2013 Preseason All-American Projections: Outside Linebackers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 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 this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 NFL Draft.

First-Team Outside Linebackers:

Anthony Barr, UCLA

In my opinion, Barr should have been a First-Team All-American last year instead of Alabama’s C.J. Mosley because Barr was more of a game-changer for his team. The other two linebackers who were First-Team picks were Manti Te’o and Jarvis Jones, both were deserving of the honor. Barr finished second in the nation in sacks to Jones. It was a life-changing year for Barr as he went from being an under-utlizied fullback to becoming one of the best pass-rushers in the nation.

Jim Mora, Jr. and his staff switched Barr to defense and the results were tremendous. The junior totaled 13 sacks, 83 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, five passes batted and four forced fumbles. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder was an explosive rusher off the edge who was a phenomenal pursuit defender. He has great closing speed and doesn’t hesitate to dispense some punishing hits.

It could be hard for Barr to repeat that production in 2013 as offenses are going to try and double-team him rushing off the edge. However, Jones was able to repeat a dominant season, so Barr could do it as well. If the senior comes close to last season’s numbers, he should be a First-Team All-American.

C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Alabama’s defense last year was well-rounded unit that didn’t have a lot of superstars, but the two players who stood out as being the team’s best defenders were cornerback Dee Milliner and Mosley. Mosley played excellent football and was extremely consistent all year.

The junior led the team with 107 tackles and also contributed two interceptions, four sacks, eight tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and two passes broken up. A lot of Alabama’s defenders struggled in the Crimson Tide’s loss to Texas A&M – Alabama’s only loss of the season – , but Mosley was excellent, making 14 tackles and a sack.

Mosley is a phenomenal defender in the passing game in man coverage, zone coverage and blitzing. He could use more strength for the ground game, but he is a good run-defender and a well-rounded player. Mosley (6-2, 234) is very technically sound and has good instincts. He impressed as a sophomore and freshman in 2011 and 2010.

The Crimson Tide is going for its third straight National Championship and Mosley is the leader of the defense. He is going to receive extra attention, and as long as he stays healthy, he should produce a good season. It would be somewhat of a surprise if the senior isn’t a First-Team All-American.

Second-Team Outside Linebackers:

Kyle Van Noy, BYU

Van Noy is another linebacker who I think should have been a 2012 First-Team All-American over C.J. Mosley. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah received more attention, but Van Noy was the better player for the Cougars defense last year. Ansah had 4.5 sacks while Van Noy totaled almost three times that amount with 13 sacks. The junior also recorded 53 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and five passes batted.

Van Noy closed out the season with an excellent bowl performance, recording eight tackles, two touchdowns, an interception, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and one blocked kick. It was a game for the ages. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder is very fast and instinctive. He is a fabulous pass-defender who has the ability to make splash plays in coverage as well as blitzing.

It could be hard for Barr to repeat last year’s production in 2013 as offenses are going to try and double-team him rushing off the edge. However, 2012 was Van Noy’s second straight season of good production, and he looks like a smart defender who figures out ways to make a big impact. If Van Noy can come close to his 2012 production, he could easily be a first-teamer.

Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

The Ohio State Buckeyes ran the table to an undefeated 2012 season and Shazier was a big reason why. The Buckeyes had a talented stop unit and he was the player who made plays in the middle of the field. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound was always around the ball and displayed sideline-to-sideline speed.

Shazier led Ohio State in tackles with 115. He also had 17 tackles for a loss, one interception, 11 passes broken up, five sacks and three forced fumbles. He had massive performances against Penn State, California, Indiana and Michigan. The Buckeyes’ NCAA-mandated bowl ban left Shazier with one less game than the majority of the top statistical linebackers.

Ohio State has lost some good talent from its defensive line for 2013, so Shazier won’t have that luxury of great talent around him. However, he still should produce a good season and be one of the top outside linebackers in the country.

Third-Team Outside Linebackers:

Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

Perhaps the only fault on the Alabama defense last year was an inconsistent pass rush from time to time. Hubbard did his best to change that becoming the team’s best pass-rusher, and it looked like he was just scratching the surface of his potential. The sophomore totaled 41 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass batted. Hubbard finished the season in impressive fashion with sacks in his final three games against Auburn, Georgia and Notre Dame.

Hubbard could have produced more, but he was used in a platoon capacity. The junior is expected to be an every-down player in 2013, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he produces a double-digit sack season. Huubard is very quick and is a physical player. The 6-foot-6, 252-pounder has a lot of untapped potential that should start to flourish this fall.

It won’t be easy for the Crimson Tide to win its third straight BCS Championship, but the upside of young players like Hubbard makes the dream feasible. He could turn into a big impact defender and should lead Alabama’s pass rush.

Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

There also is a lot of upside with Lawrence as he has a burst with some surprising strength. The 6-foot-3, 244-pounder replaced Shea McClellin in the Boise State defense last year and had a breakout season. Lawrence showed nice pass-rush ability with 9.5 sacks. The sophomore also led the defensive line in tackles (48), tackles for a loss (13.5) and chipped in four forced fumbles and an interception.

Lawrence was raw last year having just come up from the junior college ranks, and he was beating offensive linemen without much refinement. Lawrence’s natural strength is surprising considering his weight, but he showed a nice ability to shed blocks and get after the quarterback.

It will be interesting to see how good Lawrence is after he gains some strength. The junior has the frame to reach the 255-260 range. If Lawrence adds some strength and more pass-rushing moves, he could become a force this season. Don’t be surprised if Lawrence has a huge year and his draft stock catches fire.

Honorable Mentions: Washington outside linebacker Josh Shirley, Michigan outside linebacker Jake Ryan, Illinois outside linebacker Jonathan Brown, Florida State outside linebacker Christian Jones, Florida outside linebacker Ron Powell, Florida outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., Michigan State outside linebacker Denicos Allen, Iowa outside linebacker Anthony Hitchens and Georgia Tech outside linebacker/defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu.

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