2014 Preseason All-American Projections: Inside Linebackers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 May for the 2015 NFL Draft.

First-Team Inside Linebacker: Denzel Perryman, Miami

Miami has produced some legendary linebackers. After a bit of a lull, Perryman has provided the Hurricanes with another excellent inside linebacker prospect for the NFL. Perryman is a tough run-defender who can get off blocks and make tackles. To make him even more intriguing for the next level, Perryman is very good in pass coverage.

As a sophomore in 2012, Perryman recorded 64 tackles with six tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, one forced fumble and an interception returned 41 yards for a touchdown. Perryman was excellent for the Hurricanes in the 2013. The junior totaled 108 tackles with five tackles for a loss, one sack and three passes broken up. He had a monster game against Florida with 14 tackles and a forced fumble. Perryman recorded 11 tackles against Florida State and 15 against Virginia Tech.

The 6-foot, 240-pounder has great instincts and is always around the ball. He could be the best inside linebacker in college football in 2014.

Second-Team Inside Linebacker: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

McKinney has gone under the radar over the past two seasons because he’s played at a school that is over shadowed by the elite teams in the best division of college football’s best conference. McKinney is an exceptional athlete who has impressed NFL scouts.

After redshirting in 2011, McKinney made a splash in 2012 and was named a First-Team Freshman All-American by numerous media outlets. He recorded 102 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and four passes broken up. The sophomore had 70 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2013.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder is considered to be a three-down middle linebacker who has the ability to play in pass coverage. Sources like his size and feel that McKinney has good instincts. Heading into his junior season, it wouldn’t be surprising if McKinney puts together a career year and is one of the best linebackers in college football.

Third-Team Inside Linebacker: Eric Kendricks, UCLA

While Anthony Barr and Miles Jack got all the headlines, Kendricks also has been a standout defender for the Bruins. He’s led UCLA’s run defense and has been all over the field with sideline-to-sideline ability.

Kendricks played well in 2013 with 105 tackles, four tackles for a loss and an interception. He was third in the Pac-12 in tackles. In 2012, Kendricks led the conference in tackles with 149 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks, four passes broken up, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. His instincts were excellent as he did a great job of reading-and reacting.

The 6-foot, 228-pound Kendricks is a great athlete like his older brother Mychal Kendricks, a linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles. Eric Kendricks needs to gain weight for the next level and could move to outside linebacker, but he is very instinctive. If Kendricks can get back to his 2012 production, he could easily be a First-Team All-American.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia’s Ramik Wilson, Alabama’s Trey DePriest, Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson, Oklahoma’s Frank Shannon, Michigan’s Jake Ryan, Florida State’s Terrance Smith, Florida’s Antonio Morrison, Central Florida’s Terrance Plummer, Washington State’s Darryl Monroe, South Florida’s Reshard Cliett and Illinois’ Mason Monheim.

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