Recruiting class of 2016 position analysis: Linebackers
The race to National Signing Day has begun. Sports Illustrated and Scout.com have partnered to provide complete coverage of college football recruiting. SI.com has been rolling out breakdowns of the top-ranked players at each position. Today, we’re looking at linebackers. Check out our previous breakdowns of quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends, defensive ends, athletes and defensive tackles. Follow along daily with conference-by-conference recruiting shows featuring analysis, breaking news, prospect breakdowns and much more, all leading up to National Signing Day on Feb. 3.
1. Mique Juarez
High school: North (Torrance, Calif.)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 226 lbs
National rank: 14
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Recently named the Los Angeles Times's player of the year for Southern California, Juarez has kept his recruitment wide open. The No. 1 linebacker in the 2016 class has already taken visits to Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Washington. Those three schools are definitely in play, but UCLA has long been the favorite to land him. Juarez has yet to take his official visit to Westwood.
2. Ben Davis
High school: Gordo (Gordo, Ala.)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 235 lbs
National rank: 15
Scout.com scouting report: “Where do you want Davis to play? This young man is a jumbo-athlete with so much natural ability and still so much potential. Better than some think in drops, but likely an in-the-box player on the next level. Has ideal frame to be a big inside linebacker in college with the ability to rush the quarterback and stuff the run. Very athletic for his size and can chase the football. It is not out of the question for him to be a stand-up guy on edge.”
The latest: Davis has visits lined up to Notre Dame (Jan .15), Auburn (Jan. 22) and Alabama (Jan. 29) in the coming month. He also included Georgia and LSU in the top five list he announced in early December. Alabama and Georgia appear to be in the lead for Davis, and it would be a huge win for new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart if he could go back into Crimson Tide territory and snag one of the top players in the state.
3. Caleb Kelly
High school: Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.)
Height/Weight: 6’2.5”, 220 lbs
National rank: 17
Scout.com scouting report: “Kelly is one of those rare outside linebackers that can rush the passer, is strong against the run and can drop back in to coverage. He has a great frame and as he continues to fill out and gain strength, he'll become an even more physical player. He's a high level athlete who roams around like a safety but projects as an ideal weakside 'backer at the next level. Very solid tackler and is beginning to play with more of an edge to him.”
The latest: Kelly’s recruitment is still open, and there are a lot of programs in contention. The battle seems to be between Oklahoma, Notre Dame and most of the upper echelon of the Pac-12 (Oregon, USC and UCLA). Kelly has already taken four visits, and a positive trip to Norman may have the Sooners in the lead currently.
High school: Carver Senior (Montgomery, Ala.)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230 lbs
National rank: 50
Scout.com scouting report: “As a sophomore, Wilson notched 71 tackles, seven sacks, two interceptions, five forced fumbles and accounted for one touchdown in helping Carver advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 6A state playoffs.”
The latest: Wilson has yet to set up any of his official visits but has already named his top five schools—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and USC. He may have unofficially narrowed the list down to two when he tweeted that he would not be cheering for a team in the SEC Championship Game—between Alabama and Florida—because they were his top two.
High school: Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Height/Weight: 6’2.5”, 205 lbs
National rank: 54
Status: committed to Stanford
Scout.com scouting report: “Robinson has emerged as one of the hottest LB recruits in the nation with new offers flying in daily. He's a prototype weak side 'backer because of his high level athleticism and ability to play in space. He moves like a safety but hits like a linebacker and plays with plenty of toughness. He has an ideal frame and plenty of room to pack on 20 pounds or so in college. He’s a high motor/high character kid with a ton of upside.”
The latest: The U.S. Army All-American is the highest ranked linebacker in the 2016 class to already commit, giving a verbal to Stanford and head coach David Shaw in April. Robinson has held firm to his pledge since, and it would be tough to pry him away from the Cardinal at this point. Before he gave the nod to Stanford, USC was making a play for Robinson and will likely continue to push for him until Signing Day.
6. Jaquan Yulee
High school: Indian River (Chesapeake, Va.)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 249 lbs
National rank: 59
Status: committed to Alabama
Scout.com scouting report: “Yulee is the prototypical inside linebacker. He has a great combination of size, speed and strength. He has great instincts and reads and reacts to plays very quickly. He plays sideline to sideline and is a very physical. Overall, he is one of the best linebacker prospects I have seen.”
The latest: Yulee missed the early part of the prep season with an ankle injury and a two-game suspension but dominated as expected once he hit the field. He has been a firm commit to Alabama since June, but he has yet to set up his official visits and it is expected that he will take them.
High school: Davis (Houston, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’2.5”, 225 lbs
National rank: 66
Scout.com scouting report: “McCulloch has plus size and runs well for a linebacker. He is versatile and could probably play inside or outside, but excels on the edge of the defense in high school. He is very good at shedding blockers and playing in traffic. He is solid hitter, needs to work more on form tackling at times instead of trying to deliver a knockout blow, but he is definitely not shy to contact. He has ideal size, big time athletic ability, and makes plays.”
The latest: McCulloch announced his top five schools on Dec. 13, leaving Texas, Texas A&M, Notre Dame, Stanford and Florida in play. He has already taken his visits to Notre Dame and Stanford, which could bode well for the in-state schools if they can impress McCulloch on his official visits. He is headed to the Under Armour All-American Game on Jan. 9.
High school: Alief Elsik (Houston, Texas)
Height/Weight: 6’1.5”, 237 lbs
National rank: 77
Scout.com scouting report: “Jackson is a true middle linebacker and brings to the table the skills you are looking for at the position. He's a pretty physical player and has good size to stand up to down to down punishment in the middle of a defense. He diagnoses the play quickly and is tough to block. He gets downhill quickly, showing great vertical quickness to get to ball carriers. He is at his best against the run. He runs through tackles and is a sure finisher.”
The latest: Jackson still has plenty of schools that he is interested in, so his recruitment is pretty up in the air. He has taken three of his official visits so far, checking out Florida State, Michigan and UCLA. He has also unofficially visited Texas and spent time at its camp over the summer. Jackson is certainly a top priority of Charlie Strong and the Longhorns as the top inside linebacker in the state.
High school: Eden Prairie (Eden Prairie, Minn.)
Height/Weight: 6’3.5”, 212 lbs
National rank: 94
Status: committed to Minnesota
Scout.com scouting report: “Long, fast, athletic linebacker who can play a variety of roles. Comfortable playing in the middle, but also able to play on the edge and drop into coverage. Smart, instinctive and reads plays very well. Shoots gaps, stays disciplined and also gets into pass lanes when he's in coverage. Needs to get stronger and add bulk, but beyond that, he has everything else to be successful at the next level.”
The latest: The top linebacker prospect in the Midwest, Coughlin is a huge pickup for Minnesota. While he does not boast an extensive offer list, with only seven at this point, he does hold offers from best of the Big Ten, including Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin. The U.S. Army All-American has been committed to the Golden Gophers since March, but Minnesota will have to hold off the Buckeyes down the stretch.
10. Camilo Eifler
High school: Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland, Calif.)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 219 lbs
National rank: 96
Status: committed to Washington
Scout.com scouting report: N/A
The latest: Eifler has been committed to the Huskies since July and will use his first unofficial visit to head to Seattle. Eifler holds offers from most of the Pac-12 and a few national powers but seems to be a lock for the Huskies.