Channing Tindall never comes in hot.
The Georgia linebacker prefers instead to arrive on scene like a raging inferno.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pounder looks like a classic throwback inside linebacker the way he’s able to throw quarterbacks and running backs around like rag dolls.
However, Tindall’s rare speed and athleticism make him more of a modern-day second-level defender.
A rotational player early in his career at Georgia, Tindall had his snaps increase exponentially in 2021 as he blossomed into a key cog on defense that fueled the Bulldogs’ run to the national championship.
Though he was itching to get on the field more as an underclassman, Tindall never pouted or doubted. He always felt he was in the right place and was confident his time would come.
“I just kept my head down,” he said. “I knew it was going to be a transition, just coming from high school and [adjusting] to all the different schemes that we run in Georgia. I feel like we run an NFL-type defense.
“So it was frustrating for me personally, but I wasn’t frustrated at anybody else. So I knew what I had to do. So I just went and watched extra film, believed in the process. I knew the best players were [at Georgia], so I didn’t want to go anywhere else.
“It all paid off at the end of the day.’’
Georgia’s front seven was star-studded, and Tindall was often the overlooked gem. Playing with a talented group of linebackers that included Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker, he collected a team-high 67 tackles, including 7.5 for losses, and 5.5 sacks last season.
Tindall is one of a handful of Kirby Smart’s defensive charges who could go in the first two rounds of the NFL draft later this month.
He credited players-only “skull sessions” that began during the preseason for the tight bond created among one of the nation’s top defenses.
“We had to figure out each other’s whys — why we do what we do, our background, our family, and then why we play football,’’ he said. “So I can tell you about every single one of my teammates. What their why is, their background, why they play football. And they can tell you about mine.
“So it’s just the chemistry was there. It was us fighting for each other’s whys, not just to win or to win a championship at the end of the day, but it was bigger than that.”
Tindall could fit nicely into a remade Patriots defense that will be speedier as the club adjusts to an NFL that features more and more dual-threat quarterbacks proficient in running run-pass options.
Tindall’s ability to quickly read formations presnap and react postsnap along with exceptional quickness and burst are key skills needed to affect a quarterback’s decision-making.
Tindall acknowledges his speed was sometimes his downfall when he first arrived in Athens, but with the help of co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann, he was able to harness that speed and take more direct routes to the ball.
“One thing I used to do a lot when I was younger was overpursue the ball, so Coach Schumann just taught me to stay on the [ball carrier’s] hip pocket,” said Tindall. “He was like, ‘You’re fast enough, why are you trying to overrun these plays?’
“So I’m reading that hip, I’m just locking into that hip, and wherever that hip goes, I’m going.”
The Patriots covet linebackers who can stay on the field for three downs and perform various roles from various spots, and Tindall appears to fit that profile.
Also, confidence is not a problem.
“It depends on what the team wants,” he said when asked what he’ll bring to his next club. “I feel like I can do it all. Rush off the edge, good with the run fits and coverage.
“It’s just all what scheme they put me in. I feel like I can do whatever they want.’’
Though some of his teammates are likely to be selected ahead of Tindall, who is projected as a Day 2 pick by many prognosticators, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. is bullish on the brutish ‘backer.
“Channing Tindall can fly to the football,” Kiper said. “He can play inside or outside. He gives you a pass rusher inside or outside, someone who can be a great special teamer. He does not get enough publicity.”
The top linebackers in the draft
(Listed with height, weight, and projected round)
Devin Lloyd, Utah, 6-3, 237, 1
He’s wicked smart and will read and react quickly. Lloyd has violent hands and will jolt blockers and punish ball carriers. He moves well laterally and will explode through gaps and can also backpedal and excel in coverage. Two-time team captain with a voracious appetite for film study. Might be a better pro than collegian, and he was a darn good collegian.
Nakobe Dean, Georgia, 5-11, 229, 1
An exceptionally athletic player who runs like a track star, hits like a Mack truck, and could be the best blitzer in this class. Dean (first name is pronounced Nu-KO-bee) has the skillset to be a three-down player as he can pressure the pocket, stack the run, and drop into coverage. Won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top high school linebacker and then won the college version of the award three years later.
Chad Muma, Wyoming, 6-3, 239, 1-2
A real hit machine, Muma (MOO-muh) is a very fluid and explosive athlete who processes information in a flash and gets into opponents’ mugs quickly. Moves well laterally and is a smooth backpedaler, allowing him to make plays against the run and in coverage. He plays with a ton of energy and rarely loses at the point of attack. A Type 1 diabetic, he is an advocate/inspiration for those with the disease.
Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma, 6-3, 248, 2
Smooth operator who is stout in the box and nifty in coverage. Displays great strength and balance, and won’t easily be knocked out of the picture by mobile blockers. His burst and ability to get low and around offensive tackles will allow him to thrive with teams that employ myriad schemes. Started 30 games for Sooners and was an All-American in 2020.
Troy Andersen, Montana State, 6-3, 243, 2-3
Yes, Montana State. One of the most intriguing prospects/athletes in this class, Andersen started 40 games for the Bobcats — 25 at linebacker, 11 at quarterback, and 4 at running back. Earned FCS All-America honors at QB before switching to defense full time. So he’s still a bit raw, but in the right spot (say, Foxborough?), he could be an impact player on defense, offense, and special teams.
Best of the rest: Channing Tindall, Georgia (6-2, 230 pounds); Quay Walker, Georgia (6-4, 241); Christian Harris, Alabama (6-0, 226); Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (6-0, 226); Terrel Bernard, Baylor (6-1, 224); Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M (6-2, 240); Leo Chenal, Wisconsin (6-3, 250); Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati (6-4, 243); JoJo Domann, Nebraska (6-1, 228); Micah McFadden, Indiana (6-1, 234).