National Signing Day 2013 is right around the corner and Athlon Sports is releasing its position-by-position rankings for the Class of 2013 based on the Athlon Consensus 100. Who is left on the board? Who has the best class at one position? Who had positional needs to fill? And, obviously, who are the stars of tomorrow fans can look forward to at every position?
The linebacker position has become one of the most difficult to pinpoint in the recruiting process. A prospect could range from 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-4 and from 200 to 260 pounds, depending on what type of scheme he will be used in. The proliferation of the hybrid 3-4 outside linebacker/defensive end has created what could be considered an entirely new position. Nick Saban calls it the "Jack Back" and has won three national titles with elite players like Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Xzavier Dickson (who is 6-3, 265) playing the position. Still other more traditional schemes feature smaller, speedy outside linebackers who can excel at 6-foot and 210 pounds. The definition of "linebacker" has been stretched mightily in the last decade.
And Saban has the next great one in end/backer hybrid Jonathan Allen (pictured). He is a massive prospect who could easily grow into a true end, but his frame and skill set seems perfectly suited for the Jack Back. The Tide also is still in on two top 10 players nationally in Reuben Foster and Matthew Thomas. Foster, who is a true middle linebacker, has been committed to both Auburn and Alabama and will have Washington and Georgia in the mix as well when all the dust settles. Thomas is a freak athlete who will pick between Miami, Florida State, Georgia, Alabama and USC.
Should Bama land both, they would easily claim the top class in the nation — to go with four returning starters at the linebacker position. Otherwise, the Florida Gators likely can claim the best collection of tacklers with the No. 5 (Alex Anzalone), No. 6 (Daniel McMillian) and No. 19 (Matt Rolin) overall linebackers in the nation heading to Gainesville. Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers deserve a tip of the cap as well, landing three of the top 23 (No. 13, No. 18, No. 23) LBs in the nation.
The No. 1 linebacking prospect is headed to Notre Dame, though, as Jaylon Smith showcased in the U.S. Army Bowl how talented the four-time state champion will be on the next level. He is a freakish athlete who can rush the passer, drop into coverage and block kicks on special teams. Look for Brian Kelly to have fun finding ways of getting Smith involved early in his career.
As a side note, the state of Virginia is loaded at the position in 2013 as five of the top 30 linebackers in the nation hail from The Commonwealth. However, only one is slated to stay close to home — Holland Fisher at Virginia Tech.
2013 Positional Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB | DB | ATH
Fort Wayne, IN
Daytona Beach, FL
Fort Myers, FL
Deon Hollins Jr.
Missouri City, TX
E.J. Levenberry Jr.
New Potomac, MD
View the complete 2013 Athlon Consensus 100
AC100 On Campus: Su'a Cravens
AC100 On Campus: Jalen Ramsey
AC100 On Campus: Ethan Pocic
AC100 On Campus: Robbie Rhodes
AC100 On Campus: Jalin Marshall
AC100 On Campus: Jake Raulerson
AC100 On Campus: Cameron Burrows
AC100 On Campus: Dontre Wilson
AC100 On Campus: Taco Charlton
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part I
AC100 On Campus: Torii Hunter Jr., Part II
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part I
AC100 On Campus: Josh Banderas, Part II