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College Football Recruiting 2011: Ranking the Top 50 Linebackers

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2011

College Football Recruiting 2011: Ranking the Top 50 Linebackers

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    Tony Steward

    With National Signing Day approaching, the college football recruiting season is in its home stretch.

    With that, we're breaking down the top recruits at most high-level positions and today, we'll look at the Top 50 Linebackers in the 2011 recruiting class.

    With elite athletes and high-level prospects, the class of linebackers is sure to make an impact in the coming years at the Division I college level and beyond.

50. Trevon Randle

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    One of the best tacklers in the class and a player who has a great knack for turnovers, Randle will probably stand out as one of the best linebackers of the class when we look back on this in a few years.

    Randle has a commitment with LSU.

49. Jake Keefer

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    Keefer has good instincts, a very nice burst off the ball and good pursuit skills on the edges. He also can lay a licking on a ball-carrier in open space and has solid tackling form. 

    There's a divergence of opinion on the talent level of Wisconsin's Jake Keefer. He's a 4-star prospect ranked as the No. 10 outside linebacker on Rivals and a 3-star prospect ranked as the No. 43 outside linebacker on Scout. ESPNU has him ranked as a 3-star recruit.

    Regardless, it's clear that Keefer will succeed at Wisconsin.

48. Dexter Staley

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    With experience and production at both linebacker and running back, it's clear Staley is a superior athlete.

    The undeclared, 18th-ranked inside linebacker is considering South Carolina, Florida, Michigan State, Illinois and Colorado.

47. Melvin Spears

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    Spears is the prototypical build for an outside linebacker and should make a quick impact for Iowa next season.

    With speed and athleticism to match his 6'2'', 220-pound frame, Spears can make plays all over the field.

46. Arrington Jenkins

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    Jenkins is a tough defender and packs a lot of power into every hit. 

    At 6'2'', 225 pounds, it's easy to see why.

    Jenkins will decide between Florida State, Ole Miss and Auburn.

45. Rahim Cassell

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    At 6'1'', 220 pounds, Cassell is a bruising outside linebacker likely to have an immediate impact for the Oregon Ducks, where he has committed.

    Of all his attributes, his toughness shows first. He can also provide equal talent in stopping the run as he can in handling the passing game.

44. B.J. Goodson

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    Goodson will bring to Clemson next season a boatload of versatility.

    He can play either linebacker or wide receiver, but can make more of an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

    At 6'1'', 215 pounds there is also added room for bulk to help him succeed at outside linebacker.

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42. Demarius Rancifer

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    Rancifer has terrific size and speed and is an likely impact player at the next level.

    At 6'2', 210 pounds, there is a bit of room for added bulk. Rancifer can be productive in most settings and can shut down the run and handle the pass.

    He is undeclared and down to Ole Miss, Kentucky, Central Florida, West Virginia and Louisville.

41. Hank Hobson

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    Hobson has perfect size for the outside linebacker position. At 6'2'', 213 pounds, the active and athletic playmaker is sure to make an immediate impact at Arizona.

    Hobson has the ability to play well against the pass or the run.

40. Terrance Smith

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    At 6'3'', 215 pounds, Smith is an imposing figure at the oustide linebacker position. 

    With speed and athleticism to burn, Smith can get even bigger.

    Smith is likely to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball at Florida State next year.

39. Cole Farrand

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    At 6'2'', 235 pounds, the Maryland-bound Farrand is a brick wall.

    Built like a tight end, he'll likely be taking them down when they cross the middle.

    The athletic Farrand is ranked No. 23 by ESPN.com at the outside linebacker position.

38. Armstead Williams

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    Williams is a solid prospect at the outside linebacker position.

    The athletic, 6'2'', 205-pounder will play next year at Purdue.

    He also considered Iowa, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan.

37. Kendall Thompson

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    At 6'2" and 235 lbs. Thompson has a great natural build for middle linebacker and is a very strong and aggressive prospect. 

    He hits hard and fast with great tackling technique. Thompson's instincts, speed and physicality make him a really dangerous weapon in the middle of the field.

    Thompson has given a verbal to Texas.

36. Kellen Jones

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    Jones is a bit small for the next level though and will need to bulk up to continue his role as pass-rushing specialist. 

    He's incredible on the blitz; maybe the best of any linebacker in the class. Not only does he have a great burst off the snap, but his timing is amazing and body control getting to the quarterback is unteachable. 

