The crop of outside linebackers for 2012 is very good, better than the crop of inside linebackers. There are several tall and rangy linebackers who can grow into defensive ends. Outside linebackers are becoming more popular with 3-4 and 3-5 defenses but, to be successful, you must be tall and rangy and quick-footed and agressive.
Six of the top 10 outside linebackers rank among the top 100 players in the nation, including Stephone Anthony, who is No. 4.
1. Stephone Anthony of Wadesboro, N.C., is a 6-3, 220-pounder who has the best nose for the ball of any linebacker in the nation. He had 18 career interceptions heading into this season. He is instinctive, athletic, a big playmaker, applies pressure on the quarterback, stuffs the run and is excellent in pursuit. Uncommitted, he is considering North Carolina, North Carolina State, USC, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Nebraska, UCLA, South Carolina and Oklahoma.
2. Tony Steward of St. Augustine, Fla., is a 6-2, 225-pounder who ranks as the No. 28 player in the nation. His film is the best I've seen for stopping the run. He is aggressive, a difference-maker. Uncommitted, he is considering Florida, Florida State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Miami, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, USC, UCLA, South Carolina and Arkansas.
3. Trey DePriest of Springfield, Ohio, is a 6-1, 220-pounder who is rated as the No. 58 player in the nation. He is the No. 1 linebacker in Ohio but he committed to Alabama, a major catch for the Crimson Tide. He gets off the ball quickly, stuffs the run and is good in pursuit.
4. Christian French of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a 6-6, 220-pounder who is the No. 64 player in the nation. He is one of the best athletes in the country. His father was a basketball star at Iowa. He played safety last year at 6-6 and 218 pounds. He has 4.5 speed and is the fastest linebacker of all. He likely will choose Iowa or Notre Dame. He has the highest ceiling of all linebackers.
5. Brent Calloway of Russellville, Ala., is a 6-2, 210-pounder who is the No. 82 player in the nation. He is committed to Alabama. A two-time All-Stater, he runs well and has emerged as one of the leading prospects in the state.
6. Trevon Randle of League City, Texas, is a 6-1, 215-pounder who is the No. 85 player in the nation. He is very small but as fast as a running back. Offenses have to adjust for his speed. He is committed to LSU.
7. Anthony Sarao of Absecon, N.J., is a 6-1, 218-pounder who is committed to Stanford. A blue collar type, workmanlike type, he is relentless and plays hard snap after snap.
8. Jake Keefer of Baldwin, Wis., is a 6-4, 215-pounder who is the No. 1 player in Wisconsin. He is committed to Wisconsin. He is rangy, aggressive, instinctive and makes plays. He needs to put on weight and develop more strength.
9. Tre Madden of Mission Viejo, Calif., is a 6-1, 220-pounder who earned junior All-America status. He runs well and has excellent body control and burst. He is committed to USC.
10. Leilon Willingham of Denver, Colo., is a 6-2, 240-pounder who is one of the top three prospects in Colorado. He was All-State as a junior while playing for one of the leading programs in the state. He is a leader and a playmaker with good speed. Uncommitted, he is considering Washington, Colorado, Arizona State, Minnesota, Kansas State, Colorado State, California and Utah.