Penn State has long been known as “Linebacker U” as the school and Patriarch Joe Paterno have a long history of turning out NFL caliber linebackers. The 2010 Draft features 3 Penn State linebackers, all with varying degrees of talent. Sean Leewas probably the most consistent member of the unit when he was healthy. Lee won the 2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette High School Male Athlete-of-the-Year award. The Pittsburgh native was named to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 25 in 2005, and played in the Big 33 Classic against Ohio that same year.
In 2008, the Clemson defense as a whole registered only 14 sacks for the season. Sapp only had 2 in a shortened year as he tore his ACL in the second half of the season against Virginia. In 2009, Sapp faced questions regarding his health and his ability to make the switch to more of a linebacker role under new Defensive Coordinator Kevin Steele. Sapp responded with one of his best season at Clemson, registering 56 tackles 5 sacks and 16 total tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 7 quarterback hurries.
The NFL of yester year is a thing of the past, run first offenses are having lunch with the Dinosaurs. In this century the NFL is most definitely a passing league that rivals the days of the original AFL and Sid Gillman. Regardless, whichever scheme a Defensive Coordinator chooses, they will need athletic linebackers that can take on blockers at the point of attack then turn and drop into coverage 20 yards down the field.
I have commented before that due to the proliferation of 3-4 defenses over the last few years, hybrid defensive players will be at a premium. I believe that conversion candidates for the outside linebacker position must possess three traits: base strength, fluid movement and lateral agility and the ability to rush the passer. There are few players that possess all of those criteria.
It sounds like a legal case or the follow up to Frost/Nixon, but for draftniks it’s more serious than that. I thought I’d take a look at the two most highly rated ILB prospects, Brandon Spikes of Florida and Rolondo McClain of Alabama, in their biggest game of 2009/10 to date, the SEC Championship. Both playing on the same field in the same game. Both stepping up and showing the nation why they’re ranked so highly.