    The Texas native has a verbal with Michigan.

35. Gionni Paul

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    At 6'0'', 222 pounds, Paul packs a punch on every single hit.

    Paul is another player with the ability to make his presence know at any spot on the field. He has extreme athleticism for the outside linebacker position and should make a quick impact for the Arizona State Sun Devils.

34. Edward Muldrow

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    Muldrow is an athletic outside linebacker prospect with the ability to make plays all over the field. 

    With his skillset geared more towards coverage, he has the ability to add bulk to his 6'3'', 190-pound frame, Muldrow can certainly add to his prospects in the run-stopping game.

    He'll play next year at South Carolina.

33. Lamar Dawson

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    At 6'3" and 230 lbs., Dawson has ideal size for a middle linebacker, but it's his work ethic, aggressiveness, discipline and speed that really makes him an eye-popping talent.

    He's got the linebacker mentality that you love to see in a prospect. He'll bulldoze his way through the offense to get to the ball-carrier, won't give up position or over-pursue, and best of all, will lay his body on the line and allow a teammate to make the play. 

    The undeclared Dawson is considering Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisville, Michigan and USC.

32. Tyson Coleman

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    Coleman is a rangy playmaker but can certainly add bulk to his 6'1'', 200-pound frame.

    With solid speed and excellent coverage ability, Coleman could project also as a solid safety prospect.

    He'll play at Oregon.

31. Nico Ornelas

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    The athletic Ornelas has terrific size for the position. At 6'3'', 200 pounds, he is fit to make an immediate impact at the next level but could also add a bit of bulk.

    Equally effective against the pass and the run, Ornelas has a verbal to Oklahoma State.

31. Dominique Petties

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    The 6'0'', 210-pound Petties has perfect size for the outside linebacker position and could add even more bulk.

    With speed to burn, Petties adds athleticism and projects to succeed at either linebacker or safety at the next level.

    Undeclared, Petties will choose between Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri, Arizona and Oklahoma State.

30. Serderius Bryant

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    The stocky Bryant brings quite the punch in his 5'10'', 213-pound frame. 

    Bryant is explosive and has the ability to change the momentum of a game with one single play.

    Lacking a bit of size, Bryant excels with athleticism and all-out playing speed.

    Bryant will play at Ole Miss.

29. Norkeithus Otis

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    Otis is a lanky prospect with the abilty to put on significant bulk to his already impressive 6'3'', 205-pound frame. 

    With the skillset geared more towards the defensive end position, Otis will provide pressure on the quarterback and be a dominant force in stopping the run.

    Otis has a verbal with North Carolina.

28. Ryan Shazier

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    Shazier is fast and really excels when he's let loose on the quarterback, but he's pretty good against the run as well. 

    All that's left is for the Ohio State staff to get him up to speed when it comes to pass coverage; right now his skill-set would keep him off the field on passing downs. 

27. P.L. Lindley

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    The 6'2'', 205-pound Lindley is an impressive athlete to see at the linebacker position.

    He brings excellent athleticism and speed to the position and despite the lanky frame, can be tough to move off his tracks in pursuit.

    Lindley has a verbal to Oklahoma.

26. Curt Maggitt

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    Maggitt came on quickly in the eyes of recruiting analysts this season. 

    At 6'3'', 194 pounds, Maggit certainly has a bit more room to put on bulk but also provides the type of athleticism rarely seen at the linebacker position.

    Quick off the snap, Maggitt could make an impact wherever he ends up. He remains undeclared but is considering Florida, Wisconsi, Tennessee, LSU and Alabama. 

25. Chet Moss

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    Moss is 6'1'', 225 pounds and will bring a hard-hitting style of play to Texas.

    With plenty of speed to add to his solid size and toughness, Moss is sure to make an immediate impact on the field stopping the run for Longhorns.

24. Travis Hughes

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    He's one of the rare prospects that has legit ability on both sides of the ball and very well may end up as a running back in college.

    Hughes' initial burst off the line of scrimmage and breakaway speed will help him excel regardless of where he plays.

    He's aggressive, hits hard and craves contact.

    Hughes committed to North Carolina after considering Virginia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, Virginia and LSU.

23. Quinton Alston

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    Alston has fantastic size for the inside linebacker position and uses his strength to be a dominant force in stopping the run.

    With solid athleticism for a player of his build, Alston has the ability to knock off a lead blocker and get to the ball carrier.

