Saffron Restaurants reservation 2024 Top 10 Linebacker Unit Rankings: Georgia, Iowa and Michigan project as top rooms this fall

2024 Top 10 Linebacker Unit Rankings: Georgia, Iowa and Michigan project as top rooms this fall

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With spring training in the books and the second transfer portal closed, it’s time to kick-start our summer series as we evaluate the 2024 positional unit rankings.

I debuted the series with a look at the 10 best quarterback rooms, then ranked the Top 10 running back units in 2024, the best tight end rooms and the best receiver units this fall. We shut down the offensive side of the ball with the big ugliers, who ranked the Top 10 offensive line units this season.

This week we’ll be working on the best defense rooms. On Monday I released my (semi-controversial???) top 10 defensive line/fringe units, which were extremely difficult to rank. Today it’s the top 10 linebacker rooms for 2024.

Also difficult with so many quality defensive players returning to college football this fall.

Unfortunately, that’s the job.

So the Top 10 Linebacker Units in 2024:

CJ Allen Georgia 1
Tony Walsh/UGA Sports Comm

The Bulldogs willingly watched as an All-SEC linebacker left for another SEC team because Jamon Dumas Johnson No starting spot would be promised in 2024 — that’s how loaded UGA is at linebacker this season.

Sophomore C.J. Allen And Raylen Wilson are a pair of former top recruits who have had plenty of playing time in 2023. They are both crazy athletic and super instinctive. Former five-star recruit Smaël Mondon Jr. opted to return for his senior season and projects as a likely starter while he was a junior Jalen Walker is arguably the best Swiss Army knife linebacker in the country as a pseudo inside edge rusher (team-high 5.0 sacks). To top it all off, UGA also signed two of the best inside linebackers in the country Justin Williams And Chris Cole

The Hawkeyes return two of the nation’s most productive linebackers from 2023, plus every notable backup on the unit from last year’s Top 10 defense.

Jay Higgins and all 171 of his tackles are back for one last ride with the Hawkeyes. The fifth-year tied a school record for stops in 2023 and finished the season as the nation’s most valuable linebacker, according to PFF. Back too Nick Jackson, as the former Virgina transfer was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA. Jackson had 110 tackles and 4.0 sacks last season. The Hawkeyes also return swingman Kyler Visserwho can play inside or outside and offers real pass-rushing ability (3.5 sacks), as well as several other upperclassmen who are green in terms of experience but have been in Phil Parker’s system for several years.

Despite losing starters Junior Colson and Michael Barrett to the NFL, the Wolverines shouldn’t suffer much at inside linebacker in 2024. Ernest Hausmann will step into a starting role after playing extensively as a reserve in 2023, and Michigan will also welcome the transfer from Maryland Jaishawn Barham – the highest-ranked linebacker in the portal.

Barham, who was injured for much of last season, was a Freshman All-American in 2022 and has All-Big Ten potential if he can maximize his talent on the Wolverines’ defense. Michigan doesn’t have exceptional depth, but Jimmy Rolder is a solid rotation player, while former four-star freshman Semaj Bridgeman could provide some key snaps as a pass rushing option from the linebacker spot.

All American Danny Stutsman is back as a Tier 1 Butkus Award candidate in 2024. The senior stuffed the stat sheet last season with 104 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, a pair of forced fumbles and a pick-six. Stutsman should also get more help this season, as Kip Lewis is primed for an even bigger role after an outstanding freshman season in 2023 (66 tackles, second-most on the team).

Brent Venables also uses a Cheetah linebacker in his defense instead of a true nickel back, with Kendel Dolby (the man with the better coverage) and Dasan McCullough (a more pure rusher, run defender) the sharing starts last season. Both can also play the MIKE and WILL. OU also has valuable depth pieces with sophomores Lewis Carter And Kobie McKinize insisting on starting roles, plus backup Years Kanakwho had 62 tackles in a reserve role in 2023.

The Cowboys may have the best linebacker that most casual fans aren’t aware of, as an All-Big 12 honoree Niek Martin seems to be on track for a season in which he just recorded 140 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and six sacks.

