Best of the Bunch-Linebackers Edition
Written by Curt Popejoy on 08/20/2010
When I am scouting linebackers, I normally don’t have a lot of trouble. I have a few groups in mind, I go back and review the games and in my observations will find a few more that are on the fringe but the list typically comes together pretty quickly. This year was much tougher. While there are only a few groups I would consider truly elite, pairing the list down to 10 was much harder than in the past. Lots of really talented players in the country and a lot of young guys who if they play up to their potential have a chance to be great.
In the final analysis, there are really only 3 groups in that elite class to be considered for the top group of linebackers in the nation. These units provide a mix of known top tier talent as well as some young players on the verge of breakout seasons.
First group is the broken record of the North Carolina Tar Heels. I almost feel bad including them here, after putting their defensive line tops as well, but they are incredibly talented. Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant are considered by many (not me) to be the top at their respective positions. While I don’t share that enthusiasm, I do think both are top 5 at their spots and putting them on the same team means there are pretty stacked. The forgotten guy is Kevin Riddick who I think could end up being better than both of them after a great Freshman campaign.
My next group is the Boston College Eagles. I realize I am taking a gamble here, but anyone who watched Mark Herzlich play in 2008, before his 2009 season was lost while he battled Ewing’s Sarcoma, understands just how talented he is. Herzlich is now dealing with a stress fracture in his foot, but considering he has recovered from bone cancer, I don’t really think a tiny fracture in his right foot will keep him off the field. If there was anything to watch in 2009 from the BC linebackers without Herzlich is was the emergence of Luke Kuechly. This kid is a star in the making and I cannot wait to see just how he improves on his incredible Freshman year. Next to Herzlich in the returned from injury file is the third starter Will Thompson who returned from injury last year to play well and is poised for a big season. And a name to jot down is Freshman Kevin Pierre-Louis. At a school that seems to just churn out great linebackers, KPL is the next in line and even if all of the 3 starters are healthy he'll be hard to keep off the field.
My last group is sort of a stretch, but I don’t think you can discount experience and athleticism and the group I like here are the Oregon Ducks. Casey Matthew and Spencer Paysinger fit the bill just fine. These guys are stuck up in the Northwest, but if you get a chance check them out. They are fast and aggressive and anchor that Duck defense. The third spot in the group was manned last year by Eddie Pleasant. But they decided to move Pleasant to safety this year, where trust me, he’ll blow people up and open the door for either Freshman Boseko Lokombo or Junior Josh Kaddu to step in. I am hoping for Lokombo, because he by far has the more interesting name of the two. Regardless, this is a deep, talented and underrated group.
Oh yes, the easy answer here is to go with North Carolina. But I think if you really look closely at their defense it all starts with the front 4, so if you look at these 3 groups as they compare in terms of the talent up front, the Tar Heels are just a little too convenient a choice. Nope, I am going with the mix of veteran leadership, talent and young ability. So for me when it comes to linebackers, the Boston College Eagles are the Best of the Bunch.
4-10 shake out like this.
7. Ohio State
9. Notre Dame
Last Edited: 08/16/2010