University of Montana Grizzlies
Bozeman High School
One of the best-kept secrets on the early scouting trails is no longer being "kept under wraps," as every team that has visited Bozeman, Montana, have gone back to their respective complexes to do the same thing – move Brock Coyle's name way up the draft charts. When coaches arrived on campus for Montana's Pro Day on March 17, they saw exactly what their scouts did – a very impressive athlete that might be ready to emerge as the steal of the draft at the middle linebacker position.
Coyle stepped into the blocks that March day and blazed the track to the tune of 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. If he had been invited to attend the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine with the other 35 linebackers in Indianapolis, that time would have ranked third in that group, with only Boston College's Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.51) and Florida State's Telvin Smith (4.52) running faster.
Coyle's three-cone drill of 6.74 seconds would have been second among all linebackers, placing behind South Dakota's Tyler Starr (6.64). His weight room figure of 25 lifts in the 225-pound bench press would have ranked eighth, and his vertical jump of 37-inches would have also finished in eighth place.
Coyle has the size and frame to play any of the three linebacker positions. Some teams recognize that he is such an impressive athlete that he might be utilized as a fullback, a position he played with success during his prep days. He displays solid upper-body muscle development with good arm length and large, natural hands. He has an athletic physique that will fill out further. He has a tight waist and hips with a good bubble and a strong lower frame with minimal body fat (10.8%).
The team captain has been a tackling machine since being inserted into the middle of the lineup as a junior. He led the Grizzlies each season with 107 and 125 hits, respectively, and accounted for 20 stops behind the line of scrimmage, causing seven fumbles from those bone-jarring hits during those two campaigns.
The fifth-year senior had spent his first two seasons on the field as a reserve, sandwiched around a lost 2010 campaign that kept the linebacker on the sideline as a medical redshirt due to shoulder surgery. Since returning to action, with his combination of speed and hitting ability, he would register 293 tackles, tying Caleb McSurdy (2008-10) for 10th place on the school career-record chart. His 24.5 stops-for-loss tied Ryan Fetherston (2008-11) and Ciche Pitcher (2000-03) for 11th on the Montana all-time list.
While most football players spend hours in the training room to hone their skills, Coyle took a different approach with his training regimen – honing his middle linebacker mentality in the shadow of Big Sky Mountain, taking up the sport of ski racing. He was soon competing for the Big Sky Conference Ski Team and in the Junior Olympics on multiple occasions.
"Ski racing, you have one chance to put everything together," Coyle told the Missoulian. "You put all your training you do during the week into that one moment, that one race. That really mentally prepared me for my career in football. It helped me at a young age be mentally tough and focus."
Coyle, a team captain, told the newspaper about putting his confidence to the test as a junior downhiller. One downhill event was held near Whitefish on Big Mountain's legendary Big Ursa run. "It's the fastest race you can do," Coyle said. "When you see it in the Olympics, they can get up to I'm sure like 70 mph.
"I remember that because I was probably the most nervous with the danger factor. You can get severely hurt. I had to mentally get prepared to race this dangerous course, get intense and focused. I would replay the course in my mind so that when I raced I had already gone over it multiple times. I do that with football, too, when I visualize a play and what's coming."
Coyle stopped ski racing as a freshman, at the coaches' request for fear of losing their budding defender.
A linebacker and running back during his three-year career at Bozeman High School, the team captain earned All-State and All-Conference honors as a senior and was an All-Region Class AA choice as a senior. During the 2008 campaign, he gained 509 yards with three touchdowns on 98 carries (5.19 ypc), scoring two more times after gaining 197 yards via 17 receptions.
Coyle saw considerable action as a true freshman as the Grizzlies reached the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game, as the then 205-pound linebacker posted 30 tackles and intercepted a pair of passes. But an incident in the spring of 2010 forever changed the way Coyle looks at football.
"In spring ball, during Coach (Robin) Pflugrad's first year, I just remember the first week I hit (offensive lineman) Charles Burton and my shoulder – it was kind of loose to be honest, a little loose my freshman year – I just knew after that I needed to get surgery if I wanted to play," Coyle said.
He missed the entire 2010 season, gaining a new-found appreciation and a "deeper hunger" for the sport.
By the start of his junior year, Coyle blossomed into a dynamic middle linebacker who seemingly was always around the balll. He rarely came off the field as a three-down defender.
Still, despite leading his team and finishing third in the league, along with placing 28th in the nation with 107 tackles, Coyle only received All-Big Sky Conference honorable mention in 2012, his first as a starter. He had two sacks among his 6.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and caused two fumbles, both leading to Montana touchdown drives.
In 2013, the league coaches only handed Coyle a second-team All-Big Sky Conference nod, despite the fact he was named the top middle linebacker in the FCS with a first-team All-American "seal of approval" from The NFL Draft Report, joining fellow linebacker Jordan Tripp on that team.
The middle linebacker started every game, producing a career-best 125 tackles (60 solos), ranking third on the squad with four sacks and second with 13.5 stops for loss. He also caused five fumbles, setting up four scoring drives in the process, as he killed two other drives with third-down interceptions.
"It all starts with knowledge of the defense and what's going on and what your teammates are doing," Coyle said when asked about his two-year dominance. "It's how you take on blocks, things like that, knowing where that ball carrier will possibly end up.
"Then once you see him, it's just a reaction. You have to take your shot and wrap up and be physical. That's the biggest thing. You have to make sure you hit him and he doesn't hit you. You have to bring that physical nature and violence to defense."
As for his future in the National Football League, Coyle might lack the tall stature you look for in a linebacker, but he is a well-built athlete with room on his frame to add more bulk. He demonstrates very good closing speed and shows good urgency getting to the ball once he locates it. He might lack great size, but he is an athletic type with the speed to run to the football and the strength to strike on contact.
By his high amount of impact hits, you can see that Coyle is a physical tackler with a normal running stride. He shows very good arm usage when working in-line and has the range to make plays on the move. He flashes above average acceleration to the ball and has the lateral quickness to make plays along the sidelines, thanks to fluid hip flexibility.
Coyle has appeared in 52 games for Montana, starting the final 24 contests at middle linebacker…Recorded 293 tackles (121 solos) with 7.5 sacks for minus 41 yards, 24.5 stops for losses of 82 yards and five quarterback pressures…Deflected seven passes and intercepted five others for 54 yards in returns…Advanced one of two fumble recoveries 23 yards and caused five other fumbles.