Breaking Down The Tape: Vuna Tuihalamaka

With former starters Tyjuan Hagler and Freddie Keiaho no longer on the Colts, one of the biggest competitions this summer could be among players vying for a chance to round out Indianapolis’ linebacker depth.  One player who hopes to make his way onto the roster is Vuna Tuihalamaka, who played college ball at Arizona.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=1nefeyOGmNQ

At 6-foot tall and 230 pounds, Tuihalamaka is the lightest linebacker on the roster and is built similar to Ramon Humber.  While his 4.70 40-yard dash time at Arizona’s Pro Day is nothing to get excited about, his highlight video suggests he plays much faster on the field.

The video shows that Tuihalamaka plays well when he is assigned a gap, sticks with the ball, has excellent vision, and quickly closes on ball carriers in the hole.  Even more impressive is the lateral mobility he displays pursuing rushers down the line, staying in front of them, and securing the tackle when the rusher attempts to make a cut down-field.

In coverage, Tuihalamaka is patient, keeps his eyes on the quarterback, and quickly dissects plays to keep receivers from generating yards after the catch.  Another key attribute is that Tuihalamaka plays with great balance, not over-pursuing shifty runners.

Two other things to note is that he gets off of blocks well and displays potential as a pass rusher when he is sent after the quarterback on a blitz.  What really differentiates Tuihalamaka from a lot of linebacker prospects is that he is comfortable turning his back and running down-field with receiver in coverage, an area where the Colts linebacker corps is particularly weak.

With all of these positives, it might seem unclear why a player like Tuihalamaka would fall to free agency.  The biggest reasons likely have to do with the fact that smallish linebackers are not coveted by many teams in the NFL and that Arizona is not a powerhouse football program that is regularly tested against elite college competition.  Generally speaking, Tuihalamaka will be compared to and will have to play against higher caliber athletes than he has ever been exposed to and his game-speed on the film translate to the NFL.

Still, the skill-set Tuihalamaka possesses, the fundamentals of playing linebacker, could give him an opportunity to make the final roster, or at least convince the Colts to keep him around on the practice squad to develop and grow.

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