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2016’s Linebackers to Watch

1. Raekwon McMillan – Ohio State: Hailing from the state of Georgia, McMillan was a part time player in 2014 on the Buckeyes national championship team. McMillan is 6-2, 240 and very physical. Last season, he led the Buckeyes in tackles with 119. McMillan is a former 5 star recruit from Hinesville, Georgia that was the top ranked recruit at his position and he did not disappoint. From day one, McMillan contributed and he has helped lead his teammates. There’s little doubt that McMillan leaves Ohio State for the NFL after the 2016 season.

2. Reuben Foster – Alabama: Not many Linebackers hit like Reuben Foster.The Crimson Tide stole Foster right out from under the noses from their chief rival Auburn since Foster played high school football in Auburn, Alabama. The 6-1, 240 Foster might be the toughest guy on the roster at Alabama and he will bring the wood like almost nobody. He is a super hard hitter and very aggressive. Senior Reggie Ragland led the Crimson Tide in tackles a year ago, but Foster was the second leading tackler with 73. The very physical Foster is intimidating and he should be the top tackler for the Tide this

year.

3. Anthony Walker – Northwestern: Miami, Florida native Walker was one of the more productive Linebackers in the country in 2015. Northwestern plays football like their head coach did. Pat Fitzgerald was a tough Middle Linebacker for Northwestern back in the 1990’s and helped the program go through significant upgrades. Anthony Walker is much like Fitzgerald was in his day, very physical and productive. Walker is 6-1, 235 and he had 120 tackles last season with 20 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 Quarterback sacks. Not only that, but he forced a fumble and recovered 2 others of which he returned one for a Touchdown and he picked off another pass. The Northwestern Wildcats won 10 games last season and lost 3. But, their 3 losses were slaughters at the hands of Michigan, Iowa and Tennessee. Michigan was ahead 38-0 and called off the dogs. This is something that Pat Fitzgerald needs to repair. He needs more Anthony Walkers on the roster.

4. Malik Jefferson – Texas: One of the top recruits in the nation 2 years ago, Jefferson was in the lineup on opening day starting at Middle Linebacker. When Jefferson committed to Texas, that changed everything as far as recruiting at Texas for Charlie Strong. The class finished up ranked 10th and this year’s class was 7th. Jefferson is around 6-3, 235 and can cover ground from sideline to sideline. Jefferson was injured in game 11 and missed most of that one and his last game. But, Malik

Jefferson is back healthy and back to his old form and should lead the Longhorns at Middle Linebacker in 2016. Jefferson has it all, size, speed, strength, instincts, leadership and about anything else you want out of a linebacker. He does need to wrap ball carriers up instead of just popping them hoping they will fall, but other than that he should be playing on Sundays in a few years.

5. Jabrill Peppers – Michigan: Peppers came to Michigan with the heralded class of 2014 and ranked second only to Leonard Fournette overall in his class. He came to Michigan as a Cornerback, but moved to Safety and is moving to Linebacker. He’s not going to be huge, but he’s really fast and athletic. Peppers isn’t going to make anyone think of Dick Butkus as far as size and strength goes, but he makes up for lack of size with incredible speed and athletic ability. Peppers is listed as 6-1, 208 an he has the ability to return punts and kicks as well as play Running Back, Wide Receiver or whatever position his coaching staff asks him to play. He is one of the more impressive players in the country.

6. Kendell Beckwith – LSU: The Tigers hired Dave Arranda away from Wisconsin in the off season as their new Defensive Coordinator and he should make a huge difference with their already good defense. Arranda loves the 3-4 defense and Beckwith occupying an Inside Linebacker position. Beckwith is a big run stuffer at 6-2, 250 and he can run. Last year, Beckwith was second on the team in tackles with 84 total. Beckwith also had 10 tackles for loss and 3.5 Quarterback sacks. Beckwith will more than likely have a standout senior season.

7. Azeem Victor – Washington: Huskies of Washington were pretty tough on defense a year ago and Victor is a tough Linebacker.The 6-3, 245 Victor is very physical and a hard hitting run stopper. The Huskies had the best defense in the Pac 12 last year and Victor was their top tackler and a team leader. He had 95 total tackles with 9 for loss and 1 1/2 Quarterback sacks. Victor also forced 2 fumbles and he had 1 Interceptions which he returned 27 yards for a Touchdown. Azeem Victor is from Upland, California and he reminds of the Husky Linebackers under previous head coach Don James.

