May 2, 2015 12:00 PM PT
Alameda, California – The Oakland Raiders selected University of Kansas Linebacker Ben Heeney in the 5th round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Ben Heeney 6 foot tall and 231 pounds. He led Kansas in tackles for the last three seasons topping out his senior year with 127. While Heeney is a undersized he plays fast with good speed. Aggressive pursuit angles. His switch is always flipped on the field, displaying a motor that never quits and chasing down plays he has no business being involved in. Smart, instinctive player who read/reacts well, breaking down well on the move. Locks onto his target quickly and doesn’t make many mistakes. Physical wrap-up tackler and throws his body around with toughness to take the punishment. Plays pissed off with a chip and violent, competitive nature. Floats well in coverage to jump passes and get his hands on the ball (eight passes defended, four interceptions in his career). Experienced with man coverage responsibilities and was often the only linebacker on the field, rarely leaving the field. Physical downhill blitzer. Try-hard motor and leaves it all out on the field with resilient mentality. Handled adversity with a handful of different coaches in his four seasons at Kansas (9-39 record over that stretch).
Henry Led the Jayhawks in tackles each of the past three seasons, and led the NCAA in solo tackles in 2014 with 7.3 per game
Tackles Sacks Tackles for Loss
127 1.5 12.0
2014 (Sr.): Named Fourth Team All-America by Phil Steele Magazine… Honorable Mention Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year… Selected as a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team honoree by the Associated Press, conference coaches, 247sports.com, ESPN.com, Phil Steele Magazine, Waco Tribune-Herald, FOXSports.com and CBSSports.com… Voted a team captain for the second-straight season… Invited to play in the 2015 East-West Shrine Game following the season… Started all 12 games in 2014… Finished the regular season with 127 tackles, one shy of the conference lead… Led the NCAA and Big 12 in solo tackles with 7.3 per outing…Recorded the 2014 Big 12 single-game high 21 tackles at Texas Tech – 17 of which were solo tackles – marking the second-most in a single game in conference history… Tackled in double digits seven times on the year… Finished his career with 335 total tackles which is eighth best in KU history… He also recorded 35.5 tackles-for-loss in his career which ranks fourth best in the Kansas record book… Opened his senior campaign with a team-high 11 tackles vs. SEMO… Collected 15 tackles, tying a then-career-high, and posted one tackle- for-loss at Duke… Boasted seven solo tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage and a forced fumble against Central Michigan… Totaled 10 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one quarterback hurry and one fumble recovery against Texas… Posted six tackles and two tackles-for-loss at West Virginia… Logged a game-high 14 tackles and a sack to go with 3.5 tackles for loss against Oklahoma State… Boasted the most single-game tackles at KU since 1979 and a Big 12 Conference season-high, along with a personal-best, 21 total stops along with an interception at Texas Tech… Logged his sixth double-digit tackling effort of 2014 with 10 tackles and carried the ball once for no gain at Baylor… Garnered seven tackles against Iowa State… Led the field with 11 total tackles against TCU… Contributed nine tackles – including one behind the line of scrimmage – forced a fumble and recorded one quarterback hurry at Oklahoma… Provided six tackles, including one in the backfield, at K-state.
2013 (Jr.): Selected as an All-Big 12 First Team selection by Phil Steele Magazine and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection by the conference coaches, Associated Press, San Antonio Express-News, Athlon Sports and the Waco Tribune-Herald after he finished fourth in the conference with 8.7 tackles per game and ranked fifth in tackles-for-loss per game with 1.15…Played in 10 games, starting all 10 at MLB…Missed the Oklahoma and Baylor games with an injury… Finished with a team-best 88 total stops, including 11.5 tackles for loss and the first three interceptions of his career… Reached double figures in tackles in six of his 10 games played, including four Big 12 contests… Tallied four tackles, all solos, in KU’s win over South Dakota…Credited with 1.0 sack for a loss of four yards vs. the Coyotes… Turned in a career-best 15 tackles at Rice… Also had 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack and two pass breakups… Had his first career interception to go along with 10 tackles, one pass breakup and 0.5 TFL vs. LA Tech… Led KU with 12 tackles, including seven solos, in the TTU game… Recorded aninterception for the second-straight game…Also had 2.0 TFLs vs. the Red Raiders… Had two tackles at TCU, including 1.0TFL,beforeleavingthegamewithaninjury…Returned from injury vs.Texas collecting a team-high nine tackles… Led KU with 11 tackles, including two TFLs, and a quarterback hurry at Oklahoma State… Had four tackles, including a TFL, plus an interception which he returned 28 yards in KU’s win over West Virginia… Tallied 11 tackles and one quarterback hurry at Iowa State… Led KU with 10 tackles vs. Kansas State, including 1.5 TFLs.
2012 (So.): Garnered All-Big 12 Second Team honors by the league’s coaches as well as the Associated Press and Phil Steele Magazine… Started all 12 games at middle linebacker… Ranked third in the Big 12 in total tackles (112) and tackles per game (9.3)… Also ranked fifth in the league in TFLs (12.0)… His 12 TFLs produced a loss of 31 yards… Also had a sack, a forced fumble and two pass breakups… Had five games with double-digit tackles… Made first career start and collected five tackles against South Dakota State… Recorded 12 stops at Northern Illinois… Made a career-high 14 tackles, including a pair of TFLs and a forced fumble, at Kansas State… Had nine stops, including seven solos, against Oklahoma State… Totaled 13 stops against Texas and added a pass breakup… Recorded 13 tackles, incluing a solo TFL and a quarterback hurry, at Baylor… Made nine tackles, including two TFLs, at Texas Tech… Registered 13 tackles, including one TFL, against Iowa State… Collected a career-best four TFLs, including first sack, along with eight total tackles at West Virginia.
2011 (Fr.): Played in all 12 contests, seeing time on defense as well as special teams… Made collegiate debut against McNeese State, recording two tackles, including one solo stop… Had single tackles against Northern Illinois, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma and Texas… Matched season high with two tackles against Kansas State… One of 10 true freshmen to play in 2011.
High School: Ranked as the 12th-best player in the state of Kansas and the 58th-best outside linebacker in the nation according to Rivals.com… Named to the Wichita Eagle’s Top 11 football team… Named 5A first-team all-state by the Topeka Capital-Journal as a running back… Rushed for 2,083 yards and 39 touchdowns on 246 carries as a senior, setting school records in both yards and touchdowns in a season… Ran for a school-record 333 yards against Salina Central… Defensively recorded 143 career tackles, including 14 for loss… Added four interceptions.
Personal: Born in Overland Park, Kansas… Son of Joe and Mitzi Heeney… Has one brother… Father and two uncles played baseball at KU… Majoring in liberal arts and sciences.
Player Overview CBS Sports
Heeney had virtually no experience at linebacker in high school and didn’t get much instruction there as a freshman, but the new coaching staff saw his potential and he flourished as a three-year starter, leading the Jayhawks in tackles each season. He lacks ideal NFL size and length, but leaves it all on the field and thrives on instincts, playing with a throwback, fierce style. There is a lot to like about Heeney with his play speed and read/react skills to be a hunter, but the body stiffness and average athleticism limit his next level upside.
A three-star LB recruit out of high school, Heeney received only two FBS-level scholarship offers (Kansas and Colorado State), but fortunately one was the Jayhawks, his dream school and where his father and two uncles played baseball. A running back in high school, he didn’t see the field much as a true freshman, but earned the starting MLB job as a sophomore in 2012 and led the team in tackles (112), earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors. Heeney missed two games due to injury (knee) in 2013, but still led the team in stops (88) and again took home Second Team All-Big 12 honors. He had his best statistical season in 2014 as a senior, finishing with 127 total tackles and 12.0 tackles for loss, earning First Team All-Big 12 honors.
STRENGTHS/WEAKNESSES CBS Sports
STRENGTHS: Good play speed with fast, aggressive pursuit angles. The switch is always flipped on the field, displaying a motor that never quits and chasing down plays he has no business being involved in. Smart, instinctive player who read/reacts well, breaking down well on the move. Locks onto his target quickly and doesn’t make many mistakes. Physical wrap-up tackler and throws his body around with toughness to take the punishment. Plays pissed off with a chip and violent, competitive nature. Floats well in coverage to jump passes and get his hands on the ball (eight passes defended, four interceptions in his career). Experienced with man coverage responsibilities and was often the only linebacker on the field, rarely leaving the field. Physical downhill blitzer. Try-hard motor and leaves it all out on the field with resilient mentality. Handled adversity with a handful of different coaches in his four seasons at Kansas (9-39 record over that stretch).
