Dorian Bell was one of the most exciting linebackers to come to the Bluff in ages. He was a sure sign of legitimacy for a defense that was up-and-coming in its new scholarship status and looked to be a force in the NEC. Once he was available to play, he delivered. Bell earned All-American honors for his performance – and what a strong performance. Despite being limited in his action, he led the defense in many statistical categories.
It wasn’t surprising at all to see him on the Buck Buchanan watch list before the season. Nor was his preseason First Team All-American nod by the FCS gurus at The Sports Network a shock. He was someone who could be a force even at the FBS level. Surely the FCS wouldn’t be a problem in 2013, just as it wasn’t in 2012.
Unfortunately, despite preseason hype this past year, he was unable to meet expectations. He had worse individual overall numbers despite playing in more games. He had some shining moments, but in general the spark didn’t seem to be there. At best, he was able to take pressure off of his teammates so that they could get it done. At worst, he was invisible.
So what about Kuntz? While he doesn’t have the FBS hype surrounding him, he has some expectations as he enters his junior year. Like Bell, he was an All-American pick following the season. Like Bell, he had some extraordinary production.
Bell had the FBS chops, but I think that Kuntz will actually be in a better position than Bell to produce following such accolades.
First, the defense is poised to be very strong. Zach Zidian emerged as a force on the line, and Kuntz’s fellow linebacker Aaron Reed just earned All-Freshman honors. Armstead Williams will provide another experienced hand. This will be a proven defense next year, both in terms of returning players as well as experienced newcomers.
For Bell’s senior year, certainly the defense had potential on paper, but there were a lot of question marks – and a lot of youth – which meant that he had to be everything. He had to give some help to others, which took him away from some of the splash plays. That also meant that teams focused a lot on stopping only him. This is in stark contrast to the prior year, where he was one of several talented linebackers who commanded attention.
Kuntz will be in a better position simply because the team around him is going to be more proven than it was for Bell. He doesn’t have to wait for anyone to grow into a role – many of the players are already there. It’s hard to predict from so far out, but my money is on Kuntz to have an excellent year – and lead the defense to one of their best years ever.