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December 30, 2003
Linebacker Dream Team
Rivals100.com is proud to present an in-depth look at the top prospects at the U.S. Army All-American Game from former Texas A&M assistant coach Alan Weddell.
Before joining the Texas A&M staff in 1998 and retiring this past football season, Weddell led La Marque, Texas, to three consecutive Class 4A state championships (1995-97) and five straight state title games. As a collegiate player, Weddell was an offensive lineman on Darrell Royal's 1970 national champion Texas Longhorn football team.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - A number of college teams would love to have the title Linebacker U. It represents a style of play and usually a dominating defense. What I saw this morning in observing the East squad practice for the U.S. Army All-American game, would make any team specializing in linebackers envy. With the assembly of these young players, this team could be called - the Linebacker U Dream Team.
All six of these talented recruits will see a lot of action for top D-I teams during the next four years and you can expect three or four to be playing on Sunday one day.
Starting in alphabetical order, Reading, Pa., star James Bryant is not only first but also the biggest.
At 6-foot-4 and pushing 240-plus pounds and nicknamed The Beast, his 182 tackles this past season were not by accidence. He is a typical inside linebacker, filling the hole on any inside play. He's also talented enough to play running back also on this All-American team, but he might end up being an all-America defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or outside linebacker in an 3-4 scheme once he has finished growing.
I can project him to be 260-265 in a couple of years. At that position, any lack of burst he might not have at middle linebacker will be negated at the outside position.
When you think of Penn State linebackers, you can picture Dan Connor of Strath Haven in Wallingford, Pa.
Outstanding technique and stance, Connor plays low, shuffles on the snap, plays beneath his pads and reads the play very well.
True linebacker speed might be the only question in this 6-foot-2, 215-pound playmaker.
He will be 240 by the time he is finished at Penn State. And that should be more than all right for the Nittany Lions, who are also known for their great linebacker tradition.
Marcus Freeman hails from Wayne High in Huber Heights, Ohio, does not pass the eye ball test when compared to the other linebackers I saw today.
Having problem pushing 6-2, he is ever bit 240 and very thick.
The thing about this kid is when the ball is snapped, he is a hitting machine heading toward the ball carrier. He has excellent pad level, play recognition and is seemingly unblockable. His playmaking is what is needed by the middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
He reminds me of a big Dat Nguyen whom I coached at A&M.
Chris Patterson from Hubbard High in Chicago will pass not only any eyeball test - he will pass any test given a linebacker.
This Oklahoma commitment is something special; maybe the best in the nation. He reports in at about 215 and does not have massive legs, which means he will probably never top 230.
But he does not need to.
He has great feet and speed to the ball. He uses his hands well versus offensive blockers and is disciplined enough to check any cutback. In pass defense, he covers more than his zone and will match up positively with any back in the county.
His potential as a blitzer is unlimited.
There might not be a linebacker better in the country than Keith Rivers from Lake Mary, Fla.
He is one of the top linebackers in the county without out a doubt.
Outstanding in open space, Rivers can fill a hole in the middle.
At 6-4, who will grow, he is another stereotype outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
On passing plays he can man up, drop to a zone, or probably be an outstanding blitzer.
Last only because of listing kids by alphabetical order is Willie Williams from Miami Carol City. Honestly, Williams is as good as any linebacker I have seen.
This youngster might have the most potential of them all. He runs 22 seconds flat in the 200 meters, 10.8 in the hundred at 230 pounds and has a 50-plus foot shot put.
All of which show his amazing athletic ability. Ability aside, on the field he runs like a deer and plays football like a mad man. His pad level is a little high, and he sometimes gets cut off on plays away, but his speed and use of hands makes up for the problems.
He is ready to destroy any cutback or reverse.
Pass blitz ability is scary and no tight end or back will catch too many passes on this big time player.
It would be nice if all could go to the same college. The title Linebacker U would belong to that school hands down for the next four years. As for now, the East team will simply have to be known as: Linebacker T.