Laurinaitis did not make much of an impact as a freshman, with AJ Hawk and Bobby Carpenter in front of him. He took over inside as a sophomore, where he made the loss of Hawk not seem so large. He finished the year with 115 tackles, 8.5 for loss, four sacks, five picks on his way to winning the Nagurski award. He did not let up as a junior in 2007, finishing the season with 121 tackles, 8.5 for loss, five sacks, and two interceptions. Laurinaitis won the Butkus award, while being named to virtually every All American list you can think of. He was again one of the most productive college linebackers as a senior, posting 121 tackles, 5.5 for loss, four sacks, and two interceptions.
Laurinaitis is an excellent middle linebacker prospect, that should have very little problem making an impact early in the NFL. He is a complete player that does not take a down off, and can make an impact in every facet of the game. He is very intelligent on the field, reading the play and flowing to the action without much effort. He is a natural on the field and always around the ball. He plays sideline to sideline but quickly turns upfield to get to the ball carrier and bring him down. His nine sacks over the last two years show his effectiveness at blitzing when asked. What truly sets him apart though is his ability in coverage. Laurinaitis shows excellent awareness in coverage and can easily drop into coverage and find the football.
With his all around skills, it is difficult to find a fault in his game. He may not be the absolute physical specimen some are at linebacker but he is solid across the board and makes up for it with his instincts. As with a lot of college linebackers he can have trouble with bigger lineman if they get their hands on him.
James Laurinaitis could have been a high first round pick last year had he declared, but he chose to return to college. Depth at the LB position is the biggest issue with Laurinaitisí draft stock this year. There are quite a few players carrying a first round grade, and Laurinaitis may have had the weakest combine of them all. He ran a disappointing 4.8 40, and is now a borderline first rounder. Teams know that Laurinaitis is a football player and will be a fine pro so his workouts will not hurt him too much, but it didnít cement himself in the first round like he had the chance to do.