Being an amateur talent evaluator, a heavy portion of my opinion regarding players centers on determining which programs offered him (Let it be said, that you can hardly trust recruiting sites for this information. Most of the kids will just lie to help boost their profile). But if you read around about the prospects enough and discuss with rival fanbases, you will generally get an idea who is a real target and who is not.
Obviously, a USC offer is more valuable than a TCU one. Peeling back another layer, I try to see which coaches offer certain players. For instance, Rick Trickett from FSU has a long history of late offering sleeper lineman prospects because other programs will follow suit just based on Trickett's stamp of approval. He has a lengthy list of proteges including Wayne Gandy, Kendall Simmons, Willie Anderson and more (he coached here in 2000, if you didn't know).
Anyways, all this long boring info to say that John Chavis carries a similar track record with linebackers. If you sort through the list of lowly ranked prospects he's turned into NFL 1st Rounders, you can't help but be impressed (Kelvin Sheppard looks to be his latest claim). Of the players in this class that come in with a low ranking and the potential to be the next great Chavis linebacker, Luke Muncie fits the bill.Muncie doesn't boast a robust offer list, but it's nothing to sneeze at either. Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are among the D1 heavyweights who were interested in acquiring his services. Muncie certainly passes the eyeball test at 6'3, 215 pounds. He's listed as running a 4.49, which is tremendous speed. Further, anyone who checks out his tape can't help but be excited about his potential.
What you see in Muncie are a lot of raw physical tools. He's big. He's fast. And he knows how to hit. What more could you want in a LBer? Straight line speed is sometimes overrated for linebackers, but Muncie shows good start/stop ability and excellent explosion through his hits. He flashes the ability to close down on a tackle, but needs to do so more consistently. Overall, the physical tools are there. Unless Muncie comes up against injury problems, I will never worry about his physical ability to make plays.
The bigger question will be, can he put it together mentally? Muncie is really a raw, upside prospect (you don't hear that about many white guys, do you?). He makes plays using his pure athleticism. However, his technique stills needs to be refined. Most importantly, Muncie must learn how to take on and disengage blockers, which will be essential to his success at the next level. Jacob Cutrera, a similarly built and athletic LBer (though with less speed) who struggled to learn this trait and failed to ever develop into a full-fledged force for LSU.
Yet, there's good reason to hope. The release of the 2010 depth chart yesterday confirmed summer reports that Muncie impressed. With the injury to Ryan Baker, Muncie put his best foot forward as a true freshman with an opportunity to earn early playing time. He enters the fall listed as the co-backup with Tahj Jones to Stefoin Francois at SLB. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see him step on the field early and often this season. Muncie brings a size to the LBers unseen by any other except Kelvin Sheppard.
So what does all this mean? Well, I put A LOT of stock in Chavis' history with churning out top flight linebackers. He's interested in athletes he can mold more than technically refined guys. Muncie fits that bill. His early success shows me that the mental hurdles will be easily eclipsed by him.
High End: Sounds crazy, but I really think Muncie has the opportunity to end up being a top-round draft pick. I could throw out a dozen white LBer comparisons here, but I'll resist. He's athletically comparable to Jerod Mayo, who he is also two inches taller than and only 20 pounds lighter... as a true freshman. If Muncie continues to grow into his frame without sacrificing speed the potential is there for an All-Conference type of player...at worst.
Low End: There's a ton of young talent at the LB position these days and more coming in. Could Muncie get lost in the shuffle? After his summer performance this year, I don't believe so, but stranger things have happened. If he gets overtaken by a younger player, Muncie may never have the opportunity to be a great player.
Realistic: Looking at the depth chart, it seems Muncie will have to wait at least two seasons before he can actually be a "starter." However, I expect him to play this year, both on special teams and in certain packages as a LBer. His role should grow next season and into full-time starting as a junior. From there, I see him growing into a stud player and NFL draft pick.