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May 14, 2013

Rivals Camp Series: Top linebackers

MORE: Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour

The regional portion of the Rivals Camp Series presented by Under Armour is over, wrapping up in Chicago and totaling 15 events around the country. Rivals.com breaks down the best of the best at each position with a look at the defensive side of the ball this week, as well as the athletes. Led by Shaun Dion Hamilton who balled out at the Birmingham RCS, here's the list of linebackers.

(Note: The following list does not necessarily reflect future changes in prospect rankings; it is based only on performances at regional Rivals Camp Series events. Many other factors and events will be taken into account before updated rankings are revealed next week. This list is for the class of 2014 only. Underclassmen will be listed separately.)

1. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Montgomery (Ala.) Carver
Even though Hamilton didn't enter the RCS Birmingham with the highest ranking of the linebacker group, he made the biggest impression. Hamilton reminded one analyst of Reuben Foster, just a couple of inches shorter and minus the verbal commitment flip-flopping. He has a rocked-out frame and closes well in the short area, in addition to being able to cover downfield in man coverage on wheel routes.

2. Connor Strachan, Needham (Mass.) St. Sebastian's Country Day
When Strachan was going through registration at the Newark RCS he looked a little on the short side to be a four-star linebacker, but that proved to be insignificant. At 6-foot, 240 pounds, Strachan looks like he lives in the gym, but what you couldn't tell just by looking at him was just how well he could move in space. He had the lateral quickness and straight-line speed to turn and run with running backs who were 50 pounds lighter than him. His performance clearly validated his star rating, and it's a wonder he doesn't have more offers.

3. LB Tre Williams, Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul's
Williams turned in a good performance in Birmingham at the RCS Alabama stop. During drills, he showed lateral agility and ball skills. Once one-on-ones got rolling, he made a few plays defending the pass. He had a nice burst when closing on flat and choice routes, limiting extra yards after the catch.

4. Hoza Scott, La Porte (Texas)
It took a little while, but once Scott made it to the RCS Houston he quickly made his presence felt in one-on-ones. He was fluid in his movement and natural in coverage. These events can be hard on linebackers, but Scott made it look easy covering downfield and quickly adjusting on short routes. He has been thought of as one of the top linebackers in the country since his sophomore year, and he committed to Texas A&M early in the process.

5. Kain Daub, Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood
Daub continues to take reps and get more comfortable playing in space on the spring camp circuit. The Rivals100 inside linebacker participated in the RCS Orlando event looking to prove skeptics wrong about his coverage ability. He is at his best when he gets hands on running backs and can jam them, throwing off their timing. His upper-body strength is very good, but we would like to see him increase his foot speed and hip flexibility.

6. Dillon Bates, Ponte Vedra (Fla.)
The four-star athlete is an athletic outside linebacker with safety coverage skills. Bates got his head around to locate the ball for a nice pass breakup on a seam route at the RCS Orlando. He was solid against quicker running backs in space, and he took proper angles when locating the ball. His versatility will allow him to fit in any defense at the next level.

7. Tyrell Tomlin, Marrietta (Ga.)
Tomlin has a reputation for being a big hitter, but at the RCS Atlanta he narrowly missed the defensive MVP award by looking terrific in pass coverage. He lined up against some of the best backs and tight ends in the Southeast and came away victorious on several reps, even showing nice hands while making a couple of interceptions. Several schools continue to chase the Rivals250 prospect, with Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina among his early favorites.

8. Raekwon McMillan, Hinesville (Ga.) Liberty County
McMillan came into the RCS Atlanta camp looking much like the prospect who was one of the first 10 five-star prospects in his class. He weighed in at a lean 235 pounds, and he looked much smoother running in coverage against backs and tight ends. On the recruiting front, it looked like Ohio State might lead wire-to-wire for the Rivals100 linebacker but Alabama, Georgia and Clemson have made up ground in recent weeks.

9. Petera Wilson, Memphis (Tenn.) White Station
At the RCS Birmingham Wilson turned in a great showing, looking like he belonged in the conversation with Hamilton and Williams for best 'backer at the event. He has all the traits of an SEC linebacker, with good size, speed and athleticism. Several teams are still chasing Wilson, but Ohio State and Tennessee are the most aggressive as of late.

