With the 2011 college football season creeping closer following each turning day, it is never too early to start ranking the players from—in my opinion—the most intriguing conference in college football.
Linebackers kick off my series of ranking the Pac-12’s top players by position.
Watching these linebackers patrol the line like hungry Velociraptors can send shivers directly to your soul. It’s shame we have to wait so long to see these beasts in action.
Let’s check out the list.
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Senior Sean Westgate surprised most people with an astonishing performance last season.
Spending most of his career on UCLA’s depth chart as a kick returner/linebacker, Westgate made a permanent switch to linebacker last spring, and the Bruins could not be happier.
Last season, Westgate ranked third amongst Pac-10 linebackers in tackles (90) and TFL (11), and fourth in sacks (4). His prowess in pass coverage was also quite impressive, leading all Pac-10 linebackers with seven passes defended.
Junior Vontaze Burfict (or "El Baron", as I like to call him) continues to improve since starting as a true freshman in 2009.
Although Burfict failed to record a sack last year, he tallied 8.5 TFL, the most non-sack TFl in the Pac-10. He also tied for third amongst Pac-10 linebackers with 90 tackles.
It’s hard not to like El Baron. He is primed for a break-out season, and Arizona State’s South title hopes could depend on it.
Junior Chase Thomas collected seven sacks last year, tying Skov and Kendricks for the lead amongst Pac-10 linebackers.
His relentless drive to reach the ball and astounding speed around the corner allows Thomas to get into the backfield fast. Expect to see him consistently making tackles behind the line once again this year.
In case you missed the 2011 Orange Bowl, Shayne Skov exclaimed to the nation his beastly ability to get to the ball.
The junior linebacker’s stat line was ridiculous, notching 12 total tackles and four TFL, which included dragging down the quarterback three times.
Skov flew under the radar a bit last season, but expect him to grab headlines in 2011.
Senior Mychal Kendricks earned All-Conference honors last season, wrestling down the quarterback seven times and pulling in 14.5 TFL.
Kendricks led or tied all Pac-10 linebackers last season in these categories and should contend for the top of the class again in 2011.