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2011 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, Linebackers
Texas LB Keenan Robinson
Texas LB Keenan Robinson
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 16, 2011


CFN 2011 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Linebackers


Preview 2011 - Unit Rankings

Linebackers


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2011 CFN Preseason Rankings
 
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 31 to 40 | 41 to 50
51 to 60 | 61 to 70 | 71 to 80 | 81 to 90 | 91 to 100 | 101 to 110 | 111 to 120

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CFN 2011 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams  
- Preview 2011 | 2010 Unit Rankings

Note: This is based on talent, returning starters, and skill. It’s not necessarily based on what the final total offense statistics will be.

1. Alabama
Last year the line had to replace Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain, but there wasn’t even a little bit of a drop-off in overall production. Two starters return, the backups have superstar potential, and there are more than enough options to play around with. Even though a few of the pieces of last year’s puzzle are gone, like Chavis Williams and DeQuan Menzie, the corps should be terrific. Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley belong on NFL fields right now, and Courtney Upshaw has to potential to be a less-athletic Von Miller who’ll be turned loose once again. Throw in the upside of players like Trey DePriest and Adrian Hubbard, and the Tide linebackers are stunningly deep and very, very good.

2. TCU
There was a concern that the linebacking corps would struggle a bit after losing hitting machine Daryl Washington. Instead, Tank Carder was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and running mate Tanner Brock was a First Team all-star. With good depth and the return of the two stars, TCU’s two in the 4-2-5 is loaded. The Horned Frog stars should be among the most productive defenders in America and should be the rock of another fantastic defensive front six (and occasionally seven).

3. Texas
As long as Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson are alive and kicking, the linebacking corps will be a strength. These two are certain Big 12 all-stars, and they should be in the mix for All-America honors if they can improve on their great 2010 campaigns. Robinson led the team in tackles, Acho was No. 2, and they should combine for well over 200 stops once again. Demarco Cobbs is a safety, but he saw time at outside linebacker this offseason and was outstanding. The rest of the options are young, but they can move.

4. Arizona State
Led by All-American candidate Vontaze Burfict , the linebackers are clearly the strength of this defense, if not the entire veteran team. Fast, fast, fast, fast, FAST, the ASU linebackers’ closing speed is blinding, and their quickness is matched by extremely physical play. The depth of this unit allows for fresh legs and equal level play among starters and reserves alike. Much like a quality hockey team, it can roll out line after line of capable players without missing a beat.

5. Penn State
The linebackers should be up to Penn State snuff again if everyone can stay healthy. Unlike last year when the defense had to overcome the loss of Josh Hull, Novorro Bowman, and Sean Lee, this year’s corps is ready to make more big plays and be stronger against the run with a few returning starters and a couple of very promising prospects ready to emerge. Assuming everyone stays healthy, and if Josh Hull plays up to his prep hype, there are two strong options at each spot and there should be more and more plays made in the backfield. Penn State has reloaded at its fabled position.

6. Oklahoma
The OU team suffered a devastating loss with the tragic death of Austin Box, who was projected to be a starter this year after taking over the job in the middle late last year. Football-wise, the linebacking corps has enough talent to make up for the loss, but the team and the defense can’t make up for the loss of a teammate and friend. And then this offseason, Travis Lewis suffered a broken foot and will be out for several weeks - and the Sooners are still loaded. Depending on the alignment and the combination, it’ll be tough to find a faster trio of linebackers in college football. All the starters, no matter what the configuration, will likely be able to tear off a 4.5 or better. This group will fly to the ball and into the backfield, but the whole will be better than the sum until Lewis is back.

7. Nebraska
The linebacking corps was three wide last year, even though there was a fourth defender called a Peso, who was more like a fifth defensive back. Four players got the start on the weakside, not including when the defense started out in dime packages, and now the corps should be steadier in a more traditional 4-3 alignment. Fortunately, the players are there to fill out the spots. The linebackers could be the team’s strength if Lavonte David, Sean Fisher, and Will Compton are the starting threesome and they last the entire year, they’ll combine for over 350 tackles and they’ll all earn All-Big Ten honors. The starting threesome should be great, the backups are versatile, and the coaching staff knows how to turn them all loose.

