Sometimes, there are players who just seem to have a nose for the football. They stand out on film, consistently involved in every single play, never making the wrong first step. That’s Jordan Kunasyzk in a nutshell. And as he leaves the Golden Bears behind to begin his journey at the next level, it is easy to see why the linebacker has been the foundation around which Cal’s defense was built.
Listed at 6 feet 3 and 235 pounds, Kunaszyk knows how to get the most out of his body on every play. While he can deliver punishing hits in the run game, he also has the ability to drop back and lock down his zone in the middle of the field, serving as a nightmare for quarterbacks who try to get passes past his frame.
Take for his instance his interception against Oregon in 2017. He correctly read the quarterback’s eyes, and even though the pass was a little high, he still managed to snag it and return it for 53 yards. That would just be the start for what looked to be a promising junior season.
But even as injuries limited him to just eight games, Kunaszyk made sure his impact was felt not just by opposing players but also by his teammates. He notched three consecutive games of double-digit tackles and had perhaps his finest effort against Washington State.
The Cougars were ranked eighth nationally coming into the game, but they simply could not account for No. 59. He found himself unblocked on delayed blitzes to jar the ball loose, beat linemen to get into the backfield, and even managed to pick off a tipped ball just before it hit the ground. His standout efforts were reflected in the box score, where he racked up 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception and a forced fumble as Cal dominated Washington State.
With now two years at Cal under his belt, Kunaszyk really came into his own during his senior season. He started off strong and dependable in the first few games, but it was actually during a rough stretch for the Golden Bears that Kunasyzk proved his worth.
While some players might lose heart in defeat, the senior never quit, forcing a fumble against both Oregon and Arizona before unleashing one of the most impressive performances by a linebacker this season against UCLA. Despite losing 37-7, Kunasyzk remained a thorn in the Bruins side, posting an incredible 22 total tackles (including 14 solo) as well as a forced fumble for the third straight game. His efforts continued to stymie offenses, and it culminated in a bowl performance where he registered 14 total tackles and an interception against TCU.
From his downhill speed, play recognition, and pass coverage skills, Kunasyzk is the complete package.
– David Chough
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Analyst