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2011 CFN All-Americans & Top Players - LBs
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Posted Aug 11, 2011

CFN 2011 All-Americans and Top 30 Players - Linebackers

Preview 2011 - Linebackers

All-Americans & Top 30 Players

2011 CFN All-Americans & Top 30 Players
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers

- Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers | Safeties
- Cornerbacks | Kickers | Punters | Kick Returners | Punt Returners 

- All-America Teams 2010 | 2009 | 2008

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Note: This isn't a ranking of the top pro prospects. This is based on the seasons we think the players are going to have.


1. Luke Kuechly, Jr. Boston College
In just two seasons removed from St. Xavier (OH) High School, Kuechly has evolved into one of the nation’s premier defenders. With machine-like consistency, he’s posted at least 10 tackles in 22 consecutive games. A year ago, he raised the bar off an improbable debut, leading the country with 183 stops and adding 10.5 tackles for loss, three picks, and three fumble recoveries. A 6-3, 235-pound guided missile in the middle, he has uncanny instincts and field awareness, and impeccable wrap-up skills in the open field.

2. Dont’a Hightower, Jr. Alabama
The hope was for Hightower to be 100% healthy after suffering a knee injury in 2009 and cutting his season short. There weren’t any problems whatsoever as he came back roaring making 69 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss, three broken up passes, and nine quarterback hurries. At 6-4 and 260 pounds he’s huge, fast, and tough in the middle of the linebacking corps with phenomenal range and peerless leadership ability. He could’ve taken off early for the NFL and he has top ten-overall potential in next year’s draft, if he chooses to forgo his senior year, but for now he’ll be on the short list for the Butkus Award and should be a lock for All-America honors. It would be nice if he was more of a pass rusher, but that’s nitpicking; he’s as steady as they come. Backing him up in the middle will be senior Chris Jordan, who couldn’t stay healthy last season and finished with 15 tackles working mostly on the weakside. Like Hightower, he can work inside or out, but at 6-3 and 240 pounds he’s perfect for the middle with size and toughness to hold up well.

3. Manti Te’o, Jr. Notre Dame
It’s time for Te’o to go from good to Butkus. The team’s leading tackler made 133 stops with a sack and 9.5 tackles for loss, but the best defensive prospect recruited by Charlie Weis can do even more. There are few more instinctive linebackers in college football and no one brings as much thump as the 6-2, 255-pounder, but he needs to be a bit more patient. Yeah, he came up with 13 tackles against Navy and he made 21 against Stanford, but he overran plays here and there. That’s about it for the nitpicking considering he’s a peerless sideline-to-sideline playmaker, will run about a 4.6 at the Combine, and has huge, huge hitting skills. He won’t make too many plays in the backfield, but that won’t be his job this year with the line doing more of the work.


4. Tank Carder, Sr. TCU
Carder had a nice sophomore year making 89 tackles with ten tackles for loss, and while he only came up with 60 stops in 2010 with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, he had a tremendous season making things happen all over the field. While he’ll be forever known for batting down the two-point conversion attempt to seal the win over Wisconsin, he did a little of everything in the Rose Bowl and won Defensive MVP honors. With 6-3, 237-pound size, peerless instincts, and big-time hitting ability, he’s a perfect fit for the middle. However, he has to stay healthy. He had problems with a shoulder injury last offseason and was a question mark at times going into 2010. Instead, he played like a beefed up safety and came up with a whale of a year.

5. Sean Spence, Sr. Miami
The headliner of the Miami linebacking corps is the 6-0, 224-pound Spence, a reigning second team all-star and the starter at strongside. Showing what he can do when fully healthy, he had 110 tackles, a team-high 16 stops for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Roaming the field like a guided missile, he possesses the speed, pop, and explosiveness in tight spaces to light up opposing players. A candidate for national awards, he’s one of the most exciting defensive playmakers in the country.

