Top 5 linebackers in college football for 2018
We have talked about defensive linemen already, so now we move on to the second level of the defense. This category includes all off-the-ball linebackers. Therefore you can find 3-4 middle linebackers as well as 4-3 outside backers. Basically, all linebackers that don't line up primarily at the line of scrimmage. So for 3-4 edge-rushing outside linebackers, you will have to check out my top five edge rushers. Once again, this list is based on these guys as college players - not eventual draft prospects.
#1 Devin White, LSU
There are more accomplished linebackers in the NCAA, but I would take White over any of them heading into this season. He was a first-team All-SEC and second team All-American selection as a sophomore, recording 133 total tackles, with 13.5 going for a loss. White is the catalyst for the Tiger defense.
He plays with an attitude and swagger, is feather-light on his feet and has a jump to his step. The LSU backer has no troubles getting depth after stepping up against run-fakes, shows tremendous pursuit and has the speed to show up anywhere on the field. White displays an elite closing burst and is an explosive hitter. He is comfortable covering guys out of the backfield as well as getting after QBs, as he has a feel for where the open lane is.
Even though he has enough size to take on blockers, White prefers to get things done with speed and overruns some plays, surrendering cutback lanes and he can be manipulated by the QB’s eyes and pump fakes.
#2 Mack Wilson, Alabama
In a weird way, all those great linebackers for Alabama in recent years first put their name on the radar with a big hit and after Reuben Foster and Rashaan Evans, Wilson delivered a monster hit on kickoff coverage against Texas A&M as a freshman in 2016. Last year as a sophomore he fought through a banged-up foot, but didn’t fail to produce impact plays and looked healthy once the CFP began, making his mark on them by recording 18 combined tackles, two sacks and a pick six.
Wilson has the ability to read the play flat-footed and then shoot out of his stance like a missile. He has a way of getting through traffic and like those other Bama backers, he arrives at the target with some thump. The Tide backer doesn’t mind going through the chest of a guard on his way to the guy with the ball and brings the short-area burst to the table that enables him to undercut hook routes.
Wilson needs to improve the speed at which he recognizes plays, as he lets blockers put hands on him at times before he really knows where he wants to go. Yet, he has the talent and toughness to be the dynamic alpha dog the Tide seem to have every year.