Big 12: Caleb Russell

We're moving on with our postseason position rankings. Today, it's time for linebackers. If you missed it, here's how I ranked them in the preseason.

At this position, depth is a major factor in these rankings. Additionally, I included nickelbacks in this grouping. Hybrid defensive end/linebackers will be grouped with defensive lines.

[+] EnlargeJake Knott
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireIowa State linebackers Jake Knott, 20, and A.J. Klein combined for 231 tackles in 2011.
More postseason position rankings: 1. Iowa State: The Cyclones top the list after a huge year from their outstanding duo, Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. They combined for 231 tackles in 2011, both finishing among the top four in the Big 12 in tackles. They had 241 together in 2010, but this season Knott played through injuries and Klein was awarded co-Defensive Player of the Year honors from the league's coaches.

2. Texas: The Longhorns will sorely miss an outstanding duo of their own with tons of experience. Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho are both NFL-bound after combining for 215 tackles.

3. Oklahoma: The Sooners weren't quite as good as expected in 2011, but part of that was because of a Travis Lewis preseason toe injury that slowed him for much of the season. Lewis, Tony Jefferson and Tom Wort all topped 70 tackles in 2011, and are a solid group.

4. Kansas State: Arthur Brown reinvigorated this group, finishing eighth in the Big 12 with 101 tackles, but the Wildcats linebackers were more than just Brown. Tre Walker and converted safety Emmanuel Lamur combined for 135 stops and helped lead one of the league's most underrated units and a much-improved run defense.

5. Texas A&M: The Aggies' backers were big pass-rushers, though they struggled in coverage this season. Sean Porter was the Big 12's sack champion with 9.5, and Caleb Russell and Jonathan Stewart combined for six more. Damontre Moore is the rawest talent of the bunch, but built on that in 2011, making 72 tackles.

6. Oklahoma State: OSU's group was good, but not great. Alex Elkins' crazy story came to an end with 90 stops in 2011. He showed up everywhere for the Cowboys, but reigning Big 12 Freshman of the Year Shaun Lewis didn't quite have the sophomore season some had hoped. Caleb Lavey added some solid play for the turnover-hungry unit, producing 74 tackles and five tackles for loss.

7. Missouri: Zaviar Gooden wasn't quite the impact player Mizzou had hoped, but he was solid alongside a group that's been injury prone over the past two years. Sophomore Andrew Wilson emerged as the team's top tackler with 98 stops, and Luke Lambert added 82 more. A high ankle sprain in the season opener kept Will Ebner off the field, but he'll be back in 2012 after the NCAA granted him a fifth year of eligibility.

8. Kansas: Steven Johnson led the Big 12 with 119 tackles, but the rest of the unit left a lot to be desired. Darius Willis has some potential, but the rest of the team's linebackers have their work cut out for them in 2012. Tunde Bakare also returns from a unit that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense.

9. Baylor: The Bears needed help just about everywhere. Elliot Coffey was solid, and finished tied for fourth with 114 stops, but Baylor was eighth in the Big 12 in rush defense. Baylor has solid athlete in the secondary and on the defensive line, but at linebacker, Rodney Chadwick and Brody Trahan leave a bit to be desired. Ahmad Dixon was better in 2011, but still has a lot of potential that needs to be filled.

10. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are looking for a new defensive coordinator and the 4-2-5 made a short stop in Lubbock. The Red Raiders were awful everywhere on defense, but especially up front. Nobody in college football was worse at stopping the run, and D.J. Johnson, Daniel Cobb and Cqulin Hubert turned in forgettable performances. Time to get better for 2012.

Plenty of new looks on A&M depth chart

August, 30, 2011
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Texas A&M unveiled its depth chart on Monday, too, with a few interesting looks.
  • Damontre Moore, on the heels of his spot duty as a true freshman last season, had plenty of hype heading into 2011. But as fall camp progressed, it was apparent he might not have a starting spot. Caleb Russell, a junior, overtook Moore for the spot and enters the season as the starter at the Joker spot for the Wrecking Crew. Russell, a former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship on Monday, doesn't have the physical measurables of Moore, but he's proved he deserves the spot. Bully for him.
  • Junior Jonathan Stewart grabbed the inside linebacker spot opposite Garrick Williams for the Aggies in one of the most high-profile position battles in the league. Michael Hodges will be missed at the spot, but Kyle Mangan and true freshman Donnie Baggs are co-backups at the other inside linebacker spot behind Williams.
  • Terrance Frederick is the starter at one corner for the Aggies, but the other? Dustin Harris and Coryell Judie are sharing a spot. Big surprise on that one.
  • Cyrus Gray starts the season on top of the depth chart, ahead of Christine Michael. No worries. Both will get plenty of touches.
  • The offensive line hasn't quite jelled. Evan Eike is listed as a co-starter with sophomore Shep Klinke (a missed possible selection for the all-name team? I think so.)
  • At tight end, Hutson Prioleau has unseated returning starter Nehemiah Hicks, a sophomore who has slid to third behind Prioleau and co-starter Michael Lamothe. Surprised to see that there. Hopes are high for Hicks in College Station, but he's got a lot to prove.
  • Jameill Showers was named the backup quarterback on Monday.

Lunch links: Dan Beebe talks Big 12 future

August, 15, 2011
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Beautiful day in College Station ...

Big 12 spring game recap: Texas A&M

April, 18, 2011
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What happened:

  • Senior quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 9 of 14 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
  • Christine Michael carried the ball 11 times for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
  • Ryan Swope led all receivers with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
  • Using a scoring system that grades each play from scrimmage, the offense beat the defense 133-119. Barnburner!
  • An estimated 16,500 fans showed up.
What we learned:
  • Coach Mike Sherman has to be encouraged with the quarterback play down the line. Tannehill had a good day, but the battle at No. 2 looks pretty interesting. My pick to win that No. 2 job, Jamiell Showers, completed 8 of 14 passes for 68 yards, and actually had the worst day of the four passers. Johnny Manziel enrolled early as a freshman and completed 8 of 9 passes for 115 yards and a pair of scores. It's only a scrimmage, yes, but on the biggest stage he's likely ever played on, that's a good sign for Manziel, who may contribute next year rather than redshirt.
  • Good to see Michael have a good day, too, coming back from the broken leg that gave way to a huge year for Cyrus Gray. The performance had to feel good.
  • Texas A&M didn't release full defensive statistics, which are tough to gain much from, but junior Caleb Russell had two sacks playing the Joker position that Von Miller excelled in last season. It sounds like that spot is still Damontre Moore's to lose, but like at quarterback, the depth has to make Sherman smile a bit. The Aggies were missing three starters in the secondary, which definitely had a factor in the high completion percentages from the quarterbacks, but Texas A&M looks pretty solid on both sides of the ball. For them, a team with very few questions, a spring game won't tell you much.
They said it:

"We're looking to be the No. 1 running back tandem in the country."

- Michael, on Texas A&M's running back duo

More Big 12 spring game recaps:

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