After receiving the devastating news about Jake Ryan’s ACL, I decided to do my next report on what many are calling the next Jake Ryan. Kyle Berger is a 6’2”, 200-pound LB prospect in the 2014 class from St. Ignatius High School in Ohio. Interestingly enough, St. Ignatius is the alma mater of, you guessed it, Jake Ryan. As a 4-star and the #204 player in the nation, Berger has an impressive early offer sheet of Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, MSU, OSU, PSU, Tennessee, UCLA, and West Virginia (Rivals).
While it is still early in the process, this looks to come down to another Michigan – Ohio State battle. Initially it was rumored that Kyle was a huge OSU lean since he grew up as a Buckeye fan, but due to the recruiting efforts of Michael Ferns and Wilton Speight (and sure, the coaches too), Michigan was able to get him on campus and shorten the gap. One of the biggest selling points for Michigan could be Jake Ryan, and the staff would be smart to show Kyle how they transformed this former 3 star recruit into a potential All-American.
So what exactly makes Kyle a 4-star? Take a look…
The first thing to note about Kyle is that his projected position is clear; he is a SAM LB. His entire tape (outside of special teams) has him playing the SAM, and when he is able to add another 35-40 pounds he should be fit to play there at the next level. St. Ignatius uses Kyle much like Michigan uses Jake, minus the occasional pass rushing out of a 3 pt stance. His film shows his ability to rush the passer, step up against the run, a little zone coverage, and even some Goodell-cringing special teams blocks.
Kyle as a player reminds me a lot of Jordan Kovacs… just hear me out. I’m making the comparison based on their physical abilities, relative to their position. At the SS position, Jordan is not the fastest or most athletic, but what he lacks in raw ability he makes up for with sound fundamentals, consistency, and having a “nose” for the ball. Jordan does a great job of diagnosing plays, and when he gets a man in open space you can count on him to make the tackle. This is what I see from Kyle, just out of the LB position.
First let’s analyze Kyle in the rushing game. As stated earlier, Kyle has good instincts and gets a good first step towards the ball carrier. At the high school level, he does an ok job of shedding blockers that make it to the second level. There are times however that he can get locked up for a bit too long, and as a result gets stuck making the tackle from behind. Once he starts putting on weight, Kyle should be able to use his size to help him get better leverage on blockers. On top of that, he would benefit from adding some new moves to his repertoire. Shedding blockers on running plays usually consists of him using a combination of strength and speed to try and force his way open. Adding different moves and techniques would keep defenders guessing, and would allow him to get off the block faster.
When Kyle gets to the ball, the play is dead. He does a good job of wrapping up while hitting, which is nice to see when so many players today just try to dip a shoulder and lay someone out. However don’t be mistaken, Kyle can bring the heat. For the plays that he can’t make a textbook tackle, Kyle can still find ways to bring the ball carrier down. This is what makes him so effective. While it’s not the type of thing that you coach, there are a handful of plays where Kyle makes some impressive shoe string tackles. There are others where he is still out of position, but is able to get a hand on the runner, hold on, and bring him down.
His speed, while not horrible, will probably be one of the determining factors that set his ceiling level. With his nose for the ball he should be able to meet the runner to the edge, but too many plays on his tape showed him making the tackle near the sideline. Kyle is able to make reads and get to the ball carrier even when he is running to the far side, though his lateral speed could still use some work. If the strength and conditioning coaches can improve his lateral range, Kyle has the potential to be a future team leader in tackles.
As a prospect, there are two factors to his run support that really catch my eye. First is his knack of staying at home and containing when he is in the backfield. On a number of plays, the runner was going to the weak side of the field, and then attempted to reverse sides only to be caught in the backfield by Kyle. Some players tend to bite on plays like that (cough cough Frank Clark), so it’s nice to see a prospect poised enough to keep their assignments. The other thing that is probably overlooked, but very important is his ability to play against the option. This past year, teams such as Air Force and Northwestern killed Michigan with the option. Kyle does an exceptional job of getting in position to make the runner hesitate and ultimately buy time for his team. He also has good instincts when it comes to choosing which option to attack, and has made plays on either the running back or quarterback even when the help is not there. To sum it up, Kyle does not get tricked easily, if ever.
Along with presenting a strong run support, Kyle has the ability to blitz the quarterback from all over the field. He has lined up and attacked on the outside of the tackle as well as on the interior of line, and can be effective at both immediate and delayed blitzes. Seeing how Greg Mattison uses Jake in his system, it would be nice to see some footage of Kyle blitzing with his hand in the dirt. Kyle is no slouch, but lacks the elite burst to beat his blocker to the spot. Once again, with more coaching he will be able to learn new techniques to keep his defender constantly guessing, which will allow him to get to the quarterback faster. Aside from just bull rushing, Kyle did show some moves such as the swim move and spin, but neither looked to be real effective. He also displayed a move where he basically pulls the defender forward when his weight is too far forward (see the 3:25 and 4:22 mark). While this play was effective, it can only be done when the defender puts himself in that position, which doesn’t happen often.
Oh and when I say bull rushing, I mean it (see 10:40 mark).
The last job that the LB is responsible for is helping out in pass coverage. There was not much film on him regarding this aspect, but like all other aspects of his game, Kyle did a good job of getting into position. He also was able to keep his eye on the quarterback while covering his zone, and on one play was able to get hand on the ball. Note that this analysis is off of just a couple plays, and due to the lack of more film it’s possible that he could need more work on this.
I just want to make this clear, I like Kyle as a prospect and feel that he would be a great fit at SAM for Michigan’s program. My analysis of him is probably too picky, but I like to be as thorough with my evaluations as possible. In general, we are looking at a low risk, medium-high ceiling prospect. His development will largely depend on how much weight he puts on and how it’s carried, along with how well he can improve his techniques to shake blockers both in the run and pass game. At this point I really can’t tell where I think he will end up, but I’m almost certain that it’ll be Michigan or Ohio State. For everything related to Michigan football or basketball, stay tuned to BBR. As always, Go Blue!
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