After a down year for linebackers in 2012, the position is well-stocked in 2013, according to CBS/MaxPreps recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
"Last year was a very, very weak year for linebackers," Lemming said. "This year, there are six or seven guys who are better than last year's No. 1 guy."
Leading the way is
linebacker Reuben Foster
. The nation's No. 3 overall recruit, who is already committed to Alabama, recently transferred from Troup County (LaGrange, Ga.) to Auburn, where he'll continue deliver bone-shattering hits this fall.
Lemming is impressed with Foster's instincts at the position.
"He has an innate ability to always be in position," he said. "He's always square to the ball."
Foster recorded 16 sacks from the inside linebacker position, something that Lemming said is nearly unprecedented.
The nation's No. 2 linebacker, No. 22 overall, is E.J. Levenberry
. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Levenberry, who has been on the varsity team since ninth grade, is being courted by schools around the country. Florida State and Michigan appear to be in the lead for his services.
Levenberry, a veteran of the recruiting process, has been to both campuses (in the case of Florida State, more than once) but he appears to be taking his time in the decision-making process.
from North Carolina power Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
is next on the list among linebackers. As a junior, he was responsible for 79 tackles (13 for loss) and six sacks. His teammates, Riley Ferguson and Uriah LeMay
, are also being highly recruited.
The nation's No. 4 linebacker is Jaylon Smith
, one of the top recruits in the Midwest and a priority for Notre Dame and head coach Brian Kelly. Smith seems to be favoring the Fighting Irish, but Ohio State, where his brother Rod plays running back, will continue to be a major factor in his recruitment. The Buckeyes, along with Purdue and Mississippi State, were among the first to offer Smith.
Two Florida linebackers check in at Nos. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in James Hearns
and Matthew Thomas
Hearns makes the list despite a torn ACL that sidelined him as a junior. He helped lead Lincoln to an upset of Armwood in the Class 4A state finals as a sophomore. He made a verbal pledge to Florida in February and appears resolute in his commitment.
The top-ranked player in Dade County this season, Washington will lead an outstanding Booker T. Washington defense this season. He needs to get bigger, but has the frame (6-4) to add much more weight.
"I would describe him as an exceptional athlete," said Booker T. Washington assistant coach Tim Harris Jr.
Harris Jr. said that Thomas is in no rush, and will likely announce on or around National Signing Day.
The Peach State is home to the nation's No. 7 linebacker,
. Johnson has starred at Central Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Ga.)
over the past two seasons and has been committed to Auburn since last summer. His head coach, Todd Wofford, has told MaxPreps that it's unlikely that Johnson wavers from his commitment.Larenz Bryant
is next on the list. Along with Kalambayi, Bryant helps make the city of Charlotte home to two of the top linebackers in the country. Bryant was actually more productive last season, registering 154 tackles, four interceptions and five forced fumbles.
Michigan commit Michael McCray
is the No. 9 linebacker in the country and No. 63 recruit overall. Listed as an athlete, Lemming likes McCray at linebacker, where he's been an integral part of the Trotwood-Madison (Trotwood, Ohio)
defense over the past two seasons.Isaac Savaiinaea
and another Ohio linebacker, Courtney Love
, round out the Top 100.
Saviinaea, who hails from Punahou (Honolulu)
, the same alma mater as star Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, is part of an impressive group of early commits to Stanford.
Most likely, it will be difficult to lure Love outside of Ohio, with Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes hot on his trail.Tom Lemming's Top Linebackers
1. Reuben Foster
2. E.J. Levenberry
3. Peter Kalambayi
4. Jaylon Smith
5. James Hearns
6. Matthew Thomas
7. Trey Johnson
8. Larenz Bryant
9. Michael McCray
10. Isaac Savaiinaea
11. Courtney Love