At 6'2", 245, Andre Sturdivant is the huskiest LB prospect, but there's no critical level of speed being lost. The first clip on Rivals' free video page showed how well he flows down the line and laterally pursues the back, and he's a solid tackler.
Still, Sturdivant needs to work on is his coverage skills. I'm not sure he's versatile enough to hold up in a Tampa 2-type defense, where the middle linebacker sometimes drops back to play the middle/deep zone.
One-dimensionality at the inside linebacker position is asking to get victimized time and again, so development on his backpedal and range will be essential.
I think those concerns explain his so-so offer sheet—Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State are his most decorated suitors, and they all have yet to offer.
They could be pondering moving him to full-time defensive line duty, but his film didn't endear me to that idea. I think he's too small to play inside and too slow to play outside.
All in all, he's a solid Big Ten prospect whom I could also see at Pitt or Nebraska. Off a more encouraging senior season, he could cement his four-star status and, hopefully, see his stock rise.
I don't know what Ralph Friedgen is putting in the water, but suddenly, Maryland is out in front for many top players in 2011.
One of them is Travis Hughes, a bit of an undersized prospect at middle linebacker, but one that will definitely upgrade the athleticism of the Terps defense.
Most of his film is of him on offense, but fluid hips, stamina, speed, and change of direction skills are as much key attributes of a linebacker as of a running back, and Hughes has plenty of each.
That said, I'm a little surprised Rivals is projecting him as an inside linebacker. It seems like his athleticism is better suited on the outside in edge support, especially since he's a few inches shorter and about 10 pounds lighter than your typical middle linebacker.
I didn't get a good sense of his tackling form on film either.
He's another very raw but very talented kid who will need to find the correct spot on defense.
Besides the Terps, Hughes is getting interest from Virginia Tech, Penn State, USC, West Virginia, and NC State. His father expects him to commit before his senior year, which would suggest good news for Maryland. Wait and see.
Though Scout lists him as a middle linebacker, I think James Vaughters is destined to be the best 3-4 OLB/DE hybrid prospect in this class.
Think Sergio Kindle. Vaughters, like Kindle, is too thin to play hand-down defensive end, but too explosive to position far away from the line of scrimmage.
His strength is on the blitz, though he will probably struggle to bull-rush good offensive lines at the next level. He'll need work on his finesse and use of hands. Nonetheless, he takes great pursuit angles and is lethal off the edge.
Whatever team that lands him is getting a great edge blitzer but must be careful not to play him out of position. He can get in the backfield before the lineman can set his feet, but he is not as complete a linebacker as many of these others.
I think Texas' OLB/DE spot is the best fit for him, but the Longhorns have yet to offer, and the 2011 class is filling up fast. Plus, we all know Mack Brown's queasy feelings towards out-of-staters who make up their minds at the last minute—better put Will Muschamp on this one.
His cutdown list: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Texas, North Carolina, Ohio State, Stanford, USC.
James Wilder reminds me of the classic character who, even when he's being gentle, destroys everything he touches.
It doesn't look like Wilder requires a lot of effort to make explosive tackles, and this compensates for a lack of truly elite size.
In that way, Wilder is a bit like last year's top outside linebacker prospect, Jordan Hicks, who will require at least a year to be molded into a linebacker's build at Texas.
Playing multiple positions at the high school level sometimes means great athletes like Wilder end up tweener prospects. Consequently, he could end up playing running back and recently stated that he would actually prefer it.
But in his film you really get a sense for his innate aggression and the "nose for the football" coaches like to mythologize about, and I could see the right program convincing him to do both.
I'm guessing that if he commits as a linebacker, more size won't mean he loses his trademark speed. His methods will continue to look unorthodox until he learns to lean on coaching rather than on instinct. But he'll be a special teams beast either way (he's already blocked three kicks).
For immediate impact's sake, I don't think he can be considered the top linebacker, and he might never play a down on defense. But from a raw talent perspective, he tops anybody on the list.
As for his final destination, I don't know what his opinion is with Florida's unsettled spot at defensive coordinator, but he's probably a Gator lock all the way. He recently said he would be watching Florida's offense closely to see how it will change after Tim Tebow.
Depriest may or may not be a package deal with teammate and No. 1 overall QB recruit Braxton Miller, but if he is, that's one lucrative package deal.
