Cal Haladay is an instinctual, wrecking-ball-of-a linebacker. He plays with exceptional speed and violence, (the first play of his highlight tape he literally knocks somebody out. I Really hope that kid is okay.
At 6 feet 200 pounds, Cal reminds me of how linebacker used to look. Funny thing is, those type of players are making a comeback, being increasingly coveted by defensive coordinators that are struggling to stop this collegiate offensive onslaught. The spread has completely and forever changed football.
Michigan State employs a base 4-2 and uses multiple packages on 3rd and long that require at most times 4~5 off the ball box players. Safety, Linebacker type guys who can bang around in the box but still peel off into man or zone coverage, and not be a liability. Cal should be contributing as one of these off-ball defenders in Mike Tressel's defense by his sophomore year.
Cal's eyes stay disciplined and doesn't wonder around where they shouldn't be. They always seem to be fixated on the ball carrier. This allows his speed to shine when he's hunting down the running back. I did see him peel off to engage a fullback as if they had drilled it up exactly like that in practice. He lowered his shoulder as if to emulate a very specific technique. This gives me comfort about his ability to execute, because there is verified proof he can succeed within a system, not just as an individual talent.
He's consistently meeting ballcarriers behind the LOS, and completely blows by most offensive linemen that try to block him. His speed reminds me 2019 5th-rounder (Seahawks) Benn Burr-Kirven, check out his HS highlights here, and tell me they don't look exactly alike.
Consistent violence in every tackle. He is the hammer, not the nail. I think any concerns about this are addressed on the first play of the highlight tape.
Questions & Concerns
It's not so much that he is bad in pass coverage, rather there wasn't any film with him dropping back and sitting and defending a zone, or even a tight end. His speed would make you think that he is capable, but if he was, why isn't it on film?
I got the feeling by the look of his opponent and the level of competition, that he didn't face many larger offensive linemen. However, 6'0 200 lbs (in my humble 6'0 200 lb opinion) is tall enough for ILB. But when you're banging around with 300 pound lineman every day, you can't be only 200 pounds. Senior year will let us know if he can still move like a ballistic missile at (hopefully) 215-220.
C/O 2020 Recruiting
Michigan State now ranks a measly 10th in the big 10 and 46th nationally. Clearly, Dantonio's got a whole-lotta ground to cover, with just one 4-star recruit signed to his 2020 class. Check out Cal's future teamate and fellow class of 2020 commit, Dallas Fincher. Michigan State beat out Michigan, Nebraska, and Northwestern to land Haladay.