8. Cameron Smith – USC: True freshman Linebacker was the first to start on opening day for the

Trojans since Riki Gray back in the 1970s.Smith was an early enrollee at USC and he was starting at Middle Linebacker in the Spring and he started every game in the Fall until he was injured. Smith is another big and very physical Linebacker. At 6-2, 245 Smith is another run stuffer, but he had his season ended with a serious knee injury with 4 games left to play. At the time of his injury, Smith had 78 tackles which led the team. In his absence, Su’a Cravens finished as the team’s top tackler. Smith had an incredible game against Utah when he picked off passes that looked almost identical. He ran one all the way back for a Touchdown, with the other 2 ending inside the Utes 5 yard line. He turned that game around almost by himself. Smith was held out of work in the Spring, but he should be back in the Fall.

9. Tim Williams – Alabama: The Crimson Tide defense was stout last season and got better as the year progressed. Williams played high school football right under the noses of LSU and the Tide stole him and has put him to good use. At 6-4, 230, Williams is a good sized Outside Linebacker that can run. He only had 19 total tackles last season, but 12 1/2 of those were for loss and 10 1/2 were Quarterback sacks. Williams returns for his senior season and he will give Quarterbacks and Offensive Linemen fits with his great speed off the edge. Returning guys like Williams are one of the reasons why nobody is worried about the starting Quarterback for the Crimson Tide in 2016.

10. Darrin Kirkland – Tennessee: Kirkland was a true freshman last season that came on strong during the season. Kirkland committed to Michigan and Brady Hoke, but backed out when Hoke was fired by Michigan and he never considered them again. He was a talented 4 star recruit out of Indianapolis and he finally settled on the Tennessee Volunteers. Kirkland is about 6-1, 225, he runs really well and he finished his rookie season with 66 tackles. He also had 6 and a half tackles for loss and 3 Quarterback sacks. He picked off one pass and returned it 26 yards. Tennessee often lines up in a 4-2 alignment with Kirkland as the Middle Linebacker and Jalen Reeves-Maybin on the Weak side.

11. Porter Gustin – USC: Gustin could be something of a freak of nature, the former Parade All American was recruited by everybody before he selected the USC Trojans. He is supposedly 6-5, 260 and can run like a much smaller man. The Trojans may use him as something of a Clay Matthews

type at Outside Linebacker and asking him to get pressure on the opposing Quarterbacks. With the NCAA rejecting another year of eligibility for Scott Felix, Gustin will be allowed to show what he can do. As a true freshman, Gustin had 25 tackles with 5 1/2 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 Quarterback sacks. Gustin is a gifted athlete. His father played Quarterback in college and his mother played college basketball which is where his athletic ability came from. Gustin is a guy to keep an eye on in 2016 and beyond. If he has the heart, and avoids serious injury, Porter Gustin could be a special kind of player. Alabama probably blows out USC in game one, but they need to bounce back quickly or it could be another bad season for a talented team.

12. Josey Jewell – Iowa: Farm boy Jewell was the leader of a strong Iowa defense. Strong, that was, until they met up with Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Decorah, Iowa native Jewell is 6-2, 230 and very physical and productive. He had 126 total tackles with 7 1/2 tackles for loss and 2 1/2 Quarterback sacks. He also had 4 Interceptions and returned 1 for a Touchdown. Jewell is good against the urn and good in pass coverage. Jewell is the Iowa defensive leader and their Middle Linebacker.

13. Riley Bullough – Michigan State: 3rd generation Spartan is the second member of his family to play Middle Linebacker since the 2013 season for Michigan State.Bullough is 6-2, 230 and he led the team in tackles with 106. On blitzes Bullough had 4 Quarterback sacks and 5 more Quarterback hurries. He picked off 2 passes and returned 1 for a Touchdown and he forced 2 fumbles and bullough family

recovered another.

14. Dre Greenlaw – Arkansas: Another star true freshman a year ago that came out of nowhere. Greenlaw was the lowest rated recruit in the Razorback recruiting class. Yet, he was the biggest star of the group, so far. Greenlaw was the second leading tackler on the team behind Middle Linebacker Brooks Ellis. Greenlaw is listed as 6-0, 225 and he’s back at Weak side Linebacker for his sophomore season.

