History – After being red-shirted as a true freshman, Mathias Kiwanuka saw significant action in his first year of eligibility. Due to injuries along the Boston College defensive line, Kiwanuka was forced to start early in the season. Remarkably, the talented freshman performed rather well, finishing the year with 44 tackles and five sacks.
As a sophomore, Kiwanuka became a 13-game starter for the Eagles. It was at this point that he began to separate himself as an elite pro prospect. In the second game of the season Boston College clashed with Big-10 powerhouse Penn State. Kiwanuka recorded two sacks on the day and followed up the performance with big games against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Colorado State.
He finished the season 83 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and 24 quarterback hurries. He was named to the All-Big East first-team defense.
As a junior, Kiwanuka recorded fewer tackles, but produced more big plays. He led the Big East in sacks with 11.5 and recorded 25.5 tackles for loss. He added 67 tackles, two interceptions and two passes defensed.
Kiwanuka received Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors for his efforts as a junior. He was also selected to the All-Big East first-team defense and the Associated Press All-America third-team. He was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top defensive end.
In his final NCAA season Kiwanuka recorded 9.5 sacks, two quarterback pressures and 16.5 tackles for losses. He added 51 tackles, four passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Against N.C. State he turned in the best game of his career with 12 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 5.5 tackles for loss. He was named ACC Player of the Week.
Kiwanuka was a finalist again for the Ted Hendricks Award and a semifinalist for the 11th Chuck Bednarik Award.
Ability – Kiwanuka is one of the most athletically gifted players in the draft. Only Mario Williams of N.C. State has a better height-to-speed ratio among the defensive ends.
Kiwanuka's number one asset is his initial burst of speed around the edge. He has good explosion and can turn in a tight radius when taking the corner on an offensive tackle. Only elite offensive tackles like D'Brickashaw Ferguson have shown the ability to match his speed and ride him out of the play. Most of the time he can get past the tackle so quickly that they are unable to get their inside hand on his hip to push him out of the play. Once this happens, the only other option a tackle has is to hook him across the body with their outside arm, which is holding.
His favorite method of rushing the passer is to simply drop his inside shoulder and outrun protection to the quarterback. Frequent use of this technique often sets up the opportunity for an inside spin move. Although he's become an expert at using the spin move off of the speed rush, his arsenal otherwise appears to be limited. He doesn't club and rip well and is rarely successful when attempting to swim his opponent. He also lacks the strength to effectively use a bull rush. Adding these pass-rush techniques would make him twice as dangerous in the NFL.
Like most top-tier defensive ends, Kiwanuka has a lengthy frame and massive wingspan. His long reach gives him a significant advantage when battling offensive linemen for position, knocking down passes or stripping the football from quarterbacks. Kiwanuka still needs to learn to use his height and reach to out-leverage his opponents.
The weakest area of Kiwanuka's game is his run-stopping ability. Although he does a nice job of standing his opponents up and getting into their pads, he tends to struggle when it's time to disengage and make the tackle. He also lacks the power to hold off blockers for an extended period of time. Even average college linemen were able to overcome him when the offense ran right at him.
What Kiwanuka lacks is simply NFL-caliber coaching. Once an NFL strength and conditioning coach gets him in the weight room his game will improve twofold. A position coach will improve on some of his bad habits and sloppy technique. Kiwanuka's faults can be easily corrected and he's a highly intelligent player who is open to coaching.
Forecast – As a rookie, Kiwanuka might best be suited as a situational pass rusher. Until he can bulk up it is hard to imagine him on the field as a three-down player. If he's playing for a blitz-happy team that is willing to take their lumps in the running game, it might work out. He will take his lumps in the running game regardless of who drafts him.
With his weaknesses in the areas of strength and technique, the NFL probably won't see the best of Kiwanuka until 2008. That finished product, however, could be a pass-rushing nightmare rivaling Dwight Freeney and Shawne Merriman. If he receives proper coaching he'll be a pro bowler without question.
Anyone attempting to turn Kiwanuka into a 3-4 outside linebacker will be sorely disappointed. Although Boston College frequently dropped him in zone blitz coverage, he isn't particularly fluid in space.
Campbell's Personal Notes – Kiwanuka is extremely raw for his experience, but his talent is undeniable. Potential is the key word with Kiwanuka, and it's hard to pass on a guy with this much upside.
Unlike some players that carry the label of "potential," Kiwanuka has already proven he has some amazing ability. He's also one of those individuals you don't have to worry about motivating. He'll work hard on his own as long as the coaches point him in the right direction.
When I watched Kiwanuka on film I was most impressed by his amazing balance. He was usually being double-teamed or chop-blocked and I can never recall seeing him on the ground a single time. He always regained his balance and stayed on his feet.
I liked Kiwanuka more and more each time I watched him. I eventually moved him ahead of Daryl Tapp and Tamba Hali on my value board. While I expect Tapp and Hali to have more of an immediate impact, I think Kiwanuka will begin to drastically outperform them in a couple of years. Right now he is sitting behind Mario Williams and Manny Lawson as my third-rated defensive end in the draft.
Tale of the Tape -
College: Boston College
Position: Defensive End
40 Yard Dash: 4.74
10 Yard Dash: 1.66
225-pound Bench Press: 17 reps
Vertical Jump: 32''
Broad Jump: 10'
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.15
Scouting Report: Mathias Kiwanuka
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