The Pokes’ unit should be even more dynamic, like Colin Oliver should feel even more comfortable in his role as an off-ball linebacker after transitioning late last season (still had 73 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss). Oklahoma State doesn’t return much experience other than seventh-year seniors Justin Wright is back after missing most of the 2023 season due to injury. Wright had more than 100 tackles in 2022. Sophomore Donovan Stephens is also seen as a future impact player for the Cowboys.

Barrett Carter surprised many people when he chose to decline the NFL Draft and return to Clemson for another year. The former top recruit was PFF’s No. 1 linebacker in the 2024 draft class despite a semi-down junior season, and now he has a chance to really put himself back into the first-round conversation with a big senior season.

Wade Woodaz And Kobe McCloud are back after serving as a rotation option last season, with both vying for a starting spot opposite Carter. But a five-star freshman could immediately push for one of those jobs, like Sammy Brown had a monster spring for the Tigers and will see the field early this fall. Brown plays the position with his hair on fire, and is a ridiculous athlete who has accomplished crazy feats as a high school tailback, wrestler, and track star.

Deontae Lawson is one of the more underrated linebackers in the country, as the redshirt junior finally enjoyed a role in the spotlight in 2023. Although he missed several games due to injury, it was a breakout season for Lawson, who proved that as a plus pass rusher and run defender at multiple spots for the Tide.

In Kane Wommack’s 4-2-5 scheme, Lawson should have a monstrous 2024 season, while Jihad Campbell (and his lightning speed) serves as an excellent running mate as a versatile cover/pass rushing option at the weak spot.

The Tide also brings back seniors Justin Jeffersona former JUCO transfer who could play a bigger role this fall. Jeremiah Alexander is a former top recruit who also has major upside after moving from edge/end to inside linebacker and could be a situational difference-maker this fall.

Although the Wildcats need to replace Trevin Wallace, UK still has one of the best linebacker units in the SEC with a pair of super-seniors in D’Eryk Jackson and Daveren Rayner plus the addition of All-SEC transfer Jamon Dumas -Johnson from Georgia.

Jackson led the ‘Cats in tackles (89) in 2023, while Dumas-Johnson was a 2022 All-American and is one of the nation’s most proven linebackers after starting several years on the championship defense. Kentucky is also excited about the emergence of freshman Grant Godfrey, who moved to off-ball linebacker this spring and will see a backup role. The fact that JJ Weaver often leaves his position on the fringes and moves into coverage as a traditional SAM backer makes the British unit all the more formidable.

The Irish lost some serious production from their linebacking corps from last season, and yet Jack Kisers returns combined with the emergence of some promising underclassmen could even offer the unit more upside potential in 2024.

As a fifth-year player in 2023, Kiser emerged as a breakout candidate and now that he’s back for a sixth season, he could become a household name as a senior. Kiser’s per-snap production was among the best in the country last year, and there is hope that the former five-star production Jaylen Sneed is primed for a primetime role as the team’s ROVER backer. Drayk Bowen is another former top recruit looking to take over the MIKE spot this fall Kahanu Kia and Jaiden Ausberry are high-ranked sophomores competing for snaps. Then there is the true freshman who enrolled early Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asawho had such an excellent spring, many believe he will also see early snaps this season in some capacity.

Is this an upward movement and projection?

Sure!

After a poor sophomore season, Harold Perkins remains at inside linebacker with the hope that his freakish talent will flourish in the right role. Even in a “regression year,” Perkins still posted a plus rating (per PFF) and had 13.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks.

Former four-star recruit Greg Penn III He’s been a serviceable body inside, but he’s being pushed into a starting spot Pentecost weeks, who was one of the bright spots as a freshman on a terrible unit in 2023. Weeks has elite athletic ability and will likely be too talented to stay off the field this fall. In reserve, LSU also has his brother West Weeks, plus intriguing underclassmen Davon Keys, Tylen Singleton and Kolaj Cobbins.

The best of the rest: Arizona, Auburn, Penn State and Oregon