Depriest is not the hardest-hitting linebacker in the class, but he's one of the most complete. He has the intelligence to diagnose run/pass coupled with the instincts to react appropriately.
He commits to his assignments and plays well in coverage, and when he guesses right, the play is usually blown up in the backfield.
He's good, not great on the blitz (I wasn't wowed by his speed) and either bowls over or shucks off his blockers like a defensive end, which star linebackers should be doing in high school.
Finally, he's got a great form tackle and doesn't let up when QBs and RBs try and get away.
I've heard good vibes about Michigan's chances, but the Maize and Blue need to win more games, soon, to make the final cut. Ohio State fans and Alabama fans are about equally confident in landing him, and rightfully so.
After missing out on Jordan Hicks, the Buckeyes will make Depriest priority No. 2, after quarterback. That they can wrap up both with these two kids has to be an encouraging sign.
Good video of Anthony Wallace was difficult to come by—ESPN wrote an article on how he represents a strong Texas crop of linebackers, but the film they used wasn't well-chosen.
But in the plays that were relevant, it looked like Wallace brought the hammer down at the middle linebacker position, and he could be the hardest hitter in the class.
One of the superlatives recruitniks were floating around was Wallace as the "next Ray Lewis." If the headaches he gives running backs are even in the ballpark, he'll be huge.
I'm projecting him to end up like Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict, a player good enough to take an entire rush defense on his back. If he ends up at Texas Tech or A&M, he can do just that. Saying no to the Longhorns, Sooners, and LSU Tigers will be hard to do, however.
Steve Edmond may play in Daingerfield, Texas, but he gets my respect.
The 6'3", 225-lb. outside linebacker looks like he plays 20 pounds heavier than that. His bruising tackling power practically guarantees the Longhorns will remain a top rush defense for the next four years.
I only take issue with his speed—that he plays 20 pounds heavier than he looks has a reciprocal effect on his pursuit, which can look lumbering at times.
I wouldn't be surprised if Texas moved him to an inside linebacker post. It would minimize the ground he has to cover in pass coverage and put him closer to the point of attack, where his size can be used to plug gaps.
I came up short on embeddable video for Stephone Anthony, but you can watch a few of his highlight videos here.
He has a prototypical build (6'3", 220) to play either side at linebacker. I though he looked great in pass coverage, using his rangy arms to intercept passes and cover a lot of turf.
He's also super-quick downhill and really zeroes in on and commits to a tackle without losing control or getting burned on the overpursuit.
The Clemson Tigers have led for a while, and I can't tell whether the delay in his commitment is because South Carolina, UNC, NC State, and Georgia are making it interesting or because he's stalling the inevitable.
I'd say he's an official visit away from a Tigers commitment, but that wouldn't drop until the season starts, and that, as we know, is a lifetime away.
Until then, enjoy this terrific song by Stephon Anthony.
Wow. The more I watch the kids LSU is bringing in in 2011, the more I get the sense that they'll be in the SEC Championship in a few years no matter who's coaching.
On film, Trevon Randle was one of the most impressive all-around players in this group. He can catch, he can run, he can play in coverage, and he can track the ball and intercept. His tackling is sharp and effective.
He's got the speed and compact size to play nickelback but can still defend the draw and shoot past blockers on a stretch run.
Oh, and he can blitz.
I needed to check and make sure he was the guy making all these plays on film.
He's light, which will make him a tweener prospect on defense, but it won't preclude his effectiveness. Get him on the field and watch him rock.
With the top middle linebacker in the class (possibly enrolling early), the Spartans can finally build a campaign for a Big Ten Championship, as they've tried (unsuccessfully) to do with the not-as-freakishly-talented Greg Jones.
Thomas has it all: speed to track down defenders; size to fill lanes; an arcing spear-hit that effortlessly forces fumbles; and swagger, of the kind that makes the best middle linebackers appear to own their half of the field.
He absolutely eats running backs and quarterbacks alive, even if his size isn't all that impressive. 230 pounds, his listed weight on Scout, is either new or generous. To me he looks as lithe and quick as a safety, though he hits as hard as a defensive end.
Thomas visited Michigan and initially said he would look around at other programs this summer. But after his commitment, he confessed that visiting other schools would have all been pointless, since he was going to commit to Michigan State no matter what.
Confidence like that I don't think even Sparty can shatter.