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Preseason Scouting Notes: Kuony Deng, LB, California

Redshirt Senior | 6’5” 225 lbs | Aldie, VA

 

Jumbo-sized, versatile linebacker with high-end traits who needs to develop his instincts and tackling skills

 

Overview:

Kuony Deng’s began his collegiate career as a dual-sport athlete at Virginia Military Institute, playing on the LOS as a 3-4 OLB for the football team and Small Forward for the basketball squad. After a season-ending injury forced him to redshirt his second season, Deng transferred to Last Chance U’s Independence Community College and parlayed his success into a starting role at ILB with the Cal Golden Bears in 2019. Though he was initially expected to play outside linebacker in Cal’s hybrid 2-4-5 defense, Deng ended up starting next to Evan Weaver in the middle of the field. With Weaver off to the NFL, Deng now takes the reins of Justin Wilcox’s defense.

Strengths:

– Towering, but slender frame and multi-positional experience gives him versatility to play in multiple systems
– Explosive downhill force. Attacks gaps with suddenness while dissecting plays
– Solid sideline-to-sideline range. Patrols with long, efficient strides
– Terrific arm length helps him shed blocks with relative ease
– Shows above average range on zone drops
– Quick first-step off the edge
– Length and speed helps him affect passing windows

Areas to improve:

– Needs to improve considerably as a tackler. Fails to wrap up in most profile and angle tackling situations
– His understanding of route combinations is rudimentary
– Limited experience playing man coverage against tight ends and receivers
– Eager blitzer without a pass rush plan
– Positional instincts need more development

Injury concerns:

– Dealing with “upper-body” injury reported during the spring of 2020
– Suffered undisclosed season-ending injury his sophomore year

Projection:

Deng’s unique build, speed and power make him extremely scheme versatile. He could play Mike or Sam in a 4-3, and could potentially play any LB spot in a 3-4 scheme. While he has the potential to be a high-end, 3-level impact linebacker, Deng will likely be a day three pick and become a versatile backup and special teams contributor as a rookie unless he develops considerably in 2020. 

What to watch in 2020:

A lot of questions loom over Deng’s senior season at CAL. Will he clean up his tackling technique? Can he become the defensive leader in the wake of Weaver’s departure? With the Golden Bears losing the heart of their defense and the vocal leader, Deng has big shoes to fill. As his understanding of the ILB position grows, the development of Deng’s positional instincts will be vital. One thing worth noting is the discrepancy between his listed weight at different websites. The Golden Bears’ team website lists him at 250 pounds, but he looks much closer to the 225 pound listing on other sites. If he truly is up to 250 pounds, it may sap some of his mobility.