2015 Preseason All-American Projections: Outside 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 Outside Linebackers:

Miles Jack, UCLA

Jack was a freshman phenom at UCLA in 2013 and followed it up with a superb sophomore season. Jack is an athletic freak and is capable of being a dominating defender.

Jack became a superstar as he was named the Pac-12’s Offensive AND Defensive Freshman of the Year. On the defensive side of the ball, Jack had 75 tackles with 11 passes broken up and two interceptions. His pass-coverage skills for a freshman were outstanding. On offense, Jack played running back because of injuries. He ran for 267 yards on 38 carries (7.0 average) with seven touchdowns.

As a sophomore, Jack racked up 87 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, seven passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble in 2014. His natural pass-coverage skills are extremely impressive.

The Bruins lost Erik Kendricks to the 2015 NFL Draft, but still have talent around Jack. It wouldn’t be surprising if Jack is now used as a blitzer more to help make up for the loss of Owa Odighizuwa. With a good coaching staff at UCLA running an advanced defense, Jack (6-1, 230) has the talent and scheme to run wild. The junior could put up a huge stat line with tackles, sacks, interceptions, passes batted and forced fumbles.

Scooby Wright, Arizona

After a strong freshman year where Wright had 83 tackles and nine sacks, he dominated college football in 2014. He was a pass-rushing force for the Wildcats and one of the top defenders in the Pac-12. Wright notched 14 sacks with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles. He had a huge game against Oregon to help lead the Wildcats to an upset of the Ducks during the regular season. The Oregon offensive line was incapable of blocking him as he terrorized Marcus Mariota.

Wright was all over the field for the Wildcats and was somewhat reminiscent of Luke Kuechly at Boston College. Wright had 99 solo tackles as his run defense was tremendous as well. It could be hard for Wright to match his totals this year with offenses scheming to limit him, but he has the instincts and talent to still produce enough to be a First-Team All-American.

Second-Team Outside Linebackers:

Eric Striker, Oklahoma

Big things were expected from Striker in 2014, and he produced 68 tackles with 17 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and five passes broken up. Striker broke out in 2013 as was one of the top defenders in the Big XII, totaling 50 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. The jump in production year over year was impressive as well as a junior because Striker dropped into coverage more often and didn’t exclusively rush the passer like past years.

The 6-foot, 220-pounder is lightning off the edge and has a real speed advantage over offensive tackles. Playing college football’s version of the Arena league, the Big XII, Striker should produce a big sack total as a senior as Oklahoma will have to replace edge-rushing linebacker Geno Grissom. Moving into double digits seems very possible for Striker. The Seffner, Florida product could be poised for a big senior year.

Darron Lee, Ohio State

Lee was Ohio State’s replacement for Ryan Shazier in 2014, and while Lee wasn’t as good as Shazier, Lee had a superb debut for the Buckeyes with plenty of upside to make strides in the future. In his debut season, he had 81 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, three passes broken up, two interceptions and 7.5 sacks. Lee finished the year strongly, including a big game against Alabama with seven tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. The athletic Lee (6-2, 228) could be even better as he gains more experience.

Third-Team Outside Linebackers:

Leonard Floyd, Georgia

Floyd is a speedy rusher who has a lot of potential. He is a natural pass-rusher with agility and is very fast off the edge. Floyd must get stronger in the ground game though. As a redshirt sophomore in 2014, he notched 55 tackles with six sacks, two forced fumbles and 8.5 tackles for a loss. Floyd totaled 55 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks the year before. It seems very possible that the junior could make a big jump in 2015 and take his game to another level. He could easily end up higher on this list.

Jordan Jenkins, Georgia

There was a lot of hype about Jenkins the past few years, but he didn’t completely justify it with his performance. Jenkins had a solid, but unspectacular, 2013 season with 45 tackles, five sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. He totaled 70 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, a pass batted and a forced fumble in 2014. Jenkins (6-3, 246) has a lot of athletic upside, so the senior could make a big jump in 2015.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter, Ohio State’s Josh Perry, Wyoming’s Eddie Yarborough, Tennessee’s Curt Maggitt, Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell, Stanford’s Peter Kalambayi, Mississippi State’s Richie Brown, Auburn’s Tre Williams, Rutgers’ Steve Longa and Louisville’s Stacy Thomas.

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