Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Linebackers: Best run stoppers
By Tom Luginbill
The fundamental essence of the position is tackling. If you can’t tackle, you can’t play and in these guys’ case, you must have the strength, toughness and demeanor to step up and challenge the gap, tackle to tackle. Stopping the run is where defensive football begins and ends. When we look at the below players, these are all guys who relish contact and can anchor at the point of attack when challenged in a phone booth. You must be able to shed, scrape and pursue with angles and have a relentless motor.
ILB Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County): Perhaps no player at the position in this class displays more toughness than McMillan. He embodies the position in similar fashion to former Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, only McMillan isn’t as tall. He is a stout gap-plugger on the inside and a very disruptive blitzer with the control to break down and not overrun the play. McMillan’s strength at the point of attack is what sets him apart. He packs a wallop.
ILB Clifton Garrett (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield South): Garrett is an inside-the-hashes, explosive vertical attacker when it comes to pursuit. He drives through ball carriers and can stop them in their tracks. He does not give up leaky yardage. He shows some violent tendencies between the tackles to stack and shed in the gap. He might have a little more range in pursuit off tackle than McMillan does.
ILB Nyles Morgan (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee): Morgan is a straight-line, downhill filler who displays an explosive strike upon contact. Possibly shows better inside/outside range overall as a tackler than the above prospects. Sifts through the trash well sideline to sideline, but that does not mean he can’t thump between the tackles when necessary. He’s a gap-plugger with sneaky lateral pursuit.
OLB Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Junipero Serra): Williams plays bigger than you might think. Has a tenacity that serves him well as a tackler, which makes up for his lack of bulk and weight. He’s a sideline-to-sideline guy when it comes right down to it. Shows explosiveness to scrap to the edge and pursuit angles to beat the block and drag down ball-carriers. He is a tough guy to run away from, especially if he reads keys and beats second-level blocks.
OLB Petera Wilson (Memphis, Tenn./White Station): Wilson plays from a two- and three-point stance and shows surprising strength to hold the point when the ball is taken right at him. He is stout to anchor and rarely gives up cheap yardage. He has range to pursue and is better sideline to sideline than you might think, considering he plays as an edge rusher as well. As his key and diagnose improves from a stand-up position, we expect his technique will improve as well, when asked to plug gaps.