10. Derik Calhoun, El Cerrito (Calif.)
There is no question Calhoun is a little short, but that has not stopped him from performing well at numerous events this offseason and he was one of the top linebackers at the Los Angeles RCS. Calhoun moves well in space, he is physical with receivers at the line, and he is athletic once the ball is thrown. He has superb feet, almost like a cornerback, and that keeps him in almost every play.

11. Nyles Morgan, Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee
The linebacker group at the Chicago RCS was loaded with top-end prospects, and Morgan was one of the top two ranked at the position coming into the event. At 6-foot-1 and 222 pounds, he is a middle linebacker prospect, and as such was not as impressive during the one-on-ones, but he was solid running through the position drills.

12. Chandler Leniu, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco
Leniu was one of the biggest surprises at the Los Angeles RCS, especially during one-on-one coverage. He was outstanding the entire day. He knocked down a bunch of passes during one-on-ones and was aggressive in coverage in some difficult situations. Leniu is strong and physical, and he proved he can play in space as well.

13. Jamardre Cobb, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian
Cobb has bulked up a lot this offseason, but that has not hurt his speed or athleticism. The four-star is a monster in the middle and hits hard with pads on, and he also proved at the Los Angeles RCS that he's excellent in coverage. He uses his hands well and then breaks on the ball well, plus he's strong so holding up receivers at the beginning of their routes is no problem.

14. Richard Yeargin III, Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School
RY3, as he likes to be called, displayed a great work ethic in Miami for the RCS tilt. The second half of camp saw plenty of players sitting out because of the heat, but Yeargin took a ton of reps. He broke up a pass on an angle route, showing good instincts and beating his man to the spot without interfering. The University School standout is physical and won't be overpowered by bigger tight ends when he gets to college.

15. Joey Alfieri, Portland (Ore.) Jesuit
The first time the national team of analysts saw Alfieri was at the Phoenix RCS, and we were impressed. He has outstanding size, he's strong and tough, and he was better in coverage as the one-on-ones continued throughout the day. On film, Alfieri is outstanding. He plays downhill and hits hard. He showed in Phoenix that he can also cover, he plays light on his feet and he can play in space.

16. Tegray Scales, Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain
Measuring in at 6-foot and 206 pounds Scales is not the biggest linebacker prospect around, but he plays longer than his size would suggest. Scales was especially impressive in pass coverage at the Cincinnati RCS. He changes direction quickly and has a nose for the football. His offer list has grown steadily over the course of the spring.

17. Jimmie Swain, Lee's Summit (Mo.)
Swain was the most spirited player at RCS St. Louis. He worked himself into an absolute frenzy during warmups and carried that energy through the day. Physically, he looks the part. His straight-line speed and long arms make him fantastic in space. Rivals250 running back Mikale Wilbon was the only player who gave Swain trouble during one-on-ones. But even then each player won a rep and finished the day with a 1-1 head-to-head record.

18. Tyler Cook, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Cook played his junior season about 20 pounds light because of illness last summer, and he has gained all that weight back without losing any of his speed or athleticism. Another big surprise at the Los Angeles RCS, Cook was excellent in coverage and was hardly beaten on one-on-one reps. Plus, Cook went more than most linebackers and is super competitive. He wants to prove himself all the time.

19. Chris Frey, Upper Arlington (Ohio)
Frey is another undersized linebacker at 6-foot and 208 pounds, but he can handle all that is asked of him at the position. He is stronger at the point of attack than his size would suggest and he has shown the ability to rush the passer, but he is also adept at playing in space. He has added several BCS offers since his showing at the Cincinnati RCS in April.

20. Michael Lazarus, Berkeley (Calif.)
Among West linebackers, Lazarus has the best size. He's raw sometimes and doesn't make the best decisions in terms of coverage, but he's learning the game and getting better. Lazarus has outstanding physical abilities, he runs well, he has long arms, and he just looks like someone who could be a special prospect with more seasoning and coaching. He had an outstanding Los Angeles RCS in coverage.

21. Bryson Allen-Williams, Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove
After spending last season at defensive end, Allen-Williams came into the Atlanta RCS looking to show his skills as a linebacker. He moved very well in space and more than held his own while matching up against shiftier backs. He has improved his strength as well, and he looked worthy of all the SEC attention he got before committing to South Carolina last month.

