Linebackers are the turning point of a defense. A great defensive line and secondary without a good pair of linebackers is like having an expensive watch that doesn't tick. Looks good but is rendered useless during crunch time. For the 2016 season, the best linebacking units are combined with old school toughness and modern day athleticism. Overall this group is collectively as strong as last year's and would rank up with any star studded group from the past decade.
Known as “the territory,” Lanier High School sits at number five as one of the top linebacking units in high school football. Led by Juwuan Jones and Tyler Taylor, the Lanier defense will again confuse opponents with its dynamic 3-5 defensive set. Unlike most defenses that hold stats as its main key to success, Lanier has a “fire at will” mentality and accordingly will blitz from every gap. Opponents of the Longhorns have had to face the punishment of seven and eight man pass rushes that have kept offensive coordinators exhausted and have given Lanier one of its best defensive years in school history
Pure athletic talent precedes the Paramus Catholic Paladins’ defense this year. 2015 proved to be a breakout year for the versatile Drew Singleton. Currently he leads a group of linebackers that pursue to the ball better than any other group in high school football. Consider Tyler Wipper as the hitter while Jordan Watson comes flush out of the 4-3 as the hybrid backer/end position. “Redzone denial” is the main course that the black and gold Paladin contingent plan to serve up in 2016 and so far they show a linebacker unit that will deliver.
When opponents visit the “Hit Pit” it would be advised to be prepared to go hard in the paint. Yes this is a famous basketball cliche but definitely appropriate for the Katy Tiger defense. Ball carriers have come to the realization of being hit four and sometimes five times within a second of taking a handoff. Receivers dare not roam across the middle of the Tiger defense lest they learn exactly why opponents have deemed Katy Tiger football Stadium as the “Hit Pit.” Between Breydon Boyd, Ryder Anderson, and Raymond Randle it’s hard to imagine Katy getting snubbed for a top three national ranking at year’s end. Meanwhile somewhere Dick Butkus, Chris Spielman, and Mike Singletary are sitting and quietly saying to themselves, “Attaboy Katy Tigers, Attaboy indeed!”
2) St. Thomas Aquinas (FL)
There’s probably not a better set of defensive players that compliment each other like Tyler Dunning and Drew White do as they push St. Thomas Aquinas to the number two spot. The Raiders’ tandem find success in moving the versatile Dunning around while staking Drew White at the weak side spot. For lack of a better phrase the St. Thomas Aquinas backer unit are known to bracket ball carriers in before unleashing bone jarring hits. What may be missed by football experts is the fact that the Raiders’ backers are absolutely phenomenal in pass coverage. This is just extra icing on the cake for a defense that is already strong enough up front and in the secondary. Although they have a difficult schedule, St. Thomas Aquinas will have much success and a lot of it will be due to this high octane group of backers.
1) IMG Academy
Running backs who face the IMG linebacker unit this coming season should consider the following checklist. Wear a mouthpiece. Strap your helmet on tight. Say a pre-handoff prayer. Spot Dylan Moses and run the other way. But maybe the latter would only be settling for a more painful outcome seeing as Jordan Anthony, Christian Pluchino, Marchiol Santino are waiting to put an exclamation point on the statement of IMG having the number one linebacker core in the nation. And just in case there are running backs out there who would otherwise see the transfer of Will Ignont as a reason to doubt the legitamacy of the IMG linebacker corp, consider the whole of the situation. As a complete healthy unit, the Ascenders’ linebackers will definitely lay down smacks that will break non-believers’ backs.
Jordan Anthony co’17
Santino Marchiol co’17 (middle)