15. Ro’Derrick Hoskins – Florida State: Hoskins is coming on strong and could play himself to the top of this list by later in this season.Hoskins is big at 6-2, 240 and he is very aggressive with a nose for the football. Hoskins is a junior from Orlando and he should have a big season in 2016.

16. Jarrad Davis – Florida: Another strong Gator Linebacker in recent years.Davis is a senior from Kingsland, Georgia and tough against the run at 6-2, 230. He was second on the team in tackles last season behind senior Antonio Morrison. Davis will be the leader of a great defense this season.

17. Ryan Anderson – Alabama: The other Outside Linebacker for the Crimson Tide. You can’t focus too much on Tim Williams or Ryan Anderson will be in your backfield sacking your Quarterback. The 6-2, 250 Daphne, Alabama native is very disruptive and finished last season with 37 tackles, 11 1/2 tackles for loss and 6 Quarterback sacks.

18. Micah Kiser РVirginia:  Cavaliers leading tackler in 2015. The Cavaliers have had rough times in recent years and surprisingly brought in new head coach Bronco Mendenhall the long time BYU head coach. The Cavaliers do have a few good players like Quin Blanding and Kiser. A junior from Baltimore, Maryland, Kiser is 6-2, 240 and something of a beast.

19. Ben Boulware – Clemson: Very aggressive and productive Linebacker.Boulware is very solidly

put together at 6-0, 240. He was among the tackle leaders for the Tigers last season and he is fiery and brings his all on very play. Boulware had 82 tackles in 2015 with 2 picks, 8 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 Quarterback sacks Boulware also had another 10 Quarterback hurries.

20. Shaquille Quarterman – Miami: A very impressive true freshman Linebacker that started in the Miami Spring Game and will start every game during his first season. Quarterman is listed as 6-1, 240 he is a great athlete and can make tackles from sideline to sideline. We’ve only see him as a high school player and in the Miami Spring Game, but he is already in the starting lineup for the Hurricanes.

21. Nyles Morgan – Notre Dame: A highly recruited Linebacker a couple of years back that signed with Notre Dame and has been a back up. Morgan moves into the starter position at Middle Linebacker and he’s potentially an outstanding player for the Fighting Irish.He’s on the shorter side, but very compact and strong. As a junior, Morgan should step up and make up for the Irish loss of Jaylon Smith.

22. Keith Kelsey – Louisville: Leader of the Louisville defense, Kelsey is a very physical Middle Linebacker at 6-1, 240. Louisville had a top 20 defense in 2015 and Kelsey was a large part of that. He’s all over the field and could be considered a very good all around Linebacker.

23. Lorenzo Carter – Georgia: Carter is a disappointment, so far, but he is 6-6, 240 and he could still be a star at Georgia. He was very highly recruited and hasn’t lived up to his billing. I still have high hopes for a Linebacker of his size and speed.

24. Richie Brown – Mississippi State: Big, strong Inside Linebacker that led the Mississippi State Bulldog defense in tackles in 2015. Brown has been one of the Bulldogs’ most consistent players.

25. Ellis Brooks – Arkansas: Brooks led the Razorbacks in tackles in 2015, and he has been a reliable player for the Pigs for the past couple of seasons.

 

Others:

Michael Divinity – LSU:

Tre Williams – Auburn:

Jalen Reeves-Mayb-n – Tennessee

Keishawn Bierria  РWashington

Marcus Oliver – Indiana

Hardy Nickerson – Illinois:

Michael Scherer – Missouri:

Jason Cabinda – Penn State:

Salamo Fiso – Arizona State:

Beniquez Brown – Miss State

Connor Strachan – Boston College:

Dorian O’Daniel – Clemson:

Matt Galambos – Pitt:

Andrew Motuapuaka – Virginia Tech:

Jordan Evans – Oklahoma

Jordan Burton – Oklahoma State

Chad Whitener – Oklahoma State:

Jermaine Carter Jr – Maryland

Arden Key – LSU

Matt Milano -Boston College

Kevin Davis – Colorado State:

AJ Hotchkins – Oregon:

Peter Kalambayi – Stanford: