Breaking Down Each 2015 5-Star Linebacker
The 2015 recruiting class features several 5-star linebackers, via the 247Sports composite rankings. Each 5-star 'backer brings a well-rounded skill set to the table.
However, they're not all identical prospects. A linebacker in Los Angeles doesn't weigh a lot, but he dominates with speed. Texas is home to a linebacker who has amazing athleticism and agility, while a linebacker in Ohio can do an array of things.
Each 5-star linebacker warrants a closer look.
Holland, who is from Florida, is one of the most athletic defensive players in the country. The 6'2", 230-pounder can run like a deer, plus he has good strength. Holland plays for Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, where he usually stands up as a 3-4 'backer.
He plays with good instincts, evidenced by his ability to quickly locate the ball after the snap. Holland delivers a good pop to blockers who challenge him, and he separates quickly to get clean. His speed and athleticism help him in pursuit, where he routinely shows off his impressive range.
Holland has natural pass-rushing skills, as he can convert speed to power well when challenging an offensive tackle. He needs to develop more moves to fill out his pass-rushing arsenal, but his explosiveness and ability to surge to finish make him lethal.
Holland must improve his pass-coverage awareness and anticipation. He has the athletic ability to play man coverage and buzz into zone coverage, but getting a better feel for routes at junctions is something he needs to improve upon.
This is a rare 'backer who can play just about any linebacker position in any scheme.
At 6'3" and 211 pounds, 5-star linebacker John Houston isn't the biggest prospect at his position. However, he's a terror on the second level due to his tremendous speed, quickness and athleticism.
Houston plays for Serra High School in the Los Angeles area. He usually lines up as the middle linebacker, but there's a good chance he gets moved to the flanks in college. However, Houston could be a good fit as a "Mike" linebacker in a classic Tampa-2 scheme.
Houston does a good job of reading his keys and processing information in a hurry. He doesn't get tricked by misdirection easily, and he flows naturally to the football. He needs to add bulk and strength to hold up versus offensive linemen at the point of attack, but Houston separates and slips with quickness.
He also sifts and eludes traffic on his way to running backs. Houston has no issues flipping his hips and dropping into coverage. He can get good depth in his drops, plus he has the athleticism to carry running backs and tight ends all over the field.
Whether it be inside or outside, look for the California native to be a key defender for his college team at the linebacker position.
Hailing from Cincinnati, Justin Hilliard is a 5-star linebacker who also can play inside or outside. The 6'2", 225-pounder has solid toughness when opposed by blockers, plus he can deliver a sharp strike at the point of attack.
Hilliard has great athleticism and first-step quickness to attack the line of scrimmage at the snap. He shows good agility in pursuit, plus he scrapes well when working laterally. Holland may be the most ferocious blitzer of any linebacker on this list.
He charges to attack passers with outstanding force, and closes in a flash. He needs to keep working on his pass-coverage skills, especially his ability to stick with pass-catchers at their junctions.
Yet, Hilliard has a bright future ahead of him.
Josh Helmholdt of Rivals.com (subscription required) wrote on April 18:
The dark horse here is Oklahoma. Hilliard's visit to Norman this winter was a smashing success and he has a great vibe with the Sooners right now.
There appears to be nothing 5-star linebacker Malik Jefferson is not capable of. The Texas native is an exceptional athlete who is a nightmare for offenses.
Jefferson has great vision and instincts, as he anticipates plays like a college player. He does a good job of reading the movements of guards and tackles, then he explodes to make a play.
The 6'2", 225-pounder has the speed and range to track running backs from one sideline to the other. He doesn't back down from offensive linemen and lead-blockers at the point of attack, plus he uses his hands well when striking and shedding.
Jefferson also has the first-step explosiveness to play rush-end/outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He can rush the passer with speed, and he also has the strength to fight blockers while pressuring the passer.
Once he gets better in coverage, Jefferson will be a complete player.