Who are the best linebackers coming into the 2018 college football season? Here are the projected 30 top players.
Preview 2018: Top 30 Linebackers
Based on projections for this college season – and not necessarily based on pro talent and potential – here are the 30 best linebackers coming into the season.
30. Fermin Silva, Sr. FIU
Is he really going to stay at linebacker? A fantastic defensive end last season – with 45 tackles with seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss- he was moved to outside linebacker this spring, and now he’s going to be turned loose. At 6-2 and 235 pounds, he’s a tweener who’ll live in the backfield.
29. Ulysees Gilbert, Sr. Akron
A bit undersized, the 6-1, 225-pounder plays big, earning All-MAC honors for the second year in a row with 140 tackles and three picks as the leader of the East champion. He came up with more plays behind the line as a sophomore – with 11.5 tackles for loss and 121 stops – but he picked off three passes last season.
28. Bryan London, Jr. Texas State
One of the nation’s best unsung tacklers, the 6-2, 232-pound veteran followed up his 142 tackle, ten tackle-for-loss season with another 91 stops and four tackles for loss. One of the team’s few bright spots, he had a run late in the year with 35 tackles over three games.
27. Ronley Lakalaka, Sr. San Diego State
The all-star leader of the great Aztec defense over the last few years, he started to get into the backfield more last season and now should do even more from his spot on the outside. He’s not all that big at 6-0 and 225 pounds, but he hits everything, making 83 tackles with three sacks last season.
26. David Reese, Jr. Florida
Okay, okay, the leading tackler of the great D should probably be a lot higher than this, but he’s more steady than sensational. The All-SEC star in the classroom came up with 102 tackles with ten tackles for loss as a 6-1, 239-pound rock on the inside.
25. De’Jon Harris, Jr. Arkansas
The anchor of the D for the new coaching staff, Harris is a 6-0, 239-pound thumper who get get behind the line, too. He led the Hogs with 115 tackles with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, and he was consistently sound for a team that didn’t have many bright spots.
24. Terez Hall, Sr. Missouri
Good as a reserve over the first part of his career, it all kicked in last season as he made 85 tackles with 12.5 tackles for loss on his role on the outside. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he’s built to hold up against the run, but watch out as he grows into more of a pass rusher.
23. Chase Hancock, Sr. Marshall
Just 6-2 and 221 pounds, he’s not all that big, but he can fly. Good two years ago, he took his game up a few notches with 128 tackles with two sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. He might not be a giant run-stuffer, but he gets in on everything and is sensational in pass coverage.
22. Kendall Joseph, Sr. Clemson
Undersized but ultra-reliable, the 6-0, 225-pounder will be in charge of cleaning everything up his amazing defensive front won’t get to. He followed up a 106-tackle, 11.5 tackle-for-loss season for the national champion with 96 stops and five tackles for loss. Consider him a lock for 100 tackles.
21. Thomas Barber, Jr. Minnesota
Big, tough, and with range, the son of Gopher legend Marion Barber and brother of Marion Barber III led the way with 115 tackles with 10.5 tackles for loss and an interception. At 6-1 and 233 pounds, he eats up everything, and he has the quickness to get behind the line more.
20. Dorian Etheridge, Soph. Louisville
Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, the 6-3, 233-pounder more than came through, leading the Cardinals with 83 tackles with three tackles for loss. Consistent and with the versatility to play anywhere in the corps, this will be his defense to run for the next few seasons.
19. Dakota Allen, Sr. Texas Tech
To put it mildly, it’s been an interesting run. Amazing early on in his career, he was an Academic All-Big 12 performer as well as an 87-tackle key cog, was off the team for a bit, went the JUCO route, and then came back to Lubbock to make 102 tackles with two sacks in an all-star season on the outside. He’s only 6-2 and 224 pounds, but he can ball.
18. Jeffrey Allison, Jr. Fresno State
Who was one of the biggest parts of the Fresno State turnaround? The 6-0, 250-pound Allison can get into the backfield from time to time, but it’s his job to be a rock against the run. The All-Mountain West performer and leader of the Bulldog D made 126 tackles with everything working around him on the inside.
17. Porter Gustin, Sr. USC
This will be fun. The 6-5, 255-pound killer of a pass rusher missed most of last season with a variety of injuries, but now he’s right again. The outside linebacker made 68 tackles with 5.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss two years ago, and now, watch out. He might be a threat for double-digit sacks.
16. Ty Summers, Sr. TCU
It takes a special type of linebacker to be a four-year leader in TCU’s 4-2-5 alignment, and that’s been Summers. The 6-2, 235-pounder couldn’t match the 121 tackles of last year – he came up with 64 – but he did more in other areas, generating a career-high four sacks with eight tackles for loss and five broken up passes.
15. David Long, Jr. West Virginia
When he’s healthy, he’s one of the Big 12’s most productive defenders. However, at 5-11 and 221 pounds, he takes a beating. He missed time last year and this offseason with a shoulder injury, but he still came up with 76 tackles last year with four sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss. Quick and active, he’s terrific in pass coverage, too.
14. Te’von Coney, Sr. Notre Dame
The 6-1, 238-pound tone-setting hitter in the middle grew into the job over the last few years. Solid as a sophomore, he stuffed everything once he settled in, coming up with 116 tackles with three sacks a and 13 tackles for loss,
13. Jahlani Tavai, Sr. Hawaii
The all-around hitting machine for the Hawaii defense for the last three years, now he’s about to make it three straight All-Mountain West seasons as – as long as he’s healthy – he finishes his career with over 400 stops. At 6-4 and 245 pounds, he has excellent size and lives behind the line, with 15.5 career sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss. Last year, he followed up a 129-tackle season with 124 more hits.
12. Joe Dineen, Sr. Kansas
He’s trying. There might not be a lot to love about Kansas football over the last few years, but the 6-2, 230-pound Dineen has done what he can for the defense. Coming off an injury-plagued 2016, he turned in an All-Big 12 season with 137 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.
11. K’Lavon Chaisson, Soph. LSU
Teammate Devin White will get more of the national love, but he 6-4, 240-pound Chaisson is a big-time player, too. The former defensive end prospect showed a glimpse of his potential with 27 tackles with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss as a freshman. This spring, he became unblockable – get ready for him to become one of the national breakout stars.