6. Vontaze Burfict, Jr. Arizona State
Led by Burfict, the ASU linebackers are clearly the strength of the defense, if not the entire team. The All-Pac-10 selection paced the Sun Devils last year with 90 tackles, 8.5 of them for loss. It may be odd to call a 6-3, 252-pound middle linebacker lightning quick, but it applies to the junior. He has the range to make plays all over the field and the punishing hits to intimidate the opposition. Yes, his intensity has been the cause of a number of penalties and jeers from opposing crowds, but the staff likes his aggression as long as it’s controlled. He’s gone through a rapid maturation process since the mid-point of 2010, and is emerging as a true leader of the program.


7. Chris Borland, Soph. Wisconsin
The key to the linebacking corps, and maybe the defense, is the return of sophomore Chris Borland in the middle. The 5-11, 244-pound cult hero came out of the blue to dominate as a true freshman, earning Big Ten Freshman on the Year honors, making 54 tackles with five sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, and with five forced fumbles. However, he suffered a bad shoulder injury and missed almost all of the 2010 season after making seven tackles and a sack in just over a game of work. A guided missile of a big hitter in the middle, he’s a playmaker all over the field and has All-America potential if he can stay on the field. Out this offseason resting up, he has to prove early on that he’s not rusty.

8. Lavonte David, Sr. Nebraska
The star of last year’s defense, the Miami native came in from the JUCO ranks and led the team with 152 tackles with six sacks, ten broken up passes, seven quarterback hurries, and 15 tackles for loss in an All-America campaign. After spending most of the year in the middle, he finished up the season moving to the outside in the bowl game and was more than fine with seven solo stops. However, even at a light 6-1, 220-pounds, he’s terrific on the inside making 19 tackles against South Dakota State, 14 against Texas A&M, and 17 in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma. Very fast and very active, he has unlimited range as a run defender, and he can fly into the backfield as a pass rusher. Now he’ll get more work in as a pass defender while the coaching staff does more to try to get him into open space. Unblocked, he could be a threat for double-digit sacks.

9. Danny Trevathan, Sr. Kentucky
Trevathan should’ve been in the mix for the Butkus Award. The 6-1, 230-pound weakside defender followed up an 82-tackle season with a team leading 144 tackles with three sacks and 16 tackles for loss. A 2010 CFN All-American, he’s a speedster with tremendous toughness and limitless range. He fought through most of 2009 with a broken wrist, got healthy, and was all over the place cleaning up everything the line didn’t get to. While his game is mostly about speed, he is trying to bulk up and is hitting the weights hard. A certain Combine star, he has all the raw tools to go along with peerless tacking ability registering double-digit stops in each of the last nine games highlighted by a 16-tackle day against Mississippi State.

10. Travis Lewis, Sr. Oklahoma
The 6-2, 223-pound guided missile would’ve been higher up on the charts if he hadn’t suffered a broken foot that’ll keep him out of the first two months of the season. He led the team with 109 tackles with 1.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three picks earning Second Team All-Big 12 honors, and after making 360 career stops with 47.5 tackles for loss and eight picks, he’s the leader everything works around. The former high school running back has 4.34 speed, Combine strength in the weight room, and big-time hitting ability, but now he has to come back healthy.

11. Michael Mauti, Jr. Penn State
12. Nigel Bradham, Sr. Florida State
13. Keenan Robinson, Sr. Texas
14. Chris Marve, Sr. Vanderbilt
15. Kenny Tate, Sr. Maryland (Safety)
16. J.K. Schaffer, Sr. Cincinnati
17. Dwayne Woods, Jr. Bowling Green
18. Julian Burnett, Jr. Georgia Tech
19. Sean Westgate, Sr. UCLA
20. Mychal Kendricks, Sr. California
21. Courtney Upshaw, Sr. Alabama
22. Marcus McGraw, Sr. Houston
23. Shayne Skov, Jr. Stanford
24. Ryan Baker, Sr. LSU
25. Bobby Wagner, Sr. Utah State
26. Jordan Waiwaiole, Sr. Air Force
27. Noah Keller, Sr. Ohio
28. Arthur Brown, Jr. Kansas State
29. Jake Knott, Jr. Iowa State
30. Bruce Taylor, Jr. Virginia Tech

2011 CFN All-Americans & Top 30 Players
- Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles | Offensive Guards | Centers

- Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles | Linebackers | Safeties
- Cornerbacks | Kickers | Punters | Kick Returners | Punt Returners