Monday, July 16, 2012
Ranking the SEC's linebackers
By Edward Aschoff and Chris Low
Now that we've ranked the SEC's linebacker groups, it's time to take a look at the league's top linebackers.
Here are our top SEC linebackers:
1. Jarvis Jones, Jr., Georgia: Talk about an SEC debut. Jones jumped right into his first year of football with the Bulldogs by leading the SEC with 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He possess one of the nation's fastest first steps, has thirst for ruining quarterbacks' days and has the ability to move all around the field to make plays.
2. Sean Porter, Sr., Texas A&M: He's more than a proven playmaker for the Aggies, making offensive coordinators sweat whenever he lines up. He wreaked havoc on opposing backfields, racking up 17 tackles for loss and leading Texas A&M with 9.5 sacks last season.
3. C.J. Mosley, Jr., Alabama: He shared time at one of the middle linebacker spots last year and suffered an elbow injury early in the year, but Mosley has the potential to be a top talent in this league. He's big, strong, extremely athletic and has a real high football IQ. He's also Alabama's best linebacker in coverage.
4. Jelani Jenkins, Jr., Florida: He is probably Florida's most physically gifted linebacker. He has tremendous speed and while he lines up outside, he can play multiple positions and covers a lot of defensive ground. The next step in his game is to become more of a pass-rushing threat.
5. Nico Johnson, Sr., Alabama: He's the lone returning starter at linebacker for the Crimson Tide and will be relied upon even more this year. The veteran is one of Alabama's best tacklers and excels in defending the run. He should improve on his 47 tackles from a year ago.
6. Alec Ogletree, Georgia: Though he dealt with injury last year, when Ogletree was on the field he made offensive players miserable. He's one of the fastest linebackers in the league and has the ability to be a tremendous pass rusher. He was seventh on the team in tackles (52) even after playing just eight games last fall.
7. Alonzo Highsmith, Sr., Arkansas: He was a major spark last fall after coming over from the junior college ranks. He started all 13 games on the outside and led the Hogs with 12.5 tackles for loss. He dealt with an injury (pectoral tendon tear) this spring, but should be fine this fall and should have another solid year for the Razorbacks.
8. Jon Bostic, Sr., Florida: The steady senior is the unquestioned quarterback of Florida's defense. He has a real nose for the football, leading the Gators with 94 tackles last year. His coverage skills and field awareness have really improved and he's coming off a good spring in Gainesville.
9. Kevin Minter, Jr., LSU: The lone returning starter at linebacker for the Tigers, Minter made tremendous strides at middle linebacker last year. He's extremely explosive and packs quite the punch and could be primed for a breakout season down on the Bayou this fall.
10. A.J. Johnson, So., Tennessee: He had a tremendous freshman campaign, becoming one of four true freshmen to rank among the top two on his team in tackles (80) among all FBS schools. He has good size, good speed and good athleticism. A sophomore slump doesn't appear to be in Johnson's future.