10 Best Pass-Rushing Linebacker Recruits in Class of 2014
Rushing the passer is critical for defensive success, and the 2014 recruiting class has a ton of defensive prospects who can get after the quarterback. However, some of the best pass-rushers in this class are not defensive ends.
Linebackers either must be able to cover, or get upfield to menace the pocket on third downs and passing situations. If not, they will be off the field. Looking across the country, several linebackers will be able to stay on the field in college due to their ability to rush the passer.
Texas A&M has a pair of second-level defenders who have the skills to crash off the edges. South Carolina has a commitment from an undersized 'backer who has great quickness as a rusher, and Alabama has an outside linebacker arriving next season who is a great fit for its defensive system.
Although Dante Booker has the skills to buzz into coverage on third downs, he also flashes pass-rushing potential. The 4-star prospect is 6'3", 212 pounds and has the ability to get upfield at the snap.
Booker shows the ability to pierce gaps with inside moves, has good short-area quickness and displays a great burst to finish on the ball. His speed allows him to chase mobile quarterbacks, and he is an effective blitzer.
The Buckeyes will utilize Booker's cover skills and ability to get to the passer in their defense.
An overlooked player in Michigan's class is 3-star linebacker Chase Winovich. A Pennsylvania native, Winovich is 6'4" and 215 pounds.
He shows deceptive first-step quickness, which surprises offensive tackles on the edges. Winovich has solid length in his arms to stay clean during a rush, and can explode in short areas to get to the quarterback.
He isn't a natural pass-rusher, and needs to use his hands better, but Michigan will be surprised at how well Winovich can pressure passers.
A 4-star linebacker, Gyasi Akem is one of the top defensive players in Oklahoma State's class.
He is listed at 6'2", but is probably shorter than that height.
Yet, the 211 pounder is a great athlete who has excellent speed. Although Akem can cover on third downs, his quickness and burst can be used to attack the pocket.
He can walk up to the edge, stand up in a two-point stance and launch upfield to rush the quarterback, as he flashes some ability to bend around the pocket.
Although he could play running back for Texas A&M, Josh Walker could be even better as a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
The 4-star prospect is an explosive defender on the edge who works well from a two-point stance. Walker has a quick first step, has the strength to convert speed to power and displays a great short-area burst to finish on the passer.
Look for the 6'1", 220-pound Walker to play outside linebacker in the Aggies' 4-3 scheme on the first two downs, and then to rush from the edges on third downs in College Station.
Jamardre Cobb is a 4-star linebacker who has great toughness, power and strength. That is why he could fit in as an inside/middle linebacker at Arizona.
However, the Los Angeles native also has explosive quickness at the snap, speed and the ability to get after the quarterback. Cobb, who is 6'2" and 230 pounds, naturally converts speed to power, knocks blockers back at the point of attack and can close in a hurry on the quarterback.
He has the potential to be a solid 3-4 outside linebacker later in his career.
An athletic defender, 4-star prospect Jacob Pugh is at his best when he is asked to get upfield. He is listed as a linebacker, but Pugh is a pure pass-rusher.
He shows a great surge at the snap, forces offensive tackles to turn their outside shoulders immediately after the snap and has long arms to stay clean.
Pugh, who is 6'4" and 221 pounds, is great from a two-point stance. He has the skill set of a classic 3-4 outside linebacker, flashes the ability to use his hands as a rusher and is committed to Florida State.
Texas A&M boasts a commitment from Hoza Scott, a 4-star linebacker who is one of the country's top defensive prospects.
Scott has the speed, range and instincts to track running plays across the box, but also can be an asset on third downs.
At 6'2" and 220 pounds, he can walk up from the second level, get set in a two-point stance and threaten the pocket at the snap. Scott has great quickness off the ball, uses his athleticism well when rushing and can close on the passer with incredible short-area quickness.
He'll get a big sack or two before he leaves College Station.
More than anyone on this list, Rashaan Evans fires off the ball with ideal leverage. He is a defensive end stuck in a linebacker's body at 6'3" and 220 pounds, but routinely crosses the line of scrimmage with a flat back.
The 4-star Alabama native is explosive at the snap, and is advanced with his ability to use his hands for a high school player. Evans is a speed-rusher, but does have the strength to convert speed to power while rushing the quarterback.
He also knows how to set up blockers with certain moves a few downs before executing his full plan. Evans has a solid burst to finish, and will be a hybrid linebacker/defensive end in college.
Undersized at 6'2" and 214 pounds, Bryson Allen-Williams is an outside linebacker who has the potential to become an impressive pass-rusher in the SEC.
The South Carolina commit is a terror off the edges, as he is sudden at the snap to get upfield. He uses his quickness to menace offensive tackles, doesn't let them get a clean punch on him and forces them to open their hips quicker than they would like.
Allen-Williams can bend, is capable of spinning around blockers and has great short-area explosiveness. Expect him to quickly become one of the Gamecocks' top defensive players on third downs.
Christian Miller is a fantastic pass-rushing linebacker. The 4-star recruit is a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker prospect, as he rushes best from a two-point stance.
At 6'4" and 222 pounds, Miller has terrific first-step quickness. He displays the ability to perform several different moves, including a juke-and-rip to beat blockers inside, can spin, swim and also use a simple speed-to-power move.
Miller has great athleticism, can bend outside of the pocket and finishes with a great surge to the ball. He is committed to Alabama, and will fit the Tide's base 3-4 defense like a glove.
2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map
Use the 2014 Bleacher Report College Football Recruiting Heat Map to locate the nation's best pass-rushing linebackers, and many other elite prospects!