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Year of the Linebacker


If the recruiting class of 2007 became known as the "Year of the Quarterback," with Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett, Tyrod Taylor and others, then 2008 could be labeled the "Year of the Linebacker." Teams looking for a game-changing linebacker this year don't have to look far, especially those that recruit the state of Florida.

The Sunshine State might as well be the Linebacker State this year when it comes to high school prospects. Seven of the nation's top 20 linebackers hail from Florida this year with five of them committed to in-state programs.

Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla linebacker Nigel Bradham, the No. 12 player in the country, leads the strong crop in state this year. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder had 150 tackles as a junior and committed early to Florida State. He'll be joined as a Seminole by Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast 'backer Nigel Carr, who is ranked as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country, and Davenport (Fla.) Ridge star Vincent Williams, ranked No. 9 as an inside linebacker.

Not to be outdone, Miami has quite the linebacker haul as well. The headliners are Homestead, Fla., outside 'backer Marcus Robinson and Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna stud Jordan Futch, who rank as the No. 35 and No. 36 players in the country, respectively. Robinson and Futch are joined by Dunnellon, Fla., star Lerentee McCray, who ranks just outside the top 10 nationally at his position.

While three of the top four linebackers in the nation hail from Florida and will play their college ball in the Sunshine State, there are plenty of tackling machines elsewhere as well. Wichita (Kan.) Wichita East linebacker Arthur Brown remains uncommitted with numerous schools still in the running. Hoover (Ala.) Spain Park speedster William Green is also heavily recruited. Both are national top-50 players. Miami (Fla.) Dr. Krop star Etienne Sabino, also uncommitted, ranks in the top 50.

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Overall there are 14 linebackers in the national top 100 (all positions) for the 2008 recruiting year compared to only six last year. There are almost as many top-100 linebackers in Florida alone this year (5) as there were in the entire nation for 2007.

So who other than FSU and Miami are cleaning up at linebacker this year? Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State all boast four top linebacker commitments. The Irish have two top-100 'backers in Chicago area standouts Steven Filer and Darius Fleming, who are both a great fit for the new 3-4 defense in South Bend. Michigan's class is highlighted by New Jersey linebackers J.B. Fitzgerald and Marcus Witherspoon, while Linebacker U received commitments from Pennsylvania's Mike Yancich and Ohio's Mike Zordich.

Last year, national depth at linebacker was very thin, so it makes sense that 2008 is loaded -- these things are cyclical. If your favorite team doesn't get a stud linebacker this recruiting year, then something's not right.

Brown on the move: The aforementioned Arthur Brown has been a busy guy of late. Brown, the nation's No. 25-ranked player, took official visits to North Carolina and LSU the last couple of weekends. He's also taken an official to Alabama. Brown hopes to make his decision by mid-December and still has visits left to Miami and USC. Oklahoma has long been thought to be the team to beat, and he's visited the Sooners unofficially.

Ohio State adds speed: Fort Washington (Md.) Friendly speedster Lamaar Thomas committed to Ohio State this past week. The 5-11, 181-pounder will be utilized as Ted Ginn Jr. was as a wideout/return specialist who will also be dangerous on reverses. Thomas chose OSU over Illinois.

Looking around: Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely cornerback Patrick Johnson is committed to Miami but is still looking around. The nation's top player at his position, Johnson has already visited Florida and took an official visit to LSU this past weekend. He will also trip to USC in December but recently said he's still solidly committed to the 'Canes.

Gophers get a couple: Despite struggles on the field, Tim Brewster has the Gophers holding their own when it comes to recruiting. Chicago (Ill.) Robeson teammates Brandon Green and Johnny Johnson both committed to Minnesota this weekend, despite the Gophers' loss to North Dakota State. Green was heavily recruited, holding offers from Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, Wisconsin and others.