When the linebackers at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle take the field each week this fall, they won't merely be attempting to dominate their opponent. They'll also be trying to outperform one another.
"It helps us a lot," De La Salle linebacker
The friendly competition serves to bring out the best in each of the Division I prospects who comprise arguably the nation's most talented high school linebacker corps.
Egu holds offers from Nebraska, Notre Dame and the majority of Pac-12 schools, yet he isn't even the most highly ranked player in this group. That honor belongs to
"As that group jells into their senior year, they're going to be pretty unstoppable on defense," Rivals.com West recruiting analyst Adam Gorney said.
That group helped De La Salle finish 18th in the RivalsHigh 100 national rankings last year. De La Salle capped the season by winning its third straight California Interscholastic Federation state championship Open Division bowl game, 35-0 over a previously unbeaten Westlake Village Westlake team that ended up 41st in the RivalsHigh 100.
The 2011 group of De La Salle linebackers also included
"Last year, the De La Salle defense was arguably the best defense they had in school history," Gorney said, "and that's really saying something."
Barton's departure obviously creates a major challenge, as any defense would suffer after losing a four-star prospect. But the remaining linebackers believe they're good enough to compensate for his absence.
"I feel we'll be better than we were last year, with me and Moffitt maturing another year," Hutchings said. "I think we'll compete for one of the best trios we've had here. We're ready to make a little bit of history.
"From Day 1, when the three of us are in the game, we'll know all eyes are on us."
That kind of attention is inevitable for the most touted players on one of the nation's most consistently successful programs.
De La Salle won a record 151 consecutive games from 1992 to 2003 and has posted an overall record of 384-25-3 since Bob Ladouceur took over the program in 1979. De La Salle finished fourth in the RivalsHigh 100 national rankings in 2010, 39th in 2009 and 55th in 2008. Notable alumni include Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, Denver Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams and former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer.
At linebacker in particular, recent notable players include Barton, four-star recruit
That tradition means plenty to this current group of De La Salle linebackers.
"It's a very big deal," Egu said. "Our linebackers are definitely the heart and soul of our defense."
These three seniors say they've learned from the linebackers who came before them. They got a chance to play alongside Renaud and Barton and remember the leadership that Barton provided last year. Now they're eager to pass those lessons on to the underclassmen.
"It started with Barton's leadership," Hutchings said. "He kind of owned the middle and worked that into the rest of our defense. And we had a shutdown corner last year,
De La Salle's front seven on defense will also include defensive end
"That's how it was last year," Hutchings said. "We knew Barton was going to try to be the first man there. It's a race. We want to see who sheds blockers fastest, who reads fastest. It causes everybody to step up their game. It's going to be a competition."
In this competition, the only loser is the opposing ball carrier.
• Height/Weight: 6-foot-3/217
• Height/Weight: 6-2/210
• Height/Weight: 6-2/205