CFB Future 100: Top 12 Linebacker Recruits in Class of 2017

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2016

CFB Future 100: Top 12 Linebacker Recruits in Class of 2017

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    Bleacher Report

    After a thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the class of 2017. Here we present the Top Linebackers.

    Other Positions: 

     

    It's no secret that linebackers are getting bigger, stronger and faster every year. Athletically, linebackers are moving more like defensive backs—but they still deliver some of the hardest hits in football.

    With today's defensive schemes, linebackers are called upon to contain rushing attacks and also cover receivers in passing situations. It's not an easy task by any means, but there are a handful of linebacker recruits who make mastering the position look elementary.

    Here's our breakdown of the top-ranked 2017 prospects at the linebacker position. Outside linebackers were assessed on the criteria of tackling, explosive strength, run defense, pass coverage and football IQ. Inside linebackers were assessed on the criteria of tackling, pass rushing, run defense and pass coverage.

     

    All prospects are scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Damon SaylesPlayers are ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings through Feb. 17. 

12. 4-Star OLB Christopher Allen

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    Height/Weight: 6'4", 222 lbs

    High School: Southern University Lab High School; Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    247Sports Ranking: No. 9 OLB, No. 100 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Christopher Allen's popularity is on a steady incline, and his recruitment is trending upward daily. He is nearing double-digit offers, and LSU is the school to keep an eye on early. Alabama, Florida State, Miami and Ole Miss are some of the schools to offer, as well.

     

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    There's a lot to like about Allen. Physically, he looks like he can play anywhere across the board, from safety to defensive end. He is comfortable at both inside and outside linebacker positions (24/25 football IQ), and his speed and lateral movement makes him one to watch for either position in college. Allen's a good defender in passing situations, but it's his aggressiveness in running situations (24/25 tackling) that may be what gets him additional offers this spring.

11. 4-Star OLB VanDarius Cowan

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    Height/Weight: 6'3", 221 lbs

    High School: Palm Beach Gardens High School; Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 8 OLB, No. 97 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Florida State added to its class on Dec. 29 with a solid defensive pledge in VanDarius Cowan. As an athlete with 20 reported offers, Cowan chose the Seminoles over offers from Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Tennessee and others.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    An athlete with good size, Cowan is a player who combines strength and quickness off the line. Whether or not Cowan ends up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker or defensive end is still to be determined, but his upside is something that Florida State coaches have to like (24/25 football IQ). He's a hybrid defender who plays with a lot of tenacity, and he's someone who can earn playing time early because of his versatility. He can be used as both a pass-rusher and as a coverage defender (19/20 pass coverage).

10. 4-Star OLB Bruce Jordan-Swilling

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    Height/Weight: 6'0", 215 lbs

    High School: Brother Martin High School; New Orleans

    247Sports Ranking: No. 7 OLB, No. 95 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Bruce Jordan-Swilling has the NFL pedigree, but he's made a name for himself with what he does on the football field. The son of Pat Swilling, Jordan-Swilling has more than 20 reported offers, and he can play in college either as a linebacker or a running back. LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and others have offered.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    It's still to be determined which position Jordan-Swilling will play in college. While he is currently projected to play outside linebacker, Jordan-Swilling was a 2,000-yard running back for Brother Martin. As the son of a former NFL linebacker, Jordan-Swilling has the tools to be dynamic on the defensive side of the ball. Coaches like his explosion from the start of a play until the whistle is blown (19/20 explosive strength). He is a smart player (24/25 football IQ) who can master multiple positions at the collegiate level.

9. 4-Star ILB Anthony Hines III

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    Height/Weight: 6'3", 230 lbs

    High School: Plano East Senior High School; Plano, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 ILB, No. 88 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    What schools have offered Anthony Hines III? The easier question may be what schools haven't offered. Hines, a former Mississippi State commit, has more than 80 offers, and there's a chance he could hit 90—and, possibly, 100—offers by the end of the spring.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Hines is exactly what a college coach wants in his inside linebacker. Rarely does he miss a tackle (34/35 tackling), as he is one of the most fundamentally sound defenders in the 2017 class. His total of 205 tackles as a junior serves as proof. He plays with great instincts and has a nose for the football. Hines, additionally, is a versatile athlete who can drop into coverage (19/20 pass coverage) and defend receivers if necessary.

8. 4-Star ILB Levi Draper

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 230 lbs

    High School: Collinsville High School; Collinsville, Oklahoma

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 ILB, No. 85 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Oklahoma made sure it took care of recruiting its in-state talent and landed the state's top-ranked player in Levi Draper. With 20 reported offers, Draper will remain a hot target, but it will take a lot for schools like Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, TCU and Stanford to sway him from the Sooners.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Draper is an intriguing athlete; he seems to make playing linebacker look easier than it is. Because of his tackling ability (34/35 tackling), Draper is very good in run-defense packages (29/30 run defense) and rarely misses a tackle. As good as he is at linebacker, he has also excelled as a big wide receiver for his high school team. He has great hands and is a threat to record an interception any time the football is in the air near him.

