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We continue our preseason rankings of draft eligible players by position. Today we cover the linebackers.
1. Jarvis Jones – Georgia: Jarvis Jones was a 1st team All-American and 1st team All-SEC last year and was named the team’s most valuable defensive player. His 13.5 sacks tied for #2 in the country. After sitting out 2010 after transferring from USC, Jones got better in every game and by the end of the year was a dominant defensive player. He is a natural pass rusher that makes big plays when his team needs them most.
2. Chase Thomas – Stanford: Chase Thomas was a 1st team All-PAC 12 selection in 2011. He is the inspirational leader of the Cardinal defense. Thomas is a quick pass rusher and he makes plays behind the line of scrimmage. In 2011, he had 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss. As the year starts, he has 36 career tackles for loss.
3. Sean Porter – Texas A&M: Sean Porter had a breakout year in 2011. He led the Big XII in sacks (9.5) and was 1st team All-Big 12. He is a natural pass rusher with great speed of the edge. He makes plays sideline to sideline.
4. Khaseem Greene – Rutgers: Khaseem Greene played his first two years at safety, before switching to linebacker last season. Greene recorded one of the best defensive seasons in school history and was selected Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year. As you expect, he has very good speed for a linebacker and he runs to the ball well. Greene is a very versatile player that even plays on special teams which is unusual for a star player.
5. Gerald Hodges – Penn State: Gerald Hodges was a 1st team All-Big Ten selection and led his team with 106 tackles. He is just another in a long line of standout linebackers that have come out of Linebacker U. Hodges is athletic, hard-hitting and highly competitive. Hodges is a smart player that is always in the right spot and should be a candidate for the Butkus Award at the end of the year.
1. Manti Te’o – Notre Dame: Manti Te’o was a 2nd team All-American in 2011. He is a tackling machine that has led his team in tackles the last two seasons. In 2010, his 133 tackles were the most at Notre Dame in 26 years. He has tremendous leadership qualities. Te’o is a disruptive player with size, speed and power. He is a 3 down player that does a good job in pass defense. When the 2013 draft begins, Te’o should be the first inside linebacker chosen, and will likely be one of the top 10 players selected.
2. Alec Ogletree – Georgia: 2011 was Ogletree’s first year as a starter. As the year progressed, he became more and more of a force for the Bulldog’s defense. He led the team in tackles the last 5 games of 2011. He is dominating in run support. He is very athletic and used his outstanding vertical leap to recover an onside kick in the SEC Championship game against LSU.
3. Kevin Reddick – North Carolina: Kevin Reddick is an experienced linebacker, entering his 4th year as a starter. He is the leader of the Tar Heel defense. Reddick battled injuries last season, but still finished with 71 tackles, 6 tackles for loss and 1 sack. He is a candidate for the Butkus Award and should be an All-ACC selection.
4. Arthur Brown – Kansas State: Arthur Brown is a 2009 transfer from Miami and had to sit out the 2010 season. His first season with the Wildcats, he led the team with 101 tackles and was 1st team All-Big 12. He is the leader of the Kansas State defense and has established himself as one of the best inside linebackers in the country.
5. Shayne Skov – Stanford: Shayne Skov missed the last 9 games last season due to a knee injury. The Cardinal missed their emotional, vocal leader, but he is due to return this year. He is a physical, explosive player that led the team in tackles in 2010. Skov brings a play making mentality to the Cardinal when he’s on the field.
by Dwayne Wilton