Our pre-draft series continues profiling the best Bay Area talent with an Oregon standout who played high school football in Los Gatos.**
If NFL teams are looking for a difference-maker on defense, Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso fits the bill perfectly.
The Cuban-born, Puerto Rican-raised linebacker who played his high school football for Los Gatos, recorded career-highs in numerous stat categories during his senior year for the Ducks. Alonso, a 6-foot-3, 238-pound inside linebacker totaled 81 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries in 2012.
The Oregon linebacker attended the 49ers local pro day this past week, but did not participate in drills. Even so, Alonso remains an interesting prospect to consider based on his disruptive play in the Pac-12.
Alonso credited Oregon's complex defense for his successful play which includes six interceptions over the past two seasons.
"We ran a bunch of different looks, a lot of different disguises." the Oregon linebacker said at the combine. "They just put us in great position to make plays."
Alonso was one of the top defensive play-makers in the Pac-12, earning second-team all-conference honors.
Alonso's senior year was even more impressive considering the hardships he overcame in his first three seasons in Eugene. Alonso redshirted in 2008, played as a backup in 2009 (16 tackles in 12 games) and later injured his knee in the spring that caused him to miss the 2010 season. In 2011, Alonso worked his way into a role on defense and finished the year with 46 tackles, the eighth-most on Oregon's defense.
Throughout his time on campus, Alonso never looked back on early challenges which included a run-in with campus police. Instead, he learned from them.
"I just had to move on," Alonso said. "I had to put things in my past and obviously make a couple of changes and move forward."
Alonso met with former coach Chip Kelly and his staff and vowed to become a better man and a better player after dealing with his mistakes.
Alonso is not only mentally tougher, he's physically stronger.
Although he currently weighs 238 pounds, Alonso has no problem with adding 12 pounds to play as inside linebacker in the NFL.
Whether it be in a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive alignment, Alonso feels comfortable playing on the inside and also on the outside of any scheme.
"It doesn't make a difference," Alonso said. "I think I can play any spot in the 4-3 or the 3-4 defense. I think that's what sets me apart from some other guys – my versatility."
Alonso used pre-draft workouts to showcase his motor and athleticism. He ran a 4.72 at his recent pro day at Oregon.
Alonso's speed and toughness make him an ideal fit in today's complex NFL defenses. He can cover. He can blitz. And most importantly, he's tough enough to take ball carriers on in between the tackles.
Another feather in Alonso's cap is his experience defending the spread offense. With so many teams adopting the speed principles of Oregon's offensive system, there aren't many prospects better suited to defend them than a player well-versed in practicing against the likes of LaMichael James in college.