This 2009 Inside Linebacker class makes the 2008 class look soft. Ray Maualuga may be the top
overall player in the country. He’s a violent hitter with prototypical size and athleticism. He’s a lock for the top 10 regardless of how he performs in 2008.
Laurinaitis is blessed with great size and athleticism and compares favorably to Bears MLB Brian Urlacher. He does all the little things well, and should get a look from Tampa 2 teams. He’s a lock for the top half of round 1.
Ellerbe and Beckwith are athletic, aggressive LBs who will get looks on the Weak Side in the NFL.Tampa 2 teams will give both a look due to their athleticism and excellent coverage ability. Ellerbe could definitely jump up into the 1st with a big season and good workouts while Beckwith looks like a solid 2nd rounder. Mauga is a classic 2-down thumper who is a great tackler but has suspect coverage skills. Mauga should get a look from 3-4 teams as an inside man.
Ray Maualuga – Southern Cal
James Laurinaitis – Ohio St.
Dannell Ellerbe – Georgia
Darry Beckwith – LSU
Josh Mauga – Nevada
Sleeper Senior: Jason Phillips – TCU
Junior to watch: Gerald McRath – Southern Cal
2009 is a strong year for the strong side linebacker. Curry, Cushing, McKenzie, and Sintim all look like good candidates to play on the Strong side in the NFL. Curry is definitely one of the top overallLinebackers in the country. He’s aggressive in run support and smooth in coverage. A strong season and good workouts should propel him into round 1. Cushing is an aggressive intimidator at SLB who can cover TE’s and breaks well on the ball. He must remain injury free and have a good season if he wants a chance at round 1. Round 2 is more likely though. McKenzie is kind of a ‘tweener who could play SLB in a 4-3 or ILB in a 3-4. His technique needs work but he has all the tools. Late round 2/early round 3 is likely for him. Sintim is an experienced, versatile LB who could find a home as a pass rushing OLB in a 3-4 or as a SLB in a 4-3. He could go anywhere from early round 3 to anywhere beyond. Freeman is an underrated WLB who has the misfortune of playing by superstar James Laurinaitis. He’d be a star on any other team though. He’s a solid 2nd round prospect.
Aaron Curry – Wake Forest
Brian Cushing – Southern Cal
Marcus Freeman – Ohio St.
Tyrone McKenzie – South Florida
Clint Sintim – Virginia
Sleeper Senior: Zack Follett – California
Junior to watch: Rico McCoy – Tennessee