7. 4-Star OLB Justin Foster

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    Height/Weight: 6'3", 230 lbs

    High School: Crest High School; Shelby, North Carolina

    247Sports Ranking: No. 6 OLB, No. 74 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    After watching Justin Foster do what he does on the football field, it's easy to see why he's such a wanted prospect. A linebacker who's good at making beelines to the backfield, Foster has 20 reported offers and is being heavily recruited by Clemson, Tennessee and in-state program North Carolina.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Foster could be a scary site in college. He has the size of an undersized defensive end and the closing speed of a safety. He rushes off the end well and plays each down with great instincts. Foster is very quick and gets to the backfield in a hurry. Because of his tackling ability (24/25 tackling), Foster is a solid option in run-defense packages (14/15 run defense). Additionally, he has good hands and is always a threat to record an interception in passing situations.

6. 4-Star OLB Drew Singleton

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 215 lbs

    High School: Paramus Catholic High School; Paramus Catholic

    247Sports Ranking: No. 5 OLB, No. 69 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    As one of those players who seems to be involved with every play, Drew Singleton defines "football player." He is pushing 20 reported offers, and Michigan is a school to watch in his recruiting process, as are Clemson, Alabama and others.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis

    Singleton is an active linebacker who makes it difficult for offenses to produce rushing yards (14/15 run defense). Playing on the same defense as the nation's top-ranked 2016 player (Rashan Gary), Singleton carries a lot of the same tenacity as the Michigan signee. Singleton has good size for an outside linebacker and plays each down as if it was his last. His aggressive nature (34/35 tackling) makes him one to keep an eye on during his collegiate career.

5. 4-Star OLB Isaiah Pryor

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs

    High School: IMG Academy; Bradenton, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 OLB, No. 49 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Ohio State is off to a good start recruiting the 2017 class, and one of its prized pledges is versatile athlete Isaiah Pryor. He committed in July, but you can bet that he will remain a high target for multiple schools until national signing day. Pryor has 40 reported offers.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Pryor has been discussed as both an outside linebacker and a safety at the college level, which shows his true versatility. An athletic defender, Pryor plays with a high motor and has a true nose for the football. He is a solid tackler (24/25 tackling), and coaches will feel comfortable putting him in one-on-one passing situations (14/15 pass coverage). Pryor's lateral movement and ability to defend from sideline to sideline make him a player to watch.

4. 4-Star OLB Markail Benton

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 227 lbs

    High School: Central High School; Phenix City, Alabama

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 OLB, No. 47 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Look for Markail Benton to be the subject of a competitive, in-state recruiting battle between Auburn and Alabama. As Benton continues to add offers to his plate, expect Florida, Georgia, Florida State and Mississippi State to make big runs at him as well. 

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Benton has great size as an outside linebacker, and he uses his athleticism to run from sideline to sideline (14/15 run defense). When he's on the field, he doesn't look like he's moving at lightning speed, but when it comes to making an important tackle, he's always in the right place at the right time (24/25 football IQ). Benton makes great reads in both running and passing situations, and he has a high level of competitiveness.

3. 4-Star ILB Nate McBride

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 220 lbs

    High School: Vidalia Comprehensive High School; Vidalia, Georgia

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 ILB, No. 45 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    The race to land Nate McBride appears to have early front-runners. McBride has national champion Alabama and in-state favorite Georgia high on his list early, but there's still plenty of time for Auburn, Clemson, Michigan, Florida, Florida State and others to make a major recruiting push.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    McBride is a versatile player who will be called on to play either linebacker spot (34/35 tackling) but can excel—and perhaps see early playing time in college—as an inside linebacker (29/30 run defense). He rarely takes a play off. In addition to being a solid linebacker, he has also played running back and is a returner on special teams. McBride combines a high football IQ with a mean streak that will make him a force in college.

2. 5-Star OLB Baron Browning

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    Height/Weight: 6'4", 230 lbs

    High School: Kennedale High School; Kennedale, Texas

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 OLB, No. 23 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Baylor jumped on the Baron Browning sweepstakes early and landed Browning's commitment on July 18. However, Browning reopened his process on Feb. 14. With 30-plus offers, Browning is a highly recruited athlete expected to be courted heavily between now and next February.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Browning is an athlete who disrupts a lot of plays and makes it a priority to be involved in as many plays as possible. He's a solid tackler (24/25 tackling) who plays the run very well (14/15 run defense). Super strong and aggressive (20/20 explosive strength), Browning can play the inside linebacker or outside linebacker positions. Because of his size, colleges may consider using him as a pass-rushing defensive end as well.

1. 5-Star OLB Dylan Moses

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    Height/Weight: 6'2", 220 lbs

    High School: IMG Academy; Bradenton, Florida

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 OLB, No. 2 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 98/100

     

    Recruitment Status 

    Since the eighth grade, Dylan Moses has been a well-known name in college football recruiting. Once an LSU commit, Moses reopened his recruitment on Aug. 3 and is now entertaining more than 30 offers as he prepares for his senior year at IMG Academy—a magnet for college coaches.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Moses has lived up to the hype established since before high school. He is freakishly strong (20/20 explosive strength) and very quick off the snap. He has great instincts and plays each down as if it were his last. Moses' range may be his best asset, as he covers sideline to sideline well. He knows how to deliver the punishing, highlight-type hit, but expect him to display solid form with each routine tackle (25/25 tackling).