Top 25 College Football Linebackers of 2019

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Joe Broback

Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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If there’s a more versatile position than linebacker, I’d like to see it. Linebackers these days are playing all over the field. Some line up as a pass rusher while others drop back in coverage. The days of a true linebacker aren’t over, but the versatility is the new trend. Within this list alone, you will find multiple players who are given specific positions that allow them to be utilized everywhere on the field. Essentially, their defense can’t be out of position because they have a player that can fit into any role they need. That’s a weapon that any defensive coordinator will love.

OTHER POSITIONS: QB, RB, WR, TE, C, G, OT, DE, DT, CB, S

25. David Reese II, Florida

2018 Stats: 81 tackles, 2.5 TFL

Leader of the Florida defense who’s ready for a breakout year. The Gators also could break out this year, and their defense will lead the way. If the offense also improves, watch out for this team.

24. Rayshard Ashby, Virginia Tech

2018 Stats: 105 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks

Virginia Tech’s looking for a bounce back season. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster hopes his defense can also do better, and he’ll have some great linebackers to work with this year. Ashby and Dax Hollifield return to give the Hokies two entertaining backers.

23. Jacob Phillips, LSU

2018 Stats: 87 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks, one interception

Devin White’s gone, but the Tigers remain loaded at linebacker. Phillips returns for his second straight season as a starter at inside linebacker. LSU’s other linebackers also have great potential, so White’s loss shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the defense.

22. Malik Harrison, Ohio State

2018 Stats: 81 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, one interception

One of the veterans returning for the Buckeyes at linebacker. Tied for the team lead in tackles last year with safety Jordan Fuller. Buckeyes may have lost their head coach, but the talent remains. Even with Ryan Day running the show, there’s no doubt Ohio State will contend for a playoff spot.

21. Bryce Huff, Memphis

2018 Stats: 49 tackles, 19.0 TFL, 9.5 sacks

Genard Avery left a hole in the Tigers defense, and Huff hit the ground running replacing him. Memphis’ defense returns a ton of experience, and Huff’s one of the best at his position. The Tigers are looking to win the conference after finishing second two years in a row.

20. Markus Bailey, Purdue

2018 Stats: 115 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 6.5 sacks, one interception, one touchdown

Bailey returns over 300 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and six interceptions for his career. Purdue broke out last year, and now looks to take a step back. The defense must show improvement, and they have a couple of potential stars to make that happen.

19. Merlin Robertson, Arizona State

2018 Stats: 77 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery

It didn’t take long for Robertson to make an impact in college football. The Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year led the Sun Devils in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks. He is joined by Darien Butler (both are sophomores) and will be a great tandem for the next few years.

18. TJ Brunson, South Carolina

2018 Stats: 106 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks

South Carolina’s linebackers must improve this year, but they have Brunson to lead the charge. The Gamecocks defense as a whole was fairly average in 2019. Same with the offense for the most part. Brunson enters his fifth year, and is hoping it’s the best one of his career.

17. De’Jon Harris, Arkansas

2018 Stats: 118 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks

If Arkansas makes improvements on defense this year, it’s largely thanks to Harris. He’s a tackling machine who was chosen for the Second Team All-SEC last year. The Razorbacks lack enough depth to produce team success with his production, but they’ll get great play out of him at least.

16. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

2018 Stats: 155 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks

Oklahoma felt good about their linebackers heading into the spring. Then, Caleb Kelly suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of the 2019 season. That put a ton of responsibility onto Murray’s shoulders. After finishing with the third most tackles in college football last year, the Sooners are hoping for an even bigger year. He’ll get plenty of opportunities in the Big 12.

15. Michael Pinckney, Miami

2018 Stats: 74 tackles, 11.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, one interception

Entering his fourth year as a starter, Pinckney gives the Hurricanes one of a few valuable leaders defensively. Manny Diaz won’t have to work through many transitions on this side of the ball, which helps considering the work he must put in on offense.

14. Blake Gallagher, Northwestern

2018 Stats: 127 tackles, 7.5 TFL, one interception

Gallagher led the Wildcats and the Big Ten in tackles last year. That should speak for itself. While his partner, Paddy Fisher, mans the middle, Gallagher takes one of the outside backer positions. Northwestern made it to the Big Ten Championship Game last year, and are hoping to repeat that feat in 2019. They have the defense to do it again, so it’s not unreasonable to believe they’ll do so back to back.

13. Nate Landman, Colordao

2018 Stats: 104 tackles, 15.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, two interceptions

Colorado might be a sleeper team to watchin this year, because they have a lot of potential on both sides of the ball. While fans will mostly watch Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault, Landman will be productive defensively. After missing a bowl game last year, the Buffs want to make sure they’re eligible this season.

