In terms of defensive positions, linebacker has traditionally been the sexiest. That has somewhat changed with the advent of the spread offense and the ubiquitous nickel defense that pull a linebacker off the field in favor of an extra defensive back. That being said, everyone still gets excited about a linebacker meeting a running back in the hole and driving him into the turf. If you like linebacking talent, you won’t be disappointed in the ACC this season. The ACC has a nice combination of thumping middle linebackers and sideline to sideline outside linebackers. If you like pads popping, this is going to be a good year for you.
Note: I had Mook Reynolds from Va. Tech at #5 originally, but uhm, he got arrested on felony weed distribution charges last week and was dismissed from the program.
5. Michael Pinckney - Miami
The former 2016 3* recruit out of Jacksonville, Florida has certainly out played his ranking. Pinckney started for the Hurricanes as a true freshman in 2016, and has been a consistent tackler from his weak-side linebacker position. As a Sophomore, he posted 68 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and an interception. He will be a key cog in Miami’s revamped defense again this year.
4. Oluwaseun Idowu - Pittsburgh
Idowu is another linebacker that has far exceeded his high school accolades. Hailing from Nigeria, the former walk-on to the Pitt program is entrenched at the Star (hybrid LB/DB) position for the Panthers. The senior is a tackling machine, putting up 94 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks last year as a junior. He pursues sideline to sideline and has the speed to chase down ball carriers from behind and the strength to fight through blocks and make tackles. When he’s not chasing down ball carrier you can find him covering tight ends and slot receivers from his hybrid position.
Note: This video is closer to a coaches film than a highlight video
3. Shaq Quarterman - Miami
In a break from the norm, Quarterman came into Miami as a 4* linebacker in 2016, and has lived up to his billing thus far. At 6’1, 235 Quarterman makes hug hits from his middle linebacker position. As a Sophomore for the Hurricanes he contributed 83 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Quarterman is a thumper who can fight off blocks and get to a ball carrier, and once he sticks a running back, he generally stays stuck. He joins fellow Hurricane Michael Pickney on this list, in what looks to be an impressive linebacking at Miami.
2. Kendall Joseph - Clemson
The #2 player on the list is a familiar name for Tiger fans. Joseph is another overachiever, coming out of THE BHP as a 3* prospect, the compact Joseph has been a key component of some of the best defensive units in the nation. Joseph is a versatile player that can play either middle or weak side linebacker, depending on where Brent Venables needs him. He is a true 3 down linebacker that stays on the field in Clemson’s nickle package. As a Junior, Joseph tallied 96 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, and an interception. As a senior, he will be expected to lead the linebacking corps for the talent rich Tigers.
1. Joe Giles-Harris - Duke
In keeping with the theme, this former 3* prospect out of New Jersey has blossomed in Durham. As a Sophomore at Duke he recorded a mind boggling 125 tackles, including 16 for loss, 3.5 sacks, and an interception. He may be singularly most important defender on any team in the ACC (meaning Duke is terrible without him). He makes tackles all over the field has an incredible nose for the ball. He will try an continue his reign of terror from his weak side linebacker position again this season.