Recruiting: Top Inside Linebackers

CSTV Recruiting with Tom Lemming
Generation Next

Sept. 20, 2005

By Tom Lemming

Special to



1. Brandon Graham, Crockett (Mich.), 6-2, 235 lbs., 4.5 (40-yard dash)


Graham, the No. 1 player in Michigan, is a thumper up the middle with the speed of a running back. The Crockett product can outrun anybody, and is an impact player who could possibly even start for Michigan -- where he's committed -- as a true freshman. Graham totaled 135 tackles, 20 sacks and was credited for 60 tackles for losses in 2004. He also recovered ten fumbles, caused five and grabbed six interceptions.


2. Micah Johnson, Ft. Campbell (Ky.), 6-1, 275 lbs., 4.9


Johnson is a huge inside `backer who might be better-suited to play defensive tackle but has insisted against the idea. The Kentucky native shows great reactions, sideline-to-sideline speed, and is a devastating tackler that plays the game with a mean, aggressive style. He recorded 178 tackles, three sacks and 20 tackles for losses last season. At tailback, he ran for 1,249 yards and 17 touchdowns on 171 carries. During the winter, he averages a double-double -- 16 points and 14 boards -- for Fort Campbell's basketball team. He's got a lot of schools still chasing him: most of the south as well as Michigan and Ohio State.


3. Josh Tatum, McClymonds (Calif.), 6-1, 225 lbs., 4.5


Instinctive, fast and productive, Tatum is the top linebacker prospect in California. He was hurt as a junior but there really aren't many better in the whole country when he's healthy. He does a great job of slipping blocks and competes hard at all times. In 2004, he notched 145 tackles, seven sacks, 28 tackles for losses and a pair of interceptions. His 12 caused fumbles was a team-best. USC holds a slight lead over Miami, Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma and Cal.


4. Allen Bradford, Colton (Calif.), 5-11, 223 lbs., 4.54


Bradford is small but deadly -- he might be the best tackler of the whole bunch. On film, he's everywhere. He doesn't miss tackles and does a great job of slipping blocks. The California native shows a passion to play the game and that passion should get him to the NFL in four years despite being under six feet tall. His defensive numbers are fantastic: 129 tackles, eight sacks, one interception, six fumble recoveries and four caused fumbles. But on offense he carried the ball 183 times for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns, and caught 25 passes for 275 yards and three scores. USC, Miami and Oklahoma are among the many schools courting him.


5. Marcus Sims, North Florida Christian, 6-0, 225 lbs., 4.5


With elder brother Ernie already a star at Florida State, the bloodlines are clearly there for Sims. Marcus, just like his brother, is a running back/inside linebacker. He's probably better-suited to play defense because he's got great strength and awareness, and real good defensive instincts. Last season, he carried 140 times for 1,147 yards and 18 TDs, while amassing 95 tackles, three sacks and 11 tackles for losses on the other side of the ball. He'll probably end up with his brother (and father and mother, who was a track star) in Tallahassee.


6. Mark Johnson, Dorsey (Calif.), 6-3, 230 lbs., 4.55


Johnson is underrated compared to the other five guys ahead of him, but he's got great size and speed. He's has been as recruited as some of the other guys on this list, but he's got as much potential as any of them because he can really run and he's already big. He recorded 150 tackles, ten sacks and caused ten fumbles for Dorsey High last fall. In the spring, he batted .430 as an outfielder. USC leads the race (though they're one of the few schools that haven't offered yet), but Johnson is also looking hard at Ohio State, Miami, Louisiana State, Florida, Miami, Tennessee, Oregon, Oklahoma, Washington, Arizona and Arizona State.


7. Navorro Bowman, Suitland (Md.), 6-2, 218 lbs., 4.6


Bowman has been overshadowed by some of the other stars in the Maryland area but I think, as a talent, he's up there with Akeem Hebron, who's ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker. He can run and has real good instincts; he's rarely off his feet. He demonstrated excellent production for an inside linebacker in 2004, totaling 165 tackles, six sacks and 30 tackles for losses. In the winter, he averaged 16 points and 20 rebounds a game as a center on Suitland's basketball team. His top five schools are USC, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee.


8. Jarrell Miller, Highland Springs (Va.), 6-4, 235 lbs., 4.8


Miller is big. His coach swears he's the best inside linebacker his school's ever had. Because of his size, he could grow into a defensive end or defensive tackle in a few years but, like Micah Johnson, he'll insist on playing inside linebacker as long as he's able. Blessed with exceptionally quick hands and feet, he has the instincts to always be around the ball. Virginia Tech appears to have the lead with him, over contenders Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee and Nebraska.


9. Travis Goethel, Vista (Calif.), 6-3, 220 lbs., 4.6


This kid's got long blond hair down to his shoulders, so he doesn't necessarily look like the tough, hard-nosed player that he really is. Goethel is one of the hardest hitters in the country and will chase and pursue like no one's business. The guy just makes plays all over the field, and is one of the most productive defensive players in the state of California. Last year, he totaled 98 tackles, five sacks, eight tackles for losses and caused two fumbles. His list includes Notre Dame, UCLA, Michigan, Utah, San Diego State, Nebraska and USC.


10. Cobrani Mixon, Colerain (Ohio), 6-2, 220 lbs., 4.6


Mixon's got the size and the speed to play as well as anybody else in the country. He's not a great player yet but he certainly has the potential. In 2004, he amassed 100 tackles, 12 sacks and 14 tackles for losses at Colerain. The Ohio native has committed to Michigan. I think within a couple years he could really develop into a big-time guy, because he has the ability; he's just not there as an elite player yet.  


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