12. Kyahva Tezino, San Diego State

2018 Stats: 126 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks

Rocky Long knows how to get his teams to play well defensively, and Tezino is a stud. San Diego State doesn’t return a ton of experience on this side of the ball, meaning they’ll lean on Tezino and Tariq Thompson early. Both are two of the best in the Mountain West at their positions, so that’s reassuring.

11. Micah Parsons, Penn State

2018 Stats: 82 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles

Extermely athletic sophomore who led the Nittany Lions as a freshman. Parsons was a Freshman All-American, and he’s looking to be an All-American in all of college football this year.

10. Colin Schooler, Arizona

2018 Stats: 119 tackles, 21.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions

Schooler’s already racked up 215 tackles (35.0 for loss) and four interceptions in his first two years as a Wildcat. His 21.5 tackles for loss were impressive, reminding fans of Scooby Wright. That’s good company to be in if you play linebacker at Arizona.

9. Joe Bachie, Michigan State

2018 Stats: tackles, 9.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, one interception

Bachie returns for his second year as a captain, and the Spartans are glad he stayed. Like we’ve talked about before, Michigan State will be great on defense. It’s just a matter of how the offense does. Bachie and company will keep them in games while the other side of the ball figures things out.

8. Evan Weaver, Cal

2018 Stats: 155 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, six passes defended

When you watch Weaver play, you get thrown off. He wears number 89, which is rare for an inside linebacker. He’s also pretty good at his position, Weaver finished second in the country in tackles, and already made 226 for his career.

7. Dylan Moses, Alabama

2018 Stats: 86 tackles, 10.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks

Pegged as the next great linebacker as soon as he stepped on campus. He was nominated as a Butkus Award Finalists last year, and led the Crimson Tide in tackles.

6. Shaq Quartermann, Miami

2018 Stats: 82 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, one interception

Michael Pinckney, Zach McCloud and Quartermann have all started every year since they came to Miami. Quartermann was pegged as the best of the three, but they’ve elevated each other every season. They’ll be a problem in the ACC again for opposing offenses.

5. David Woodward, Utah State

2018 Stats: 134 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, two interceptions

Woodward was a Third Team All-American last year, and that was as a sophomore. New(ish) head coach Gary Andersen inherits a lead on defense. If the offense continues its explosive play this year, the defense must take another step in the right direction. We know what we’re getting out of their star linebacker, but what about everyone else?

4. Paddy Fisher, Northwestern

2018 Stats: 116 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, one interception, four forced fumbles

Eclipsed the 100-tackle mark in both seasons with the Wildcats. Also has eight forced fumbles to his name, and two All-Conference selections. Northwestern’s defense will be a tough group again this year. Just how Pat Fitzgerald wants them.

3. Troy Dye, Oregon

2018 Stats: 109 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sacks, one interception

Dye’s accumulated 307 tackles (32 for loss) as well as 10.5 sacks. New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos comes from Boise State to incorporate a new scheme, and inherits quite a bit of talent.

2. Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

2018 Stats: 50 tackles, 13.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, one interception, 11 passes defended

Returned from an injury and returned to his dominant form. Alabama must reload defensively, but their linebackers shouldn’t be a huge concern. Jennings is a monster on the edge, and offensive tackles struggle to keep him in check when he rushes the passer.

1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

2018 Stats: 88 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, one interception, six passes defended

What scarier than a good linebacker? A linebacker that can cover receivers. Simmons played some safety, and it shows. He’s a beast at linebacker, but he also brings a versatility in coverage not seen in anyone else’s game. With Tre Lamar and Kendall Joseph gone, Simmons becomes the leader of the linebackers.

Others to Watch

Tuf Borland, Ohio State: Great name for a linebacker, and give the Buckeyes another great option at the second level.

Michael Divinity Jr., LSU: LSU’s linebackers will be tough this year. Divinity returns after a 54 tackle year (9.5 for loss) that also included two fumble recoveries.

Nate Evans, UCF: High flying playmaker who’s fun to watch. UCF’s defense must be better this year if a third consecutive season is the goal.

Khaleke Hudson, Michigan: Production wasn’t what it was in 2017, but he’s a special player. Don Brown puts him in the “Viper” position, giving the Wolverines a versatile player.

Terrell Lewis, Alabama: He returns after missing most of the 2018 season, giving the Tide another weapon defensively.

Mike Rose, Iowa State: If opponents can somehow get past the Cyclones defensive line, Rose will be there to finish the job.

Darrell Taylor, Tennessee: Didn’t produce many tackles, but had 11.0 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.

K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU: Returning from injury to give the Tigers yet another option at linebacker.

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