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2012 CFN Preview - Unit Rankings, Linebackers
Penn State LB Gerald Hodges
Penn State LB Gerald Hodges
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 24, 2012


CFN 2012 Preview Unit Rankings from top to bottom - Linebackers


Preview 2012 - Unit Rankings

Linebackers


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2012 CFN Preseason Rankings 
1 to 5 | 6 to 10 | 11 to 20 | 21 to 30 | 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 124 

CFN 2012 Unit Rankings
- Offenses | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Offensive Lines
- Defenses | Defensive Lines | Linebackers | Secondaries | Special Teams  
- 2011 Unit Rankings | 2010 Unit Rankings


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

1. Alabama

The linebackers will be swarming and dominant. The group might be long on high school résumés and a bit short on proven production, but it’s loaded with top-shelf talents who can fly all over the field and keep running games locked down. Depth is a wee bit of an issue, but that’s nitpicking; there are enough pieces to the puzzle to move around if needed. Only Alabama could lose Don’t’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw and possibly be better. The emergence of C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest in bigger roles should more than make up for the loss of last year’s two biggest stars, while Johnson should be a statistical star with a full-time starting job to himself.

2. Stanford

If Stanford isn’t home to the nation’s deepest collection of linebackers, it’s certainly in the top 5. The Cardinal boasts two All-America candidates, Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas, a slew of returning starters and a general embarrassment of riches in terms of both depth and talent. This second level of the D is so good that it promises to make everyone around it better. The linebackers are going to do it all this fall, from rushing the passer and stuffing the run to supporting the secondary in coverage. The linebackers are an extension of the D-line, often pressing up to the line of scrimmage before pinning their ears back. From the outside, Thomas and Trent Murphy excel at getting into the backfield, combining for 27.5 stops for minus yards in 2011. Skov, too plays with a perpetual head of steam, getting to the quarterback 7.5 times in 2010.

3. Texas

Amazingly, despite losing Emmanuel Acho and Kenan Robinson and their 218 tackles with 26 tackles for loss, the linebackers should be better. Steve Edmond has the potential to be outstanding and Demarco Cobbs will be a difference-maker who should be able to change games with his speed and quickness. And then there’s Jordan Hicks, who might be the most talented linebacker on the lot. This group will be turned loose and then watch them fly.

4. Penn State

The linebacking corps was terrific with Gerald Hodges stepping up his play and Glenn Carson turning into a cog. If Michael Mauti is 100% fine after a knee problem, then all of a sudden the corps goes from great to special. By far the strength of the team, the starting threesome should combine for well over 250 tackles and should fill up the All-Big Ten team … if everyone can stay healthy. The loss of key backup Khari Fortt to Cal takes away a key part of the puzzle.

5. Michigan State

Amazingly, the linebackers got stronger and better in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Now the group is loaded with a terrific starting three and just enough depth to hold up and provide a little bit of help. The athleticism is there across the board in what should be one of the Big Ten’s better linebacking corps. Max Bullough, Chris Norman and Denicos Allen combined for 248 tackles and were three of the team’s top four tacklers. There’s a great mix of veteran leadership, athleticism and size.

6. Texas A&M

It’s not like the linebacking corps didn’t miss Von Miller, but after a year of working without him in the 3-4, the group should be even stronger with all three spots potentially manned by an all-star. Sean Porter is a terror while Jenkins is a rising star on the other side and Jonathan Stewart a rock in the middle. It’s the SEC so there’s linebacker talent all across the conference, but good luck finding a better trio than Porter, Stewart and Steven Jenkins. These three should be the statistical stars of the conference with great pass rushing skill and tough experience against the run.

7. Georgia

As long as Jarvis Jones is being Jones, the linebacking corps will be among the best in the SEC. Three starters are back and Chase Vasser appears ready to make a big impact. Considering how good the front three will be, this group will be turned loose to do even more in the backfield and be stronger at swarming around the ball. While the defensive line should be excellent at getting into the backfield, it’s Jones and the linebackers who’ll be the most disruptive part of the defensive front. The Dawgs have tremendous speed and athleticism at all four spots.

8. USC

Monte Kiffin has constructed this unit with Oregon in mind. The coordinator wants to flood the field with the kinds of athletes who can help neutralize the speed and explosiveness of some of the game’s more potent spread attacks. So far, so good. Dion Bailey, Hayes Pullard and Lamar Dawson are going to grow up together, meshing into a cohesive group that racks up the stops on defense. Bailey, in particular, will again be fun to watch as he flies all over the field in order to leave his mark.