    Alston has committed to Iowa but also considered Cincinnati, Louisville, Purdue, West Virginia and Pitt.

22. Tre Madden

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    Madden is a two-way player in high school, starting at middle linebacker and logging time at outside linebacker, and taking snaps as a wildcat quarterback on offense. 

    That should give you an idea of his athleticism and versatility. Madden has really quick feet and vision, a skill-set that helps him tremendously on both sides of the ball. 

    A high energy guy, he can come up and stuff the run decently, but it's his pass coverage skills that are really impressive.

    Madden has a verbal with USC.

21. Shannon Brown

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    At 6'1'', 241 pounds, Brown sure packs a punch. 

    The active linebacker has terrific speed and can roam sideline to sideline with the best of them. 

    Likely to make an immediate impact at the Division I level and beyond, Brown has committed to Alabama after considering Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Clemson.

20. Ramik Wilson

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    With athleticism to spare, Wilson can defend well against the run and the pass. With a seemingly pro-ready body, 6'3'' and 225 pounds, Wilson can jump right in at Georgia, where he has a verbal.

    Given his height and length, Wilson projects as a terrific outside linebacker prospect.

    He also considered Texas Tech, Purdue, Rutgers, Arkansas and South Florida.

19. Ejaun Price

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    Price is an interesting prospect at inside linebacker.

    The athletic Price is the type of player with the ability to change the momentum of a game with one single play. An extremely hard hitter with a solid blend of size, speed and athleticism, Price is sure to make an immediate impact wherever he ends up.

    The 6'0'', 236 pounder remains undeclared but is considering Ohio State and Iowa.

18. Brandon Golson

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    Amidst a post-graduation year at Fork Union Military Academy, Golson enters his first year at college a bit more mature than most. 

    The 6'2'', 210-pound South Carolina native didn't begin playing football until his junior year in high school and was hampered with injury.

    The added time to prepare for the college game at prep school will certainly do him well at Louisville next year.

17. Amarlo Herrera

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    The 6'1'', 224 bruising linebacker has the size and power to make an immediate impact at the college football level next season.

    Ranked No. 10 at the outside linebacker position by ESPN.com, Herrera has a verbal commitment to Georgia.

    He also considered Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Florida, Maryland and Ole Miss.

16. Deryck Gildon

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    Heading to TCU, Gildon is highly active and the type of athlete who can change the theme of a game with a single hit or play.

    Ranked No. 9 at the outside linebacker position by ESPN.com, Gildon brings to TCU a 6'2'', 210-pound frame with the ability to add needed bulk.

15. Kent Turene

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    Turnee has the skill set to make him an immediate run stopper at USC, where he has a verbal commitment to play next year. With solid size, 6'2'', 226 pounds, and strength, Turene is the eighth-ranked outside linebacker on ESPN.com.

    Turene also considered Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma State, Florida and Alabama.

14. Brent Calloway

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    If you get past the scouting numbers, such as his slightly slow 40-time and lack of strength lifting, Calloway is a special player.

    Calloway is a player who won't wow you in drills or in the weight room, but the game film speaks for itself. Some guys are just gamers. He's one of those guys.

    He plays defensive end in high school, but he's better suited as a linebacker in college. With perfect size at the position, Calloway will bring his intangibles to Auburn. He also considered Alabama, USC, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State.

13. Jason Gibson

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    Gibson, like a couple other top 25 linebackers, plays defensive end in high school, but his future looks to be at outside linebacker where he rates as one of the nation's top prospects. 

    Gibson has the size, athleticism, speed and agility to be very successful at the next level. As a pass-rusher he's a real force on the edge, and if he gets a good burst off the line of scrimmage, there's no blocking him. 

    At 6'2" and 210 lbs, he's too small to stay in his role as a pass-rushing end at the next level, but if he can successfully make the transition to linebacker, that might be a blessing in disguise. 
    Gibson has a verbal to Cal.

12. Rob Hankins

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    The Texas native has dominated his high school competition for the last couple of years and is one of the fastest prospects at the position in the country.

    He's aggressive, tough as nails and has great instincts, flowing to the ball all over the field and making plays in the backfield regularly.

    Based on his versatility and skill-set, Hankins could play outside as well, but he's a pure gamer in the middle.

    Hankins has a verbal with Arizona.

