I rate James Wilder, my choice as the No. 1 player in the nation in the class of 2011, as the best outside linebacker in the country. The 6-2, 220-pounder from Tampa, Fla., also could be the best running back in the nation. Wherever a college decides to put him, he will be an impact player. He is the best running back and linebacker in Florida.
The No. 4 player in the nation is 6-3, 220-pound Stephone Anthony of Wadesboro, N.C., who recorded the most production of any linebacker in the nation last year. Anthony was credited with 140 tackles last season and had 18 interceptions in the last three years, an unheard of statistic for a linebacker.
The No. 57 player in the nation is 6-1, 220-pound Trey DePriest of Springfield, Ohio. He is the top-rated linebacker in Ohio and figures to choose Ohio State.
Brent Calloway, a 6-2, 201-pounder from Russellville, Ala., is the No. 81 player in the nation. He has committed to Alabama.
Trevon Randle, a 6-1, 215-pounder from League City, Texas, is the No. 84 player in the nation. He has committed to LSU.
Anthony Wallace, a 6-2, 220-pounder from Dallas, Texas, is the No. 100 player in the nation. In January, he already had accumulated 30 scholarship offers.
The best outside linebacker prospect in Illinois is 6-3, 230-pound James Adeyanju of Chicago Curie, who has 4.6 speed. He plays defensive end in high school but he has the size and athletic ability to play outside linebacker in college. He is a big-time prospect and could crack the top 100 list after the season.
One player who I inadvertently forgot to include on my top 100 list--he is a top 50 player--is Tony Steward of St. Augustine, Fla., a 6-2, 225-pounder with great speed, great pursuit and good size. He should rank between 20-30 among the top players in the country.
Other outside linebackers to watch are 6-2, 215-pound Anthony Sarao of Absecon, N.J., the best linebacker in New Jersey who is committed to Stanford; 6-5, 225-pound Colt Lyerla of Hillsboro, Oregon, who was All-State as a running back and linebacker last year; 6-4, 230-pound Richard Rodgers of Shrewsbury, Mass., who averages 15 yards per reception as a wide receiver last season and whose father played at California; and 6-3, 230-pound Kris Frost of Charlotte, N.C.
Among the inside linebackers, 6-4, 240-pound Lawrence Thomas of Detroit, Mich., ranks as the No. 35 player in the nation. He is the best player in Michigan and is committed to Michigan State.
Curtis Grant, a 6-3, 225-pounder from Richmond, Va., is the No. 39 player in the nation.
Texas has a commitment from 6-3, 235-pound Steve Edmond of Daingerfield, Texas, who is the No. 41 player in the nation. He made over 100 tackles for his state championship team last season.
Mississippi State has a commitment from 6-2, 220-pound C.J. Johnson of Philadelphia, Miss., the No. 58 player in the nation. He is the top-rated player in Mississippi.
Alabama has a commitment from 6-1, 230-pound Shannon Brown of Adel, Ga., who is the No. 61 player in the nation. He has 4.5 speed and is one of the most physical players in the country.
Other standouts at inside linebacker are 6-2, 230-pound Nick Lifka of Naperville North, who has committed to Boston College; 6-3, 235-pound Lamar Dawson of Danville, Ky., the best player in Kentucky; and 6-3, 220-pound James Vaughters of Tucker, Ga., a straight-A student who has committed to Stanford.