With less than 48 hours before NSD, there are still some pretty good linebackers still deciding on where they will go to college. Jonathan Jones out of Oakridge High School is one of the top five linebackers in Florida still undecided. He is still be sought after by some of the premier programs in the County. He is one of the highest rated players who have not yet chosen a college destination. This year’s class of linebackers is solid from 1-10. Once out of the top ten there is a drop-off at a position that has kind of gone the way of the running back. ESS will break down the class of 2016 and give your insight what each player should do at the next level.
1-Rashaun Smith-IMG Academy-6’2-230-(Committed to Clemson)-Of all the linebackers in Florida this year, Smith is the most ready to step on a campus day 1 and contribute. He is one of the more physically impressive looking prospects you will see regardless of position. He has great size and speed (4.45). Smith can play inside or out. He is versatile enough to play all three linebacker spots in college. What makes him so impressive is you can line him up at defensive end, use him as a stand-up outside linebacker or drop him into coverage and line him up over a tight end. His versatility is what makes him the consensus #1 linebacker in Florida this year.
2-Shaquille Quarterman-Oakleaf-6’0-240-(Committed to University of Miami)-One of the reasons why Quarterman is not discussed often as one of the top linebackers is because he committed so early and shut down his recruitment. Shaq is another physically impressive linebacker. We project him as a MLB but it would not surprise us to see him play SAM in college. He is big enough to stack the middle and take on the run. He can play downhill and help shut down any rushing attack Shaq faces. He is a good enough athlete to also drop him back into coverage. He is a side-line to side-line linebacker who should play right away.
3-Emmett Rice-Norland-6’3-190-(Committed to Florida State)-One linebacker that really grew on me as the season went along was Rice. In his final game (Dade/Broward) Rice was the MVP. He showed the ability to put pressure on the quarterback. He was able to drop back into coverage and intercept a pass. He can come up and lay the lumber on a ball carrier. His range makes him the perfect fit at linebacker when you consider so many teams run spread offenses. He is the type of backer that can play on the field all three downs.
4-Zach McCloud-Santaluces-6’2-220-(Committed to University of Miami)-The Hurricanes needed linebackers and are about to sign three very good ones. Zach is probably the best athlete at linebacker they will sign this year. He has the size and length you want at the position. He is also a good enough athlete to play all three linebackers spots. McCloud is another player who pretty much shut his recruitment down.
5-Jonathan Jones-Oakridge-6’0-215-Jones is one of the more underrated players in the state of Florida this year. He is listed at 6’0, 215 pounds but looks much bigger than his suggested size. He is more suited to playing outside linebacker. We have him listed more as a WILL at the next level. He is a player that you want to put in space and allow him to go after the opposing offense. He does well when asked to come off the edge and get pressure on the quarterback.
6-Mike Pickney-Jacksonville Raines-6’3-210-(Committed to University of Miami)-Pickney is a player that is a traditional MIKE LB. He is a guy that you put him inside and let him run down-hill. He is a between the tackles type backer that does not mind contact. Most linebackers today run around blocks that are not the case for Pickney. He can get off blocks and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is going to excel going downhill. Pickney is a physical linebacker that can play the run. He is not going to shy away from contact.
7-Brock Miller-John Carroll-6’3-210-(Committed to NC State)-Miller is one of my favorite linebackers. He has lined up at quarterback, running back, defensive end and linebacker. He will end up as a linebacker in college. Miller is a very good athlete who is a perfect fit for what opposing offenses are trying to do. He has the size and speed to match up against a tight end. He can come down and put pressure on the quarterback. Miller can also help stop the run. He should have no problem seeing the field early as we expect him to play on special teams from Day 1.
8-Devin Bush-Flanagan-5’11-225-(Committed to Michigan)-Bush is another traditional MIKE. He is the type of player who comes downhill fast and hard. He is going to try and knock a ball carrier out. He has very good instincts and understands the game of football. Bush is going to be the type of backer that can line the defense up and make the calls. He is a very smart player and you see it on the field. He is best suited to making plays between the tackles. If he happens to play a team that runs straight at him they will not have much success.
