, Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier HS laid legitimate claim to the mantle of top high school team in the nation. A team dotted with future Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division 1-A) players and Ohio prep legends completed an undefeated state championship season with a dominant 27-0 championship game performance. The 15-0 state championship run notably included victories over a who's who of top Ohio competition as well as teams that ultimately won state championships in Maryland and Kentucky.

The championship game shutout was a fitting end to a season defined by a stifling defense that shut out four opponents and held 14 of 15 opponents to two scores or less. While the vaunted unit was led by safety Fred Craig, the Greater Catholic League Athlete of the Year and Division I Player of the Year for Ohio who ended up signing with Stanford in February as a future linebacker, the top tackler on the defense was junior linebacker Luke Kuechly. With a profile similar to Craig's combination of accomplishment leading one of America's top high school teams and excellent performance in the classroom, Kuechly has caught the attention of Stanford and many of the other programs that recruited his former captain.

As a junior in 2007, Kuechly led the Bombers in tackles with 143 and also contributed 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. After the season, his performance earned him recognition within his team as the most improved junior at the top program's post-season team banquet and within the football-crazy Ohio prep scene as a second team all-league linebacker in the Greater Catholic League. According to Scout.com, the 6'3", 215-pound Kuechly is a solid 3-star prospect who ranks as the #25 strongside linebacker prospect in the nation. He has since attracted interest from a wide range of college suitors, but like Fred Craig before him, has focused his interest mostly on schools with strong academic reputations.

"Most of the Big Ten has and then the main schools I'm really looking at right now are Stanford, Boston College, Virginia, Duke, some of the ACC schools," Kuechly shares when asked which schools have offered him a scholarship. Past stories on him have reported additional offers that include Cincinnati, North Carolina State, Louisville, Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern, and Illinois.

"I'd really just like to go to a good school, get a good education," Kuechly elaborates on the schools that are currently catching his attention. While he knows that education will play a central role in his decision, the specific criteria guiding his thought process are much less precise and he says, "I just want to make sure it's the right place for me." Similarly, his timeframe for announcing a decision will be guided by a similar gut feel. "It will just be whenever I feel it's the right time," he affirms.

As he navigates a recruitment with many suitors and an undefined schedule, he has taken some initial steps to evaluate some of his favorite schools. In particular, he took the opportunity to take unofficial visits this summer to Stanford and Boston College. Kuechly says both visits impressed him.

"Stanford was really nice," he offers. "The coaches seemed like good guys. The campus is very beautiful."

Of Boston College, he says:

"It was different from Stanford, like the campus itself was different, but it was still very nice. It was just nice and it was a good time."

With those visits behind him, he says he is still looking to take official visits this fall before making a decision, saying "that's what I'm looking to do" when asked about the possibility of making those official trips. However, finding time to make those visits can be difficult for players on one of the nation's premier high school teams, a team that typically plays playoff football deep into the fall. Indeed, Fred Craig was not able to take his official visit to Stanford last year until January, after the Bombers' championship run was complete.

"If it works during the season I'll probably do that," Kuechly speculates. "I just want to try to find a good time for it," emphasizing that official visits will have to be planned around his football schedule.

The 2008 state championship-hopeful St. Xavier team will start their season next on Friday against Colerain and Kuechly certainly hopes that scheduling fall trips will be as difficult for the seniors on this year's team as they have been for top Bomber recruits in recent years.

Kuechly reports a 3.8 GPA says that he is retaking the standardized test he took earlier this year because "I didn't do as well as I know I can do so I'm going to retake that one." He already has a Stanford Admissions application and says "I've got to fill out the application and send it back to them."

Stay tuned to The Bootleg for more on Luke Kuechly's recruitment and the latest St. Xavier championship quest.

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