Scouting Report: Is Vince Biegel an ILB or OLB?
Vince Biegel is a tackling machine.
That’s what scouts have been saying about the Packers newest linebacker since high school.
In 2011 as a senior for Wisconsin Rapids, Biegel was named Gatorade’s Wisconsin player of the year after leading his squad to the Division 1 state championship game and finishing his career with 172 tackles and 21 sacks.
At 6-4, 234 pounds in college, Biegel was a “tweener” in a 4-3 defense. Too big to be an outside linebacker, but too small to play defensive end.
“That’s what I was looking for in my recruiting,” Biegel said in a March 2013 interview. “I wanted a 3-4.”
Schools that ran a 3-4 defense at the time, including Brigham Young (his father’s alma mater), Michigan and Stanford all recruited Biegel. Once Wisconsin offered him a scholarship, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to stay in-state.
Biegel thrived in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defensive scheme
After Bret Bielema left Wisconsin after Biegel’s freshman season, Gary Andersen was hired as head coach and brought with him defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and his 3-4 defensive scheme.
“For these coaches to come here and have a 3-4, at Wisconsin, my home state, I couldn’t be more excited,” Biegel said after Andersen’s hiring. “After I put on a little more weight, it's going to be the right spot for me. I can move around in space, but at the same time, get after the passer.”
By his junior season, Biegel had earned the trust of Andersen and Aranda. The coaching staff opened up their bag of tricks to move the talented linebacker around the field, lining him up at both defensive end and outside linebacker throughout the season.
Unfortunately for Biegel throughout his five years at Wisconsin, he was never truly the lead pass rusher. In his breakout 2014 season, senior Derek Landisch led the team with eight sacks. The following season, senior Joe Schobert earned All-American honors. Then, his senior season featured the emergence of T.J. Watt, drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Badgers asked Biegel to change positions before his senior season. Instead of lining up on the short side of the field at linebacker, Biegel shifted to lining up on the wide side of the field and was asked to cover more.
In Biegel’s old position was T.J. Watt, who led Wisconsin with 11.5 sacks.
Is Vince Biegel an inside linebacker or an outside linebacker?
That shift to wide side linebacker is largely why many in the NFL scouting community felt Biegel had a future as an inside linebacker.
It doesn’t really matter where Biegel lines up on the field if you ask him, though. Just as long as he’s out there.
“I’ve showed versatility,” Biegel said before the draft in an interview with LombardiAve.com. “I’ve played outside linebacker and some snaps I’ve moved to inside linebacker. I’ve played 4i. I’ve played in a nickel spot as well. I’m versatile. I’m a smart player and I’m eager to learn.”
With a healthy roster, the Packers need Biegel to contribute as a pass rusher. The loss of Julius Peppers and Datone Jones limits the team’s depth at outside linebacker, and it’s likely Biegel will be counted on early to contribute there.
Here’s what everyone’s missing about Vince Biegel
Many are quick to point out the rookie’s Wisconsin roots. His grandfather played at UW-Eau Claire, his father was a state champion in wrestling for Wisconsin Rapids and Vince himself is named after Vince Lombardi, the Packers’ legendary coach.
On the field, Biegel has been a tablesetter. In three years as a starter, Biegel never led the Badgers in sacks. Instead, he applied just enough pressure and proved to be enough of a threat to allow his counterparts to find success.
Perhaps this attribute could be part of the solution to salvaging the final years of Clay Matthews’ tenure in Green Bay and kickstarting Nick Perry’s career. If Biegel proves to be a worthy pass rusher in the NFL, Matthews and Perry will have an easier time getting to the quarterback.
The Packers aren’t very far defensively from being championship caliber. Perhaps Vince Biegel can be one of a handful of pieces to help Green Bay win its way to this year’s Super Bowl.