Top 8 Defensive 2014 Recruits Who Can Play Linebacker and Safety

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IAugust 15, 2013

Top 8 Defensive 2014 Recruits Who Can Play Linebacker and Safety

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    Having several defenders who can play linebacker and safety is a key asset for defensive coordinators.

    Players who can play on top of the defense as a safety, while still being able to come into the box as an extra linebacker are in high demand. College coaches need defensive players to help them stop the spread offense, along with having the toughness to combat running plays.

    A linebacker in Los Angeles has the athleticism and cover skills of a defensive back. A safety in Michigan has the strength to fight blockers versus running plays, and a surprise player will be at the end of this list.

    Player evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals247Sports and ESPNU.

C.J. Hampton, S

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    A talented defensive back prospect, C.J. Hampton is a 4-star safety who be an asset versus running plays. He quickly reads his keys, finds gaps and challenges running backs.

    Hampton can align deep in the seams, and depending on a pre-snap shift or motion during a play, roll into the box and be viewed as a linebacker by the quarterback. He is a solid tackler who rarely gives up leaky yardage.

    Hampton is committed to Ole Miss. 

Byron Bullough, S/ATH

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    Byron Bullough, who is committed to Michigan State, is an underrated 3-star recruit. He has great toughness, is a stout run-defender and can play strong safety in the Big Ten.

    Bullough, who is 6'1" and 190 pounds, has no problem fighting blockers to get to the football. He plays with a fantastic motor, has just enough speed to play on top of the defense and is always around the football.

    He may not be the best safety in man coverage, but a defense can win with Bullough as a hybrid safety/outside linebacker. 

Ronnie Clark, OLB/S

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    Whichever school that signs Ronnie Clark will see a fight between its defensive coaches. The secondary coach will want him as a big safety, while the linebackers coach will desperately fight for Clark to be made into an outside 'backer.

    Clark, who is 6'3.5" and 210 pounds, has outstanding range as a defensive back. He can fire off the hashes quickly out of transition and displays impressive ball skills.

    However, his size and solid strength also make him a terrific linebacker prospect. Clark squeezes the line of scrimmage versus running plays, and can quickly elude offensive linemen to get around their blocks to make stops.

    The 4-star prospect is expected to sign with one of the Iron Bowl schools, says 247Sports

C.J. Reavis, S

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    Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will have an interesting decision to make when C.J. Reavis arrives in Blacksburg. 

    Reavis can play safety, but he lacks the speed to consistently carry receivers in coverage. He also has the ability to play linebacker, but can get gobbled up by offensive linemen at the point of attack.

    However, Reavis, who is 6'2" and 200 pounds, is an instinctive defender who always looks to attack the line of scrimmage.

    The 3-star prospect quickly diagnoses plays, shoots gaps before blockers can get to him and flashes good short-area quickness when pursing the ball.

Edwin Freeman, S/OLB

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    A defensive coordinator can have a successful defense by just letting Edwin Freeman roam around in the secondary as a free safety. However, Freeman shows on tape that he gets bored easily and is quick to stick his nose in the box.

    The 6'0.5", 210-pounder is a 4-star safety prospect from Texas. He has fantastic instincts, athleticism and transition quickness. Freeman can backpedal quickly, then explode forward to squeeze the line of scrimmage to support the run.

    He will be asked to walk into the second level of the defense on pre-snap shifts frequently in college. Freeman is expected to sign with Texas or TCU, according to 247Sports

Todd Kelly Jr., S

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    Tennessee is getting a player with All-SEC and team captain potential in Todd Kelly, Jr.

    A 4-star safety, he is a 6'1", 200-pounder who can deliver hits that make people in the stands cringe. 

    Kelly has great short-area quickness, as bursting to a running back to make a tackle is not an issue for him. He has good agility, can sift through traffic and has excellent range.

    Kelly will make an early impact in Knoxville.

Dwight Williams, OLB

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    When initially looking at Dwight Williams, it is easy to mistake him for a safety. He is a slim 6'1", 205-pound defensive player with awesome speed.

    However, the longer you watch him play, the more apparent it becomes that he is a linebacker trapped in a safety's body. Williams has rare explosiveness and athleticism for the position, as he can latch on to running backs, tight ends and even receivers in coverage.

    The 4-star prospect prefers to be near the action on the second level, but his quickness and athletic ability in coverage will make him a candidate to be moved to safety in college.

    Keep an eye on Florida.

Nick Harvey, CB/S

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    Every defense has a nickel package, which is when they bring in an extra defensive back who usually plays over the slot receiver.

    This defender is essentially on the second level, so he has to also be ready to defend running plays and blitz, which are the basic responsibilities of an outside linebacker.

    Cortland Finnegan of the St. Louis Rams is one of the best nickel defenders in the NFL. Nick Harvey has similar skills to the Rams' defensive back, as he is a 5'9", 175-pounder with excellent instincts, toughness and ball skills.

    Harvey is a true football player who displays the traits of an ideal nickel defender. He can cover slot receivers, has the speed to blitz off the edge and does not back down on running plays.

    The Texas A&M commit is surprisingly a comfortable fit on this list. 

2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map

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    Several players on this list can also be viewed on the 2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map! It is mobile-ready!

    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 and Cleveland Browns.