RANKINGS - LINEBACKERS
For the 3rd
straight season, both DJ Williams and Jonathan Vilma return as Miami's
most notable duo. Williams, the more gifted of the two, tallied
108 tackles (16 for loss) as Vilma led the team with 133. At the
other outside linebacker spot is Rocky McIntosh, who might have
a brighter future than his two more notable teammates. The young
star is not as well known, but you would never know that from watching
him play. His anonymity will allow him success.
Why they're #1? : Honestly speaking, Miami's #1 ranking has nothing
to do with either Vilma or Williams because the top two linebackers
for OU, Auburn and Miami could all be considered a wash. What separates
Miami from the rest is Rocky McIntosh. In all actuality, if McIntosh
isn't a better linebacker than Vilma right now, then he will be
If not for D.J
Williams, Karlos Dansby would be considered the more physically
gifted linebacker in college football. The All-American linebacker
has shown great sideline-to-sideline speed while possessing an ability
to play the pass as well as he does the run. His teammate (Dontarrious
Thomas), only two years previous, led the team in tackles by more
than doubling everyone else's totals. While Auburn's linebacking
corps isn't the one-man unit it once was, Thomas still led the team
in tackles with 92 overall. Since Lemarcus Rowell's recent troubles
with the law, there has been some switching. Look for coaches to
call on Derrick Graves (amongst other young and talented players)
to take over.
Why they're #2? : Quality depth is as simple as that. Despite the
loss of Rowell Auburn still has a fleet of talented young linebackers.
All-Big 12 weakside
linbacker Teddy Lehman might be getting most of the recognition,
but Oklahoma's best linebacker could very well be Lance Mithcell.
After transferring to Oklahoma from a JUCO, Mitchell has quickly
picked up the defense and accounted for 124 of his team's tackles
to go with 19 for losses. Pasha Jackson, another JUCO transfer,
returns at outside linebacker. He will look to improve on what was
a good but not great junior campaign.
Why they're #3? : Lets not get confused here, this group still grades
an A with their five stars. Talent and depth are no issues; we just
didn't feel there was quite the same overall level as Miami and
Auburn, but then again, we could be wrong since very little separates
#1 through #3.
Terry Pierce is gone, there is no reason to feel sorry for the Wildcats.
JUCO transfer and future defensive standout Marvin Simmons will
soon take over at middle linebacker, despite the very capable Matt
Bulter having his name listed as #1 on the depth chart. On the outsides
Bryan Hickman and All Big-12 linebacker - Josh Buhl make a great
combination after combining for 214 of the team's tackles last season.
Why they're #4? : This could very well be the most underrated unit
in college football, period! No one is making a big enough deal
about the arrival of Marvin Simmons. He will have no problems replacing
Pierce. That being said, would this not be a Top 5 unit even if
Not many teams
boast a better set of outside linebackers than the Seminoles. Both
Michael Boulware and Kendyll Pope have six years of combined starting
experience to go along with numerous All-ACC honors. At middle should
be Allen Augustin, who started for the 2nd half of last season,
but look out for Ernie Simms III - the prized recruit could be too
good not to see action this season.
Why they're #5? : Depth, Talent, and experience, this unit it has
it all! The only thing keeping them away from the elite is that
experienced and dominating MLB that the other 4 units have.
Just Missed: Notre Dame
Notre Dame may
not have jaw dropping athletic ability across its corps, but the
Irish still can enjoy one of the deepest and most consistent groups
in the country. Courtney Watson is easily the biggest name on the
defense and for good reason. The All-American candidate has been
nothing short of spectacular as the Irish's most valuable defender.
Derek Curry should provide solid play on the outside, while Mike
Goolsby is as consistent as you can get on the outside. Depth should
also be more than fine with Brandon Hoyte and Jerome Collins providing
quality play if needed.
Could be there: Southern Miss
Hard not to
imagine a unit with a first team All-American not talked about amongst
the best. Rod Davis needs no introduction after a 2002 season that
included 168 tackles, 23.5 of them being for loss. On the outside,
Michael Boley is no slouch himself with 142 tackles while being
the unit's best pass defender. If former safety Antoine Cash can
prove that his speed and instincts can be well utilized at linebacker,
then the hard-hitting junior could make this Golden Eagle unit one
of the best.