8. Boston College
Even with the losses of a couple of inspirational leaders, Mark Herzlich and Mike Morrissey, Boston College figures to be just fine at linebacker this year. Five of last year’s lettermen return, including one of the best at the position in America. As long as Luke Kuechly is on the field, the Eagles will be above average at linebacker. Just how far above will depend on how much support he gets from the outside guys. Kevin Pierre-Louis has already put down the ground floor of a terrific, meaning strongside holds the key to the group’s ultimate grade.

9. South Carolina
While the loss of starting linebackers Josh Dickerson and Tony Straughter might seem to leave a gaping hole, the corps should be better. The key will be to keep everyone healthy and hope for all the veterans to play as well as expected, and the hope will be for the defensive line to be so good that the linebackers don’t have to do much more than clean up a few messes. It’s rare that an SEC team loses two good starting linebackers and is fine, but if the depth produces as expected and if Rodney Paulk and Shaq Wilson are healthy, the corps should be a plus. Quin Smith, Demario Jeffery and Reginald Bowens could easily start, and there’s more talent waiting in the wings. Like last year, the production should be better than the individual talents, but the talent level is hardly down.

10. Stanford
Coordinator Vic Fangio may be gone, but the wildly successful 3-4 alignment stays. That means the Cardinal are in a position to replace starters Owen Marecic and Thomas Keiser on the inside and outside, respectively. The coaches like to put this group in a position to make plays, maximizing their blend of size, speed, and keen instincts for getting to the ball. This group is big, fast, and can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. In short, the Cardinal linebackers are perfectly built for a 3-4 defense that requires its players to be versatile, halting the run and pressuring the pocket with either skill. Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas are tremendous talents to build around.

COULD EASILY BE IN TOP TEN

Boise State M-West
BYU Ind
Kentucky SEC
Purdue Big Ten
Utah   Pac-12

SOLID, WILL BE A POSITIVE

California Pac-12
Florida SEC
Florida State ACC
Georgia SEC
Iowa State Big 12
Kansas Big 12
LSU SEC
Maryland  ACC
Miami   ACC
NC State ACC
North Carolina ACC
Notre Dame Ind
Ohio State Big Ten
Oregon Pac-12
South Florida Big East
Southern Miss C-USA
USC Pac-12
Virginia Tech ACC
Wisconsin Big Ten

AVERAGE

Air Force M-West
Arizona Pac-12
Arkansas SEC
Auburn SEC
Cincinnati Big East
Clemson ACC
Colorado   Pac-12
Connecticut Big East
Georgia Tech ACC
Houston C-USA
Illinois Big Ten
Indiana  Big Ten
Iowa Big Ten
Kansas State Big 12
Louisiana Tech WAC
Louisville  Big East
Michigan Big Ten
Michigan State Big Ten
Minnesota Big Ten
Mississippi State SEC
Missouri Big 12
Northwestern Big Ten
Oklahoma State Big 12
Ole Miss SEC
Oregon State Pac-12
Pitt Big East
Rutgers  Big East
Tennessee SEC
Texas A&M Big 12
Tulsa C-USA
UCLA  Pac-12
Vanderbilt SEC
Virginia   ACC
Wake Forest ACC
West Virginia Big East
Washington State Pac-12

NEEDS WORK

Akron MAC
Baylor Big 12
Colorado State M-West
Duke ACC
FIU Sun Belt
Fresno State WAC
Hawaii WAC
Idaho WAC
Marshall C-USA
Miami Univ. MAC
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt
Nevada WAC
Ohio   MAC
San Diego State M-West
San Jose State WAC
SMU C-USA
Syracuse Big East
Texas Tech Big 12
UAB C-USA
UTEP C-USA
Washington   Pac-12

A PROBLEM

Army Ind
Ball State MAC
Bowling Green MAC
Buffalo MAC
Central Michigan MAC
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt
Memphis C-USA
Navy Ind
North Texas Sun Belt
Northern Illinois MAC
Temple MAC
Toledo MAC
Troy Sun Belt
Tulane C-USA
UCF C-USA
UL Monroe Sun Belt
UNLV M-West
Utah State WAC
Western Michigan MAC

THE BOTTOM TEN

Arkansas State Sun Belt
East Carolina C-USA
Eastern Michigan MAC
Kent State MAC
New Mexico   M-West
New Mexico State WAC
Rice C-USA
UL Lafayette Sun Belt
Western Kentucky Sun Belt
Wyoming M-West

CFN 2011 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries  | Special Teams  
- Preview 2011 | 2010 Unit Rankings