Heading into the 2017 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation's leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises and the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2018 NFL Draft.
First-Team Inside Linebackers: Malik Jefferson, Texas
Jefferson (6-3, 238) has an impressive combination of size and speed. He has a ton of upside, and it wouldn't be surprising if he is in store for a massive season for Texas. Jefferson recorded 59 tackles with 5.5 sacks and three passes broken up in 2016, but he played outside linebacker too much. This year, he is expected to be in the middle more. As a freshman in 2015, Jefferson really impressed 61 tackles with seven for a loss, 2.5 sacks, three passes broken up and one forced fumble. Jefferson has a ton of upside and is capable of a massive season for the Longhorns. He could easily end up being a First-Team All-American starring in Texas' defense.
Second-Team Inside Linebacker: Micah Kiser, Virginia
Over the past two seasons, Kiser was a tackling machine for Virginia. He broke out in 2015 season as a sophomore, totaling 117 tackles with 7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and two passes broken up. In 2016, the junior managed to increase his tackle production to 134 stops, 10 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, seven passes broken up, five forced fumbles and an interception. Kiser is a tough run defender who is strong, intelligent, instinctive, and physical in the tackle box. In the college game with a lot of rushing attacks, the senior should produce another to earn a lot of All-American and postseason honors.
Third-Team Inside Linebacker: Josey Jewell, Iowa
Jewell has been a steady producer for the Hawkeyes over the past few years. In 2015, he was a tough defender for Iowa as he racked up 126 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, six passes broken up, one forced fumble and four interceptions. Last year, Jewell recorded 124 tackles with six tackles for a loss, nine passes broken up and one forced fumble in 2016. Jewe;; is a good run defender who will produce another big tackle total playing the Big 10 given its focus on rushing the football.
Honorable Mentions: Clemson's Kendall Joseph, Florida State's Matthew Thomas, USC's Cameron Smith, Alabama's Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama's Rashaan Evans, Wisconsin's Jack Cichy, Washington's Azeem Victor, Wisconsin's T.J. Edwards, Baylor's Taylor Young, Oklahoma State's Chad Whitener, Notre Dame's Nyles Morgan and Georgia's Reggie Carter.