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When the quarterback lines up under center, there is a beast looking back at him. When a runningback bounces a run outside, there is a rabid animal chasing him. These are linebackers, some of the most passionate players on the field and enforcers for their defenses. These five men are the best of the best in college and are looking to make a name for themselves to play on Sundays.
1. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
HT: 6’5” WT: 250 lbs.
2020 Statline: 38 Total Tackles, 3 Sacks, 0 Interceptions, 0 Passes Defensed
Thibodeaux is a man’s man on the field and looks more like a defensive end than an outside linebacker. He has played with his hand in the dirt more than a traditional linebacker but his build and athleticism say linebacker through and through. He lateral movement, pursuit angles and feet allow him to sift through the trash and cut off any lanes for the ball carrier while staying active in the pass game when pressuring the passer.
Thibodeaux is a gamer and it shows when the lights are brightest. His combined 18 QB pressures, 10 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in his two PAC- 12 Championship games are evidence of that. This kid will be fun to watch and a lock top five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
2. Christian Harris, Alabama
HT: 6’2” WT: 232 lbs.
2020 Statline: 79 Total Tackles, 4.5 Sacks, 1 Interception, 2 Passes Defensed
If there is a team in need of the perfect defensive field general, then look no further than the Crimson Tide’s Christian Harris. Athletic enough to cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield and smart enough to diagnose runs, Harris is a NFL starter day one for any team. He is a form tackler and doesn’t allow to many yards after contact when he hits a ball carrier.
Harris is almost flawless as a middle linebacker. He could take on blocks a little more aggressively instead of relying on his speed to get by, but that’s the only issue in his game. Harris is a blue-chip day one star in the NFL and will further prove that in 2022.
3. Ventrell Miller, Florida
HT: 6’1” WT: 230 lbs.
2020 Statline: 86 Total Tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 0 Interceptions, 3 Passes Defensed
If you want a sideline to sideline killer in the middle of your defense then Miller is your guy. The Gator linebacker is fast, with amazing closing speed and great eyes which helps in diagnosing plays on the fly. He has a lot of “Tampa 2” backer in his game and that’s not a bad thing. He fits any scheme and excels at rushing as well as pass coverage.
Miller is a bit undersized at only 6’1” but possesses good strength for his size. He isn’t a great block shedder and will need a defensive line that can keep him clean to make plays. He is going to be one of those interesting risers as the evaluation process goes on this season.
4. Damone Clark, LSU
HT: 6’3” WT: 245 lbs.
2020 Statline: 63 Total Tackles, 1 Sack, 0 Interceptons, 1 Pass Defensed
Clark is a Jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the linebacker position. He can tackle, rush the passer, shoot gaps in the run and drop in coverage, too. He operates well in the trenches and is a terror in the run game.
He is slight in his build for the position and can stand to put on some more weight at the next level. He will also need to show more of his pass coverage ability going forward. Right now he is a niche linebacker but is still one of the best in the business and should hear his name early at the draft.
5. Blaze Alldredge, Missouri
HT: 6’2” WT: 220 lbs.
2020 Statline: 47 Total Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Interception, 2 Passes Defensed
Alldredge is a very versatile linebacker with good athleticism and a knack for being around the ball. He can play either outside or inside linebacker and is smart enough to be a general on the field. He has violent hands at the point of attack and is fast enough to run in coverage.
Alldredge will need to put on weight at the next level if he wants to play either linebacker position. He can rotate as an edge rusher as well but will need to add some moves to a very limited repertoire. He is a solid option for a team as a plug and play three-down backer at the next level.