2015 Preseason All-American Projections: Inside Linebackers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2015 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 May in the 2016 NFL Draft.

First-Team Inside Linebacker: Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Many expected teammates Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall to be the players who stepped up and replaced C.J. Mosley, but it was Ragland who was the Crimson Tide’s best interior linebacker in 2014. Ragland was a beast in the tackle box and the most consistent defender on Alabama’s defense. The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder was a physical force who had a huge presence for the Crimson Tide.

Ragland recorded 95 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, three passes broken up, one interception, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks. It was his first season of significant playing time, and he showed impressive instincts and ability to read his keys to get in position to make tackles. Ragland could easily be better now that he has a year of starting experience. Improving his pass coverage is key for the NFL, but Ragland should be one of the top linebackers in the nation this year and plays for a high-profile program. Ragland is a safe choice to achieve All-American status.

Second-Team Inside Linebacker: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s defense didn’t get a lot attention in 2014 with all the focus being on Everett Golson and the Fighting Irish quarterback situation, but the defense was tough unit led by a number of players who will be playing on Sundays. Perhaps the best of the bunch was Smith. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder had a huge presence for Notre Dame and was consistently making plays for the defense. He showed a nice combination of speed, athleticism, size and instincts.

Smith totaled 112 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, 3.5 sacks, and two passes defended in 2014. He was only a sophomore last season, so he could easily take his game to another level as an upperclassman. Starring another year for Notre Dame will get Smith plenty of notice, and he could easily be a First-Team All-American at his position group.

Third-Team Inside Linebacker: Kentrell Brothers, Missouri

Missouri has put a lot of players from its defense in the NFL in recent years. Last year, Shane Ray and Markus Golden were the stars of the Tigers’ stop unit, but if you watched Missouri, Brothers was impossible to ignore. He totaled 122 tackles with three forced fumbles, five tackles for a loss, four passes broken up and one sack. Brothers (6-1, 235) was a really good run-defender for Missouri. 2015 should see him produce another big year for the Tigers.

Honorable Mentions: Auburn’s Kris Frost, Auburn’s Cassanova McKinzy, Oklahoma’s Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma’s Frank Shannon, Florida State’s Terrance Smith, Florida’s Antonio Morrison, Oregon’s Rodney Hardrick, Florida State’s Reggie Northrup, East Carolina’s Zeek Bigger, Temple’s Tyler Matakevich, Louisville’s James Burgess, Washington State’s Darryl Monroe, Alabama’s Trey DePriest, California’s Hardy Nickerson, Baylor’s Taylor Young, Vanderbilt’s Nigel Bowden, Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan and Illinois’ Mason Monheim.

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