Productive career — led the Jayhawks in tackles each of the past three seasons, and led the NCAA in solo tackles in 2014 with 7.3 per game.
WEAKNESSES: Undersized with a maxed-out build and short arms. Limited athlete and tight in space, lacking easy fluidity to quickly recover after false steps. Plays fast, but straight-linish and needs to stop and collect himself changing directions. Hits too high at times and will slide off ballcarriers. Needs to improve his discipline to better balance his nonstop movements with his ball awareness. Overaggressive angles and will misjudge speed of ballcarriers at times. Shows body stiffness in coverage and struggles to find the ball once his back is turned to the line of scrimmage. Needs to improve his technique to better stack-and-shed and work his way through the trash. -Dane Brugler
Oakland Raiders Q & A Transcript
Q: When did you get the idea the Raiders were interested in you?
Heeney: “Not even, man. That caught me so off guard. I had no idea, but I couldn’t be happier. So happy. No one has really been in contact with me from the Raiders, so it’s kind of caught me off guard. I guess that’s when the best things happen, when you don’t expect them.”
Q: What do you know about this team and this defense?
Heeney: “I don’t know much, to be honest with you. I know that Sal Sunseri is the linebackers coach. I’m very excited to work with him. I know [defensive coordinator] Ken Norton, [Jr.] is just an amazing coach, the defensive coordinator. I just can’t wait to get up there and try to prove myself and become one of the guys.”
Q: Where do you see yourself fitting best in a 4-3 defense?
Heeney: “I think I can play anything. I think I can play Mike, Will – I really think I can play anything and be productive and be a guy that you guys can count on. More than anything, I’m ready to come in and pave my way on special teams and try to be a guy is a four[-unit] special teams starter. I think I can start on every special team right away and eventually work my way up and become a contributing factor on defense.”
Q: The fourth-round pick, Jon Feliciano, said he can play all five positions across the offensive line. You can play all three linebacker positions. Did the Raiders tell you they like your position versatility?
Heeney: “Yeah, definitely. That’s what they said when they first called me. I got off the phone with the GM [Reggie McKenzie], and he just said he’s been watching me and he and Jack Del Rio have been talking, and they really like everything I bring to the table. I just couldn’t be more excited. I’m just really excited to see, when I get up there, how everything is up there.”
Q: Now that you’ve been drafted, is it everything you thought it was going to be?
Heeney: “Man, it’s everything and more. This is what I’ve been working toward since I was in third grade, man. Just having my family and friends around me when it happened, it was so special. Everyone started crying and it’s just what I’ve been working toward since I was in third grade and started playing football. Never in a million years did I think I would be an Oakland Raider, but I couldn’t be more happy to be one.”
Q: From your high school stats, it looks like you were a pretty accomplished running back. Is that what you thought you were going to be later in your career?
Heeney: “I actually thought I’d be a running back in college. I grew up playing running back and also I played defense, but I would get like five touchdowns a game, four touchdowns a game. I was a very good running back, so I thought that was kind of the path I would take, but I got to college and they saw me more as just an athlete and I eventually wound up as just a linebacker, and now that’s what I’m playing. I think I’m just very versatile.”
Q: Did your dad and two uncles all play baseball at Kansas? Did you ever have baseball aspirations?
Heeney: “Yeah, actually, as a little kid, baseball was my best sport – baseball and football. My dad and everyone else always thought I had a chance to play in the major leagues for baseball. It’s always been between baseball and football, but football is my number one love. I like hitting people. I’m excited to be a part of the Raider defense. Man, I’m so excited.”
Q: How did that transition from running back to linebacker take place?
Heeney: “I think they just kind of saw me as an athlete. I’m from Kansas and they already had a bunch of running back, so they recruited me as an athlete-slash-outside linebacker. They thought I’d play like Sam or like a nickel back almost, but it’s just the pieces fell where they fell and I was the best guy for the job at middle linebacker and I became a three-year starter at linebacker. Yeah, man, I just kind of fell into it, I guess.”
Q: How much outside linebacker have you played at Kansas?
Heeney: “Zero. I’ve played middle linebacker for three years.”
Q: Were you a Chiefs fan growing up?
Heeney: “Yeah, man, I was, but I’m not anymore.”