It's becoming more and more prevalent for defensive coordinators to substitute varied personnel packages in order to exploit or mask the physical skills of their individual defenders. Linebacker substitutions are the most common, depending on down and distance.
Ideally, every-down linebackers who can stay on the field and provide equally effective run and pass support are coveted. This class has an elite outside linebacker in Jordan Hicks (West Chester, Ohio/Lakota West) who can do just that. The No. 2 overall prospect in the ESPNU 150 has the physical tools to claim positions in multiple categories. Overall, the OLB class is excellent in 2010 with many prospects possessing great vertical attacking skills and sideline-to-sideline range needed to develop into difference-makers at the college level.
Conversely, the ILB position is a bit weak in 2010. There is a significant drop-off in regard to talent after five-star monster Jeff Luc (Port St. Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast) and Connecticut native Khairi Fortt (Stamford, Conn./Stamford). The position as a whole appears to be declining from an elite talent standpoint in recent years.
Best inside run-stoppers
What Scouts Inc. looks for: These players have the ability to shed blocks, stay square to the line of scrimmage and play strong at the point of attack, while maintaining gap integrity. Great downhill burst, closing speed, direct pursuit angles and lateral fluidity through the fast-moving traffic are imperative to stop the inside run. Of course, solid tackling skills are a must for any linebacker playing between the tackles.
Jeff Luc; committed to Florida State: The recent FSU commit is an inch away from possessing ideal measurables for an inside run-stopper. Luc is difficult to turn out of the hole when filling downhill, as well as extremely powerful and physical at the point of attack. He is a textbook tackler who drives through and punishes backs.
Khairi Fortt; committed to Penn State: Like Luc, he possesses great size to handle and dish out punishment from tackle to tackle. Shedding and getting off blocks is a necessity on the inside and there might not be a better linebacker in this class in that facet. He's an explosive downhill filler with good burst to the football.
Jake Holland (Pelham, Ala./Pelham); committed to Auburn: There may not have been a more productive inside run-stopper than Holland this fall. He racked up close to 15 tackles a game and simply cleaned up inside. The in-state Auburn commit has great strength needed to stack and shed the cutoff block, as well as keen instincts and a quick first step to beat blockers to the hole.