11. Anthony Wallace

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    Wallace is a perfect fit at middle linebacker. He's got prototypical size for the position and a great natural frame.

    He's a very smart player who can cover both the run and the pass extremely well, but his coverage skills are really what stand out. Wallace joins an impressive class of linebackers at Oregon after considering Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Arkansas and Miami.

10. A.J. Johnson

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    Johnson is another prospect the scouts disagree on, with Rivals ranking him as the No. 8 middle linebacker while Scout drops him all the way down to No. 22. 

    There's no denying he's a top 25 linebacker though, and more importantly, he's one of the most versatile defenders in the class. He has a verbal to Tennessee.

    At 6'3" and 227 lbs, he can play inside or outside, could develop into a defensive end or even find a home at strong safety.

    Johnson is aggressive, energetic and hits with a ton of power. There are a few minor technique issues, but that can be sorted out with coaching. 

9. Lawrence Thomas

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    At 6'3" and 236 lbs, Thomas presents a unique prospect with the size and speed to play a variety of positions.

    He can play defensive end, linebacker, safety and even receiver. He's projected as a defender on the next level mostly because it would be a shame to let his ball hawking and punishing tacking go to waste.

    Thomas has a verbal commitment with Michigan State.

8. C.J. Johnson

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    He plays so well between the tackles and can hunt down a ball-carrier along the sidelines about as well as anyone.

    He's incredibly instinctive and reads blocks so well that he rarely gets caught up behind the play.

    The undeclared Johnson is considering LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

7. Steve Edmond

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    Edmond dominates all over the field and at his size, 6'3", 225 lbs, he can play inside or outside linebacker and potentially could bulk up a bit to play end. 

    There are very few prospects as physically ready as Edmond and probably no one in the nation who can tackle with as much consistency. 

    Edmond's speed, explosiveness and athleticism will likely allow him to have an immediate impact at Texas, where he has a verbal. He also considered Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Arkansas and TCU.

6. Curtis Grant

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    There are very few players who can defend the field from sideline to sideline as well as Grant can.

    At 6'2", 234 lbs, he has the size to play a number of positions. But because of his ability to get in the backfield, as well as cover, he's best suited to be an outside linebacker.

    He can play both inside and outside, reads plays and reacts very fast and can cover a whole bunch of ground as quickly as any linebacker prospect out there. 

    Grant remains undeclared but is considering Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio State and Michigan.

5. James Vaughters

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    Vaughters is the defensive headliner of Stanford's 2011 recruiting class, and after watching him perform in 2009 and in camps this summer, it's easy to see why. 

    At 6'2" and 233 lbs. he's got the size to play middle linebacker or even get down in the dirt and play end, but he's also athletic enough to play on the outside or even make a switch to safety.

    Vaughters also considered Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia Tech and Florida.

4. Lateek Townsend

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    Townsend surprisingly committed to Clemson last week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and brings to the Tigers an extreme amount of athleticism.

    An explosive player with the knack for making a game-changing tackle or forced turnover, Townsend also plays running back in high school.

    Still, his 6'2'', 200-pound frame and solid skill set scream linebacker at the next level.

    Townsend also considered South Carolina, LSU, USC, Tennessee and Florida.

3. Trey DePriest

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    DePriest has the natural build of a linebacker and a natural ability to read snap counts, get out of his stance quickly and beat his man off the ball. He's got a great motor and is excellent in pursuit; not many prospects can cover the field from sideline to sideline the way he can.

    The 6'1'', 225-pound DePriest has signed with Alabama after considering Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

2. Stephone Anthony

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    Anthony has the smarts and the skill to get on the field right away and will likely do that wherever he ends up.

    He plays with great instincts and is very athletic, attacking the ball with purpose and precision, and shedding blockers with impressive strength.

    Anthony is a natural pass-rusher with a knack for causing turnovers.

    Ranked No. 1 among outside linebackers by ESPN.com, Anthony remains undeclared but is considering Florida, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

1. Tony Steward

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    At 6'2" and 225 lbs., Steward is one of the most physically imposing prospects in the country.

    Steward is incredibly strong and is one of the most athletic prospects in the country at any position, let alone linebacker.

    Based on the way he's built, and his natural ability to sniff out the football, Steward is likely to make a big impact as a freshman. What's most impressive about his game is his ability to get out in open space and cover a ton of ground in pass protection.

    Steward remains undeclared but is considering Florida State, Clemson, UCLA, Florida and Auburn.

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