College Football News Preview 2022 preseason unit rankings, looking at the top ten linebacker situations and rankings by conference.
Ranking linebacking corps has become harder and harder over the years.
Do edge rushers count as defensive end or outside linebackers? How about other hybrid defenders who do a little of everything, and what position are the safeties who act as linebackers, and vice versa?
And, of course, the schemes have changed up and morphed to deal with the high-powered offenses, going to more 4-2-5 alignments with the need for more speed on the field.
Okay, so this actually isn’t that hard to figure out, except when conferences are relatively dead-even after the best ones up top – like the SEC – and this can all change in a hurry depending on transfers, game plans, and …
Here are the top ten linebacker unit rankings along with figuring out conference by conference how they all shape up.
Just be warned – out of all the unit rankings, these are by far the most fluid.
CFN Preview 2022 Preseason College Football Unit Rankings: Linebackers
Start with Will Anderson in the edge rusher Jack role, and everything else falls into place. Alabama has the nation’s best pass rusher on the outside, Dallas Turner is a playmaker in the backfield from the strongside, and Henry To’o To’o will be one of the SEC’s best tacklers in the middle.
Depth isn’t always a given with the Tide linebackers – it wasn’t exactly a problem a few years ago when injuries struck and the backups were way young – but the twos are just fine this year.
Is everyone healthy? Justin Flowe has as much talent as any linebacker in college football, but he hasn’t had any semblance of a break with injuries. He’s ready to go on the outside, and leading tackler Noah Sewell can do it all in the middle. Throw in pro prospect Mase Fun along with rising star Bradyn Swinson, and the Ducks are loaded.
3 NC State
The already outstanding linebacking corps got a whole lot better with Isaiah Moore returning from injury to take back his spot in the middle. Drake Thomas is an all-star on the strongside, Payton Wilson is back after leading the team in tackles in 2019 and 2020 – he was hurt last year – and the backups know what they’re doing.
How talented is the Washington linebacking corps? It lost top tackler Jackson Sirmon to Cal and it’s still among the best in the country thanks to the transfer portal. Former Pitt Panther Cam Bright is an all-around game-wrecker on the inside, former UAB Blazer Kristopher Moll is also an all-around game-wrecker on the inside, and Carson Bruener is a burgeoning star who’ll push for time somewhere. If big-time tackler Edefuan Ulofoshio is back form after getting hurt, the new coaching staff will have to find ways to get everyone on the field.
This group can really, really tackle. Jack Campbell is an All-Big Ten hitter who made 143 stops, Seth Benson made 105 tackles on the weakside, and the rest of the corps is loaded with upperclassmen who’ll rotate in if they can ever get Campbell and Benson off the field.
Georgia might be able to replace the talent of Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker, and Channing Tindall, but it’ll be impossible to quickly replace the chemistry of last year’s linebacking corps – maybe. Nolan Smith is right there with those other three with what he can bring, Robert Beal has seen starting time, and Trezman Marshall gets to try replacing Dean. It’s Georgia – there won’t be much of a drop-off, if any.
There might not be a whole lot of national star power, but this group is sound. JJ Weaver was the team’s top sacker last year, and he’s back on the outside with leading tackler Jacquez Jones handling the middle. Third-leading tackler DeAndre Square returns on the weakside, and there’s talent backing up all three spots – even if it’s a little green.
The Orange went young last year at linebacker, and the payoff is coming with the stars returning from a strong run D that allowed just 3.5 yards per carry. Mikel Jones, Stefon Thompson, and Marlowe Wax were all underclassmen who ended up being the team’s top three tacklers. This group can get into the backfield, too.
The Irish defense is going to be strong, and the linebackers are going to be the stars – this coaching staff knows how to crank up the production from the position. JD Bertrand led the team in tackles, and now he’s back in the middle. Jack Kiser can do a little of everything on the outside, and Bo Bauer is a good backup as part of the good depth.
This group is big, it can thump, and it just got better by landing Washington transfer Jackson Sirmon for the middle. Femi Oladejo is outstanding against the run, Muelu Iosefa was third on the team in tackles, and Orin Patu is a pass rusher on the edge.