22. Jalen Williams, Blythewood (S.C.)
Williams surprised many by coming into the RCS Charlotte stop and winning the defensive skill MVP over higher-rated talents. He's a little sawed off, but he showed that he's more than just a run stuffer, even going toe-to-toe and winning a rep against five-star Elijah Hood. He's receiving heavy FCS interest, with soon-to-be FBS Appalachian State the early leader.

23. Dorian Hendrix, Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Hendrix is a compactly built linebacker with great speed. We know from extensive film work that he can handle the run defense aspects of the position, but we were surprised to see how much straight-line speed he displayed at the Cincinnati RCS. Hendrix has been committed to Kentucky since March.

24. Jameer Outsey, Somerset (N.J.) Franklin
Outsey caught everyone's eye when he walked up to registration at the Newark RCS, because he is built like a college linebacker. When he stepped on the field, it was surprising to see how well he moved for a 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker. Even though linebackers are at a severe disadvantage in the camp one-on-one setting, Outsey really held his own. He was always around the football and made it difficult for the running backs to make a catch.

25. LB Christian Sam, Allen (Texas)
Sam was in the midst of turning into one of the hottest recruits in Texas when he arrived at the RCS Dallas, and he showed exactly why on the day. His footwork is a strength, and he was a standout in drills and in one-on-ones as the most consistent linebacker. His recruitment continues to heat up as offers have come from near and far. He has not narrowed his list.

26. Brad Ivey, Shawnee Mission (Kan.) Bishop Miege
Ivey showed up at RCS St. Louis without much hype, but he used the stage to generate some. He breaks on the ball well and is quick over short distances. Add that to the great size he possesses for the position, and it's easy to predict several more offers will fall in his lap during his senior year.

27. Jarvis Cooper, West Memphis (Ark.)
The standout Arkansan has played linebacker and along the defensive front in his high school career, and at the RCS St. Louis he was a standout defensive tackle. Cooper's quick feet and explosion proved to be too much for most on the day. He holds offers from Memphis and Arkansas St.

28. Zaire Franklin, Philadelphia (Pa.) La Salle
Franklin is continuing to work on his abilities in open space, and it showed at the Newark RCS. The 6-foot, 216-pound Franklin is primarily a run stopper at linebacker, but he has made significant progress as a coverage linebacker. There is still room for him to fill out his frame, and it will be interesting to see if he can move as well once that happens.

29. Nate Stone, Greensburg (Pa.) Greensburg Central Catholic
With his defensive end size, Stone does not look like a linebacker who would have a lot of success in camps like the Pittsburgh RCS. He proved everyone wrong. He showed that, despite his stocky build, he could run with some of the best athletes on the field. Stone was rarely fooled by head fakes and could easily change directions at the drop of a hat.

30. Jamal Davis, Canton (Ohio) McKinley
It has been an up-and-down career for Davis thus far, but the Pittsburgh RCS was certainly one of his "up" moments. Measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, with a wingspan that appeared to be close to 6-foot-6, Davis was physically the most impressive linebacker in a group filled with highly recruited players. Davis is raw, but his ceiling is extremely high.

31. Wesley Payne, Phoenix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe
Payne, whose burst of speed is his best weapon, has a lot of the tools to be effective in coverage, and he showed that at the RCS stop in Phoenix. The limitation he faces is his relative lack of height, but it didn't seem to hinder him at the event. Payne is aggressive and ripped the ball away late on at least two one-on-one reps. He's not a perfect player by any means, but there is a lot to like about his game.

32. Cayson Collins, Charlotte (N.C.) Phillip O' Berry
Collins looked lean and rangy at the RCS Charlotte stop, almost like he could have been one of the camp's wide receivers. However, when drills started, he was all linebacker, using his strength to jam quicker offensive players at the line. Collins committed to North Carolina last month, choosing the program over schools such as Clemson and Duke.

33. Jarrell Owens, Palestine (Texas)
Owens was the surprise of the RCS Houston. He entered with no offers and not much in terms of linebacker video, and all he did on the afternoon was stand out. When he arrived, his frame immediately caught the attention of everyone. Then he continued to draw attention for his cover skills and footwork. Recently he added an offer from Texas Tech, and the likes of Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas A&M have been showing interest in the standout as an outside linebacker/defensive end.

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