Ranking the SEC’s linebackers for 2013

Previous Rankings:

It’s time to turn our attention to those nasty, hard-hitting SEC linebackers. You know the kind that can run sideline to sideline with any running back? Remember, we’re ranking these prospects on the impact they’ll make in 2013, not just digesting last year’s results.

Alabama is absolutely stacked at linebacker, and the Tide boast the top linebacking corps in college football.

Let’s roll:

Bama boys

1. CJ Mosley, Alabama
2. Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

There’s no denying the pure raw talent Alabama has in their linebacking corps. Let’s start with the star and face of the defense: CJ Mosley. Mosley is one of the best tacklers in the SEC, but he’s just nasty in coverage. He’s totaled 211 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in three years of work, and he returned for a fourth just in case you weren’t already convinced. But his five INTs, returning three for touchdowns, jumps off the page…Adrian Hubbard isn’t close to reaching his full potential yet. In fact, he’s only scratching the surface. He’s racked up 50 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in mainly one year’s worth of playing time. His ceiling is very high, and I think he blows into the rush linebacker we all think he could become in Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme. What an incredible duo.

Super sophomores

3. Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
4. Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Even though Jordan Jenkins enters the season as my third best linebacker, he could challenge Mosley for the top spot. As crazy as it sounds, Jenkins could be better than – wait for it – Jarvis Jones. He posted 31 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in very limited backup time as a true freshman. I love this kid’s athleticism and game…Denzel Nkemdiche splashed onto the scene last season as a no-name redshirt freshman, and he dominated. He registered a team-high 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks and three INTs. And the ceiling is so high for this sophomore. Despite being undersized, Nkemdiche packs a punch envied by most defenders. This kid can play, and he’ll let you know about it.

Controlling the middle

5. AJ Johnson, Tennessee
6. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
7. Antonio Morrison, Florida

AJ Johnson switching schemes from a 3-4 to a 4-3 should do wonders for his game. He’s a prototypical middle linebacker and quarterback of the defense, and he eats up ball carriers at the second level; he had to last year because the line play was so poor. Johnson has notched 218 tackles in just two seasons, and if that’s not good enough for you, he also scored six touchdowns last year. That nation’s second-leading returning tackler at No. 5? Call me crazy…Benardrick McKinney may be the best defender you’ve never heard of. He was overshadowed by Johnthan Banks, Darius Slay and Cam Lawrence last season, but he was the defense’s biggest breakout player. He managed to rack up 102 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and one sack, and he’ll remind you of former MSU LB KJ Wright…Florida’s hard hitting middle man Antonio Morrison brings the slammer hammer upon impact. This kid’s game is mature, and his football IQ, along with his barking ability, is off the charts. Morrison replaces Jon Bostic at middle linebacker, and Morrison notched 34 tackles, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble, knocking FSU’s EJ Manuel into the next millennium.

Weathered veterans

8. Lamin Barrow, LSU
9. Trey DePriest, Alabama
10. Chase Garnham, Vanderbilt

Lamin Barrow is arguably LSU’s most important defensive player. His production was overlooked by Kevin Minter’s last year, as he registered 104 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss. He’s totaled 139 tackles in three years, and he looks to be the leader and swag-master the Tigers’ defense is used to having…A third Bama linebacker on the list? Trey DePriest would be the top linebacker for several other SEC teams, and his production is taken for granted and overlooked. In 2012, he started 12 games, recording 56 tackles, four tackles for loss, two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. He looks to blossom as a draft-eligible junior and one of the leaders for the Tide’s veteran defense…Chase Garnham, like Benardrick McKinney, is not really talked about. All Garnham did in 2012 was put up some serious numbers. He posted 84 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, bringing his career total to 143 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss. This kid is tough, overlooked and underrated.

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-US PRESSWIRE