Saturday, November 8, 2008

Player Anatomy: LB Rey Maualuga, USC


Character / Leadership Ability:
After some minor off the field problems early on, Maualuga has had no other character problems.

Competitive Nature / Work Ethic: He plays with a lot of passion and is as intense as any player in the nation. He never quits on a play and always works hard to get to the ball.

Football Intelligence: He’s in his third season as a starter. Maualuga makes the audible calls for the front seven. Where he does need to improve is his recognition against the run. He could also play with a little more discipline.

Size: Has prototypical size for the position with a pro body. His weight fluctuates and he could probably benefit from losing a few pounds.

Athletic Ability: An incredible athlete—fast, free-flowing, agile. He is able to change direction with ease. Packed with loads of raw ability and power, Maualuga is as good of an athlete at middle linebacker as there has been in years.

Toughness / Durability: For a player who plays so recklessly, Maualuga has been fairly durable, although he has had some minor injuries. In his junior year, he recorded two sacks in a game while he was bothered by a hip pointer, displaying the ability to play through pain.

Speed: This Man of Troy possesses excellent speed for a middle linebacker, especially one of his size, and incredible short-area burst. He changes direction with ease and doesn’t lose much speed. Always appears to be running downhill.

Instincts / Recognition: For as good of a player as he is, one would expect a little more production from the senior linebacker. He’s not always the first player on the ball and needs to improve his recognition against the run, as he will occasionally fill the wrong lane.

Pass Rush: Mostly a straight-forward pass rusher, he can be inconsistent in his rush and tends to get his sacks in bunches. He uses a swim move nicely and has the strength to shed blockers quickly.

Pursuit: Maualuga’s intensity can get him in trouble because he’ll over-pursue on plays from time to time. When he plays with patience, Maualuga is excellent in pursuit. He has the speed to chase down most opponents and the power to take anyone down; a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker.

An explosive tackler who has made a lot of highlight-reel hits during his career. Not just a flashy big hitter, he is also a technically sound drive tackler. Once he gets his hands on an opponent, the play is as good as over.

Coverage: While he may not be a natural, he’s a much better coverage linebacker than most give him credit for. Maualuga has good range, can move well laterally, and can keep up with most tight ends and running backs.

Shedding Blocks:
Unlike a lot of collegiate linebackers, Maualuga doesn’t have trouble shedding blocks, using his speed and strength to free himself up. He often disengages from linemen before they can lock on.

Photo Credit: Sam Haythorn