10. Khalil Hodge, Sr. Buffalo
The former JUCO transfer isn’t Khalil Mack, but he’s got the game to translate to the next level. At 6-1 and 235 pounds, he’s got the size, and he hits everything, with 276 tackles in his first two seasons with four sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. A machine, he came up with double-digit stops in ten games last year, including 20 against Minnesota and 19 against Northern Illinois.
9. Cameron Smith, Sr. USC
Tough as nails on the inside of the Trojan defense, he’s been a producer from the start, making 273 career tackles with 19 tackles for loss. He might not be much of a pass rusher, but that’s not his job – the 6-2, 250-pounder eats everything up against the run.
8. Josh Allen, Sr. Kentucky
One Josh Allen might be the big early draft pick by the Buffalo Bills, but there are some NFL teams who’d much rather have this Josh Allen. The 6-5, 260-pounder is a top 15-overall prospect with the dream size and pass rushing skills, coming up with seven sacks and 65 tackles.
7. TJ Edwards, Sr. Wisconsin
An NFL-caliber rock of the amazing Badger defense over the last three seasons, the 6-1, 248-pounder has been among the nation’s steadiest and most sensational linebackers, making 81 tackles or more in each year. With 254 career tackles, five sacks, 26 tackles for loss, and seven picks – taking one for a score last season – he does it all.
6. Devin Bush, Jr. Michigan
A 5-11, 220-pound guided missile, he grew from a nice reserve and special teamer as a freshman into a dominant force as a sophomore. He’s not huge at 5-11 and 222 pounds, but he can hit, making 102 tackles with three sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss last season.
5. Joe Bachie, Jr. Michigan State
Bachie is the 6-2, 230-pound leader of another tremendous Spartan defense. Coming off a breakthrough season, he made 100 tackles with 3.5 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, three picks and two forced fumbles – he was in on everything. There might be bigger-name linebacking stars in the Big Ten, but that’s about to change.
4. Shaquille Quarterman, Jr. Miami
The signature star for the new era of Miami football under Mark RIcht, he was the leader of the baby backers. As a true freshman, the 6-1, 240-pounder came up with 84 tackles with ten tackles for loss, and all but did it again, making 83 stops with seven tackles for loss last year. He started to do even more against the pass, but it’s his job to hold up against the run and let the rest of the Turnover Chainers make the massive plays.
3. Joe Giles-Harris, Jr. Duke
Duke has never been known for having a slew of killers on defense, but it has a few amazing players to work around – CB Mark Gilbert is one in the secondary – and Giles-Harris is the leader. The 6-2, 240-pound tackler came up with 107 tackles as a sophomore, and followed it up with 125 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He’s excellent against the pass, too.
2. Mack Wilson, Jr. Alabama
The next amazing Alabama linebacker, he was a typically great Alabama recruit, but he’s not your normal linebacker athletically. The 6-2, 237-pounder only made 40 tackles last year with 2.5 tackles for loss, but he picked off four passes, taking one for a score in the College Football Playoff win over Clemson. Now, get ready for him to be a superstar in the middle of another national championship-level D.
1. Devin White, Jr. LSU
Good as a freshman reserve, the 6-1, 240-pounder turned into one of the nation’s top defensive stars making 133 tackles with 4.5 sacks and a pick. He can get up to around 255 pounds without a problem to be even tougher on the inside, but he’s even faster at the lower weight. All the tools are there to become more of a pass rusher, but as long as he’s able to reproduce what he did last year, the Tiger D will be special.