For a little background, Burfict was the top-rated high-school linebacker and a top 10 overall recruit coming out of southern California, and he became the highest rated football recruit to ever head to Arizona State. All he's done since is earn a starting spot during his freshman year, one he's never relinquished, and wreak havoc on opponents.
He finished second on the team with 69 tackles as a frosh with seven tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles, and followed that up by leading ASU in tackles with 90 last year to go along with 8.5 tackles for loss, being named Sporting News Pac-10 Defensive MVP and a Sporting News All-American. And he's continuing his stellar play this season for the 5-1 Sun Devils.
But more important than any statistic is the fear Burfict instills in his opponents. At 6'3, 250 lbs, he is a physically imposing force, the ideal size for a middle linebacker. And he has the snarl to match it, with a penchant during his first two seasons for picking up personal fouls and running around like a wild man. This year, he's done a better job of reigning in his fury, limiting the costly personal foul penalties, but his intimidation factor is at all-time high.
Prior to ASU's matchup with USC, Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley called Burfict "a dirty player." Vontaze did not take that kindly, and he let Barkley know it personally (see image). And with that, Burfict put the fear of god in Barkley, almost living up to the reputation just to make Barkley even more spooked.
He committed a personal foul as if to say to Barkley, "You think I'm dirty? I'll show you dirty." Then he picked off the USC QB and returned it 36 yards as the Sun Devils trounced the Trojans 43-22. A large reason for that was the way Burfict got in Barkley's head.
Intimidation has always been a key factor for successful defenses. Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White made quarterbacks fear for their lives. Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater made any receiver dread going over the middle. And Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis often find opponents giving themselves up to avoid the devastating hits both deliver.
There is no player in college football who embodies that intimidation factor better than the middle linebacker for Arizona State. He may have his flaws that he must work on to reach his full potential, but right here and right now, Vontaze Burfict is the most terrifying player in college football.