9-Kenneth Ruff-Dillard-6’2-220-(Committed to Syracuse)-Ruff is a big boy. He is not your typical south Florida linebacker. He gives you size (220) and that may be kind. We would not be surprised to see him get well over 250 pounds and play defensive end in college. He is a very physical linebacker that can take on the big guys up front. He is not someone that is going to get run off the field.
10-Dominique Ross-Trinity Christian–6’3-200-(Committed to North Carolina)-Ross is a versatile linebacker that could also play defensive end in college. He has the frame to add the needed weight to put his hand on the ground. Ross is the type of backer that can also line up and get after the quarterback. It would not surprise us to see him play stand-up end in a 3-4 defense.
Best of the rest……
*Greg Simmons-Ft. Pierce Central-6’2-225-(Committed to Nebraska)-Simmons is one of the better prospects in the treasure coast area. He is listed as a linebacker but we see him ending up as a defensive end. His frame should allow him to put on plenty of weight without losing and speed or quickness. He is already one of the bigger linebackers in this year’s class.
*Vosean Joseph-Norland-6’2-210-(Committed to Florida)-Joseph and Rice gave Norland two of the better linebackers on one team last year. He does not have the range at linebacker that Rice does. He is a bigger linebacker so putting on weight should not be as much of a concern for him. He is a good enough athlete to drop into coverage. Against the run his speed makes him tough to get a hand on.
*Donovan Thompson-Miami Central-5’10-215-(Committed to Utah)-Thompson was committed to FIU for close to a year. He recently took a visit to Utah and will end up joining a few other South Florida prospects. He is similar to Gionni Paul who started for Utah the past few seasons. Thompson has a good nose for the football and usually leads your team in tackles. He is a guy that can take on lineman and make plays behind the line.
*Paul Dawson-Sebastian River-6’3-200-Dawson is another hybrid type linebacker. He lines up at linebacker on some plays. You will see him end up playing some defensive end. He is best coming off the edge and trying to put pressure on the quarterback. He has the ability to get by slower offensive tackles. He has a pretty good first step and will chase a ball carrier down from behind. He gives you a linebacker with some range. He has length and can make some plays that others at his position can’t.
*Dallas Jeanty-Ft Lauderdale-6’0-215-(Committed to Wisconsin)-Jeanty is a player that is not the biggest or fastest at his position. He makes up for it with his instincts. He has the ability to read what an offense is doing at the snap of the football.
*Jon Pollack-Dr. Phillips-5’11-230-(Committed to Rutgers)-Pollack is a prospect that will end up a 3 year starter in high school. He has been making plays since his freshman season. He is a smart player who understands what is going on around him. Pollack will end up playing MLB in college and probably end up leading the conference in tackles.
*Trey Sutton-Westminster Christian-6’1-200-Another legacy recruits. His father played at University of Miami. Sutton is a player that makes plays. You turn on his film and Sutton is active. He does a solid job of diagnosing what the opposition is trying to do. His strength is playing the run.
*Shemar Smith-Jackson-6’2-220-(Committed to Oregon State)-Smith is used as a rush end most of the time. He gets up the field and tries to put pressure on the run and pass game. He can set the edge on run plays and force you back to the inside. He is a linebacker that plays well going up the field. Dropping him into coverage and asking him to go against a tight end or receiver in space is not to his strengths.
*Lawrence Graham-American Heritage Delray-5’11-230-(Committed to Tulane)-If Graham was over 6’0 tall there is doubt in our mind his stock would be hired. He is an undersized linebacker that some will question whether or not he can handle taking on big lineman at the next level. Graham is best playing in space and not taking on offensive lineman. In college he will not have that same luxury.
*Andre Polk-South Ft. Myers-6’3-200-(Committed to USF)-If there is one player on this list who could up playing on Sundays it is Polk. He has the physical traits you want to see in a linebacker. He does not get much hype but watch him in person and you will come away impressed.