9. Wisconsin

Is this the best linebacking corps since the program became interesting in the early 1990s? Chris Borland is special, Mike Taylor is a phenomenal leader and tackler, and there are more than enough decent veterans to fill in the gaps. On the way is the team’s top recruit, Vince Biegel, to add even more talent to the mix. Taylor and Borland combined for almost 300 tackles last season and should be as rock-solid as any linebacking duo in the country. They’re as good and as sound as any linebackers in America.

10. Oklahoma

There’s an excellent blend of athleticism and experience to make this one of the Big 12’s better linebacking corps. Tom Wort is a terrific veteran to work everything around while Corey Nelson should be in for all-star honors. The group could stand to be a little better against the run, but it won’t miss many plays. Everyone in the OU linebacking corps can move and swarm around the ball. It’s an undersized group for the most part with beefed up safeties who hit like a ton of bricks. Few teams have the speed to blow by.
 

10 is high in the unit ranking number.

BYU Ind 8.5
Florida State ACC   8
Illinois Big Ten 8
Iowa State Big 12 8
Maryland  ACC 8
Michigan Big Ten 8
Missouri SEC  8
Notre Dame Ind 8
Oklahoma State Big 12 8
Oregon Pac-12  8
Rutgers  Big East 8
South Carolina SEC 8
South Florida Big East 8
Boston College ACC 7.5
Clemson ACC 7.5
Colorado   Pac-12  7.5
Connecticut Big East 7.5
Florida SEC 7.5
Iowa Big Ten 7.5
Kansas State Big 12 7.5
Louisville  Big East 7.5
Mississippi State SEC 7.5
Nebraska Big Ten  7.5
North Carolina ACC   7.5
Ole Miss SEC 7.5
UCLA  Pac-12  7.5
Virginia   ACC 7.5
Virginia Tech ACC 7.5
Arkansas SEC 7
California Pac-12  7
Georgia Tech ACC 7
LSU SEC 7
Ohio State Big Ten 7
Syracuse Big East 7
Tennessee SEC 7
West Virginia Big 12 7
Air Force M-West 6.5
Arizona Pac-12  6.5
Arizona State Pac-12  6.5
Cincinnati Big East 6.5
Indiana  Big Ten 6.5
Kent State MAC 6.5
Kentucky SEC 6.5
Miami   ACC   6.5
Minnesota Big Ten 6.5
Northwestern Big Ten 6.5
Oregon State Pac-12  6.5
Pitt Big East 6.5
Purdue Big Ten 6.5
SMU C-USA  6.5
TCU Big 12 6.5
Texas Tech Big 12 6.5
Utah   Pac-12  6.5
Vanderbilt SEC 6.5
Wake Forest ACC 6.5
Auburn SEC 6
Boise State M-West 6
Buffalo MAC 6
FIU Sun Belt 6
Houston C-USA  6
NC State ACC 6
Northern Illinois MAC 6
Ohio   MAC 6
Tulane C-USA  6
Tulsa C-USA  6
Washington   Pac-12  6
Baylor Big 12 5.5
Bowling Green MAC 5.5
Duke ACC   5.5
East Carolina C-USA  5.5
Eastern Michigan MAC 5.5
Florida Atlantic Sun Belt 5.5
Fresno State M-West 5.5
Hawaii M-West 5.5
Kansas Big 12 5.5
Nevada M-West 5.5
New Mexico   M-West 5.5
North Texas Sun Belt 5.5
San Diego State M-West 5.5
Temple Big East 5.5
Toledo MAC 5.5
UAB C-USA  5.5
UCF C-USA  5.5
UL Monroe Sun Belt 5.5
UNLV M-West 5.5
Washington State Pac-12  5.5
WKU Sun Belt 5.5
Wyoming M-West 5.5
Arkansas State Sun Belt 5
Colorado State M-West 5
Idaho WAC 5
Louisiana Tech WAC 5
Marshall C-USA  5
Massachusetts MAC 5
Memphis C-USA  5
Miami Univ. MAC 5
Middle Tennessee Sun Belt 5
Navy Ind 5
New Mexico State WAC 5
Rice C-USA  5
San Jose State WAC 5
South Alabama Sun Belt 5
Southern Miss C-USA  5
Troy Sun Belt 5
UL Lafayette Sun Belt 5
Utah State WAC 5
UTEP C-USA  5
UTSA WAC 5
Western Michigan MAC 5
Akron MAC 4.5
Army Ind 4.5
Ball State MAC 4.5
Texas State WAC 4.5
Central Michigan MAC 4