The 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Big Board will be rolled out over the course of four weeks by position, featuring players to watch and a breakdown of what NFL scouts look for through the eyes of Collegiate Bowl Director of College Scouting, Dane Vandernat.
Today, we feature linebackers:
SIX TO WATCH
Keisean Lucier-South, OLB, UCLA: Last season, UCLA switched to a 3-4 base defense, which meant Lucier-South was on the move once more as he has now learned three different positions: defensive end, inside linebacker and outside linebacker. That type of versatility will make him a valuable commodity at the next level. He led the Bruins in tackles for loss last season with 11.5, to go along with six pass deflections. He held his own when asked to drop back in coverage and is in line for career year.
Tipa Galeai, OLB, Utah State: A big, strong speed-rusher, Tipa Galeai (pronounced Tee-puh Nah-lay-eye) is extremely fast on the edge, flashing an explosive first step with the ability to dip and rip past opposing lineman. Galeai was able to cut his body fat from 11.1% as a sophomore, to 8.6% as a junior on his way to a breakout season that saw him tally 64 tackles (13.5 for loss), 10 sacks and two interceptions for the Aggies after transferring from TCU. An added bonus to his game is that Galeai can also long snap.
Dante Olson, OLB, Montana: A year ago this time, Olson was a virtual unknown who was competing for a starting job. Fast forward and he is now on the NFL radar due to a monster performance last season, registering a school-record 151 tackles (including 11 tackles for loss and six sacks) along with three forced fumbles and two interceptions. He has football in his blood (dad Jeff was the head coach at Southern Oregon) and is a noted workout warrior who is expected to test well.
Shaq Quarterman, ILB, Miami: An immediate impact player as a true freshman for the Hurricanes, the hard-hitting Quarterman brings a tough-minded mentality with his leadership and poise, to go along with all the intangibles. He possesses extremely quick closing speed, great strength and the ability to shed blocks, while his sideline-to-sideline, north/south prowess allows him to cover a tremendous amount of ground — as evidenced by his 249 career tackles and superb pass coverage through three seasons. Coaches have praised his accountability both on and off the field, making him a natural born leader of men due to his ability to elevate others.
Logan Wilson, ILB, Wyoming: Speed and instincts immediately stand out for Wilson, who has shown a propensity for tracking down ball carriers. He originally committed to Wyoming as a 195-pound defensive back who was a track standout coming out of high school but redshirted his freshman season to bulk up (he now weighs 250 pounds) and would eventually find a home at the MIKE. Over the past three years, he has accumulated 316 total tackles, while showing extremely active hands, collecting six interceptions and batting down 13 passes during that time. His performance and leadership has earned him captain honors for the second consecutive season.
Jabril Cox, ILB, North Dakota State: The Bison have 10 players currently on NFL 90-man rosters entering training camp, a rarity for any FCS program and Cox appears to be as good a prospect as the program has produced over the past decade. The long, athletic linebacker shows tremendous range and athleticism. He led the defending FCS champions with 91 tackles and four interceptions last year, including back-to-back games where he returned an interception for a touchdown. This season, Cox will flip positions, moving from SAM to WILL after bulking up during the offseason.
Linebackers are the quarterbacks of the defense and need to be able to both defend the run and the pass once the ball is snapped. But a lot happens before that. It’s imperative that your middle linebacker is a heady, communicative player who knows every defender’s assignment and pays attention to the tendency report from earlier in the week. Instincts and the ability to anticipate plays are paramount to being effective at the pro level, and can help mask deficiencies in other areas.
When defending the run, scouts and coaches want to see prospects who are willing to attack their gap to close any hole, and strike with their hands while engaging blockers in order to maintain a degree of separation before disengaging the block altogether to either make the tackle or give chase. Consistent effort to the football is not a bonus; it’s the expectation!
Defending the pass is the more difficult of the two facets, as it requires greater speed and athleticism. Whether you’re in zone or man, evaluators want to see the ability to match steps with the target while keeping your eyes on his hips and breaking when he does. When playing man, speed is an element that offensive coordinators will gameplan for if they think they can isolate a slower linebacker in coverage. And when playing zone, understanding likely route combinations based on formations and keys will help a defender quickly transfer responsibilities from one target to the next.
2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Big Board: Linebackers
|First Name||Last Name||School||Position||Height||Weight|
|Marcel||Spears Jr.||Iowa State||LB||6-1||218|