I am a firm believer that defense wins championships! Just like the offensive side of the ball needs a leader, so does the defense. Typically, one thinks of the Quarterback as the offensive leader although a veteran at another position could be it too. On the defensive side of the ball, we are typically looking at the Linebacker position for the defensive leader. Below I have five Linebackers I like in the 2024 class that could rise to that leadership role.
Texas - Jaylan Ford
Currently my LB1 of the 2024 class.
Ford was a three-star prospect out of Frisco, TX. Last season he really started putting it all together collecting 119 total tackles. 62 of those being solo tackles. In addition, he gained 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and four interceptions. This season he is on pace for 78.5 tackles on a team high 83.3% snap share. He currently leads the team in run stops with 21.
He is a versatile linebacker that excels in stopping the run. He can drop into coverage having two interceptions on the season. He has allowed 70.8% completion when targeted with one touchdown. He has a leadership IQ ready to lead any defense. His strongest attribute is his tackling. He can get to the ball quickly and knows how to properly wrap up in the open field.
Alabama - Dallas Turner
Currently my LB2 of the 2024 class.
Turner was a five-star prospect out of Fort Lauderdale, FL. Entering his final year of high school he had NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor as a mentor. His freshman year he broke onto the scene for the Crimson Tide with 8.5 sacks. Second from linebackers behind Will Anderson Jr. (3rd overall pick last year) Two years later he took what he learned from Anderson and is applying it to his own game. He is on pace for 12 sacks & 51 tackles! He is doing this on 71.9% of snaps!
He is a two-way linebacker that can stand back into coverage or work on the line. He has the speed to track the ball avoiding big gains that go through the offensive line. When lined up on the line his strength allows him to push the tackles causing pressure on the quarterbacks. He plays with a high motor not giving up on any play.
A&M - Edgerrin Cooper
Currently my LB7 of the 2024 class.
Cooper was a four-star prospect out of Covington, LA. He has always played with a high motor breaking down on plays quickly and efficiently. His first two seasons at A&M (excluding 2020-Covid year) he averaged 59.5 total tackles with 35 being solo. This year though his explosiveness is being shown with 6 sacks on the season after having only .5 sack total the 2 years prior. He did get hurt during vs Tennessee. That could be considered a reason why A&M lost. With him gone that is a huge blow for A&M defense. Before the injury he was seeing 74.6% of snaps.
He is dangerous off the edge. Cooper attacks with incredible velocity. His 33 stops show that. One of the best off-ball linebackers we have seen at the position. He tracks the ball with precision and swiftness closing in with great pace. His injury will hurt the A&M defense if he has to take time to heal. That should not drop him down the draft boards. A healthy Cooper is a dominant threat.
Mississippi St - Jett Johnson
Currently my LB10 of the 2024 class.
Johnson was a three-star prospect out of Tupelo, MS. He has always had the pro-size you want in a linebacker. Currently about 6’2 with 230 pounds of muscle. His first few years in college were the “Covid-years” so we did not see much of him until 2021. Three-years after his high school graduation. He has led the team in tackles since 2021. His 2022 season he broke over 100 tackles (115) with 2 sacks! This season through 7 games he is on pace for 132 tackles with 6.5 sacks on 89.7% of snaps!
He is a natural leader with a high IQ that will show at the next level. His awareness allows him to find the open gaps to break down on the ball quickly. Johnson has that instinct you want from your linebacker. He brings the pressure with 31 total stops on the season. Stepping back in coverage is a weak spot for him allowing 95.2% of passes to be caught. The bright side, he has not allowed a passing touchdown and has two interceptions.
UTEP - Tyrice Knight
Currently my LB15 of the 2024 class.
Knight was a three-star prospect out of Lakeland, FL. He is a tackling machine currently leading all FBS linebackers with 58 solo tackles. He is third overall in total tackles with 90. Through 8 games he is on pace to have 135 total tackles with 87 solo! That impressive feat could be because he is on the field for 99.4% of snaps! He is the UTEP leader!
He plays with a high motor 100% of the time. His weakest trait is his coverage skills allowing 76.2% of targets to be caught for 201 yards. He allowed his first touchdown this past week. Knight is fast with great vision creating this machine that instinctively breaks down a play in a blink. He sees where the ball is and attacks rapidly.
Those are some of my favorite linebackers right now. If they are not on your radar, I highly recommend adding them. I think each can transition well into an NFL linebacker.
Thank you for reading! Be sure to tune in to the Dynasty Pros Devy Show every Tuesday & Thursday to hear some of my offensive college takes. For more IDP content follow me on X @ThePPRShow
Peace & Love.