Power Ranking Best LB Recruiting Classes of Last Decade
We've looked at the top recruiting classes of the past decade (2004-2013 recruiting years) at QB, RB and WR so far. Today, we're going flip sides of the ball and take a look at the the top LB recruiting classes over the past decade of recruiting.
We've had some great linebackers come though the recruiting ranks and go on to play well in college. Yet, you have to remember, this read and overall series is about classes at respective positions. So today we arrive at the linebackers, as having a good unit of second-level defenders to stop the run and menace the underneath-to-intermediate passing game is needed for defensive success.
I've gone back and looked at the last 10 years of recruiting and found a few LB classes that stand out over that period of time (2004-2013). Here's the best LB recruiting classes over the past decade of recruiting.
7. Florida 2013
Linebackers: Matt Rolin, Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillan
Note: Safeties Keanu Neal and/or Marcell Harris could grow into LBs
Florida came into the 2013 class with the intent of making sure it picked up several top-flight LB prospects and it did. The Gators pried Rolin from rival South Carolina and convinced Anzalone to switch from Notre Dame.
McMillan is one of the top defensive prospects from the national 2013 class and can play several LB positions. Neal and Harris are two big safeties who could grow into LBs in a year or two.
6. Clemson 2011
Linebackers: Tony Steward, Stephone Anthony and Lateek Townsend
In 2011, it wasn't far-fetched to say that Steward was the best MLB in the country while Anthony was tops at OLB, with Townsend not far behind.
Steward has only 23 tackles in his first two years and this 2013 season needs to be a big breakout year for him. Townsend hasn't produced much either with just 20 career stops.
Anthony, however, has been far more productive, as he has 94 total tackles with three INTs and a sack.
5. Florida State 2005
Linebackers: Everette Brown, Anthony Kelly, Neefy Moffett, Geno Hayes, Derek Nicholson, Matt Dunham and Dan Foster
The 'Noles signed seven LBs in 2005, although Brown eventually became a pass-rushing DE. All of these guys were rated 4-star prospects by Scout.com.
Hayes finished his career wih 139 career tackles while Nicholson has 186 in his career in Tallahassee. Brown left FSU after registering 23 career sacks and 99 tackles, with 46.5 being for loss.
4. Miami 2008
Linebackers: Arthur Brown, Sean Spence, Ramon Buchanan, Gavin Hardin, Jordan Futch, Marcus Robinson, Brandon Marti, Antonio Harper and Zach Kane
The headliner of this class was Brown, as some considered him the No. 1 overall recruit in the country in 2011. He eventually transferred, however, to Kansas State where he had back-to-back 100-tackle seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Brown is expected to be a mid-round pick in next month's NFL draft. Spence was the best of the bunch, as he was smart, fast and instinctive. He was a third-round pick to the Steelers in 2012.
Buchanan had over 100 career tackles.
3. Michigan 2012
Linebackers: Kaleb Ringer, Joe Bolden, James Ross and Royce Jenkins-Stone
Michigan signed the top LB class in the 2012 recruiting year, and before these four leave campus, their impact should be felt. All four were among the best LB prospects in 2012 recruiting and all have great talent.
Ross made 36 tackles as a true freshman, Bolden added 31 and sack and Jenkins-Stone got his feet wet with six all in 2012. This was and will be a great LB class.
2. Alabama 2011
Linebackers: Trey DePriest, Vinnie Sunseri and Brent Calloway
Calloway wanted to be a RB all through his recruitment but Alabama always viewed him as a superior LB. Today, he's not in the program anymore after running into several off-field mishaps.
DePriest, on the other hand, is on track to potentially being a team captain. He got his feet wet as a true freshman, notching 25 tackles. He started as a sophomore, making 59 tackles and breaking up two passes. This year look for him to continue his ascension.
Sunseri has been moved to a hybrid OLB/SS role and is a heady and tough player. He's got 85 career tackles and has picked off two passes. Being All-SEC in 2013 looks like a very realistic achievement.
1. USC 2005
Linebackers: Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Kaluka Maiva, Kevin Ellis and Luther Brown
Ellison became a safety at USC and went on to record 170 career tackles and five interceptions. He was listed as a LB prospect by some publications in 2005.
The only of the true 'backers who didn't go on to become a very productive starter was Brown, though some claim he had the most talent in the group.
Cushing and Maualuga became All Pac-10/All-American performers. Cushing was a first-round pick to the Texans and won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Maualuga was a second-round pick and is a cornerstone for the Bengals' defense today.
Maiva was a fourth-round pick to the Browns in 2009, after making 164 career tackles.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and the Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena League. He spent a year evaluating prep prospects and writing specific recruiting and scouting content articles for Student Sports Football (formerly ESPN Rise-HS). A syndicated scout and writer, he's also contributed to WeAreSC.com, GatorBait.net and Diamonds in the Rough Inc., a College Football and NFL Draft magazine.