My look ahead to the top college football prospects of the 2020 season continues today with the linebacker group.
Micah Parsons – Junior, Penn State
6’3″, 244 pounds
The best linebacker in college football by some distance heading into the 2020 season. Parsons is one of the most athletically gifted defensive players in the country regardless of position, and there is nobody better at making plays sideline to sideline.
The stalwart of the Nittany Lions defence has appeared in 26 games in two years with a total of 192 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He was named first team All-American as a result of his impressive sophomore campaign.
There’s been buzz surrounding Parsons’s move to the defensive edge and rushing the quarterback next season. Parsons is already in the mix for a top-ten pick. If he can notch double-digit sacks in 2020, we could be looking at 2021’s most sought after defensive prospect.
Dylan Moses – Redshirt Junior, Alabama
6’3″, 235 pounds
A standout middle linebacker who would have been a first-round pick in last April’s draft if not for a season-ending ACL injury in fall training camp. Last time we saw him as a true sophomore in 2018 Moses was a finalist for the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker after he led the Alabama defence with team-high 86 tackles, collected ten tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks while adding a forced fumble.
His knee injury robbed both Alabama’s defence and college football of a young man with an elite range of influence and electric speed and explosiveness for a bigger linebacker. He should lead Alabama’s defence in total tackles and back to the top of college football once again with health on his side next season.
Nick Bolton – Junior, Missouri
6’0″, 232 pounds
A rising name among NFL scouts and way-to-early mock draft merchants who made an impact early as a true sophomore for the Tigers in 2018. He went to another level when entrenched as a starter as weak side linebacker last season, tallying the most tackles by a southeastern conference player, with 107 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, one sack, ten passes defended as well as two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
Bolton is a physical linebacker with a high football IQ and great vision named to the All-SEC first team along with teammate and Cleveland Brown draftee Jordan Elliott. Bolton heads into 2020 as the nations top off-ball linebacker prospect.
Palaie Gaoteote IV – Junior, USC
6’2″, 250 pounds
A thumping inside linebacker who was having himself a terrific season in the middle of the Trojan defence before a raft of injuries slowed his production down the stretch. Gaoteote had 58 tackles with three for loss in eight games last season, seven of which he started. He has a total of 96 tackles, with 7.5 for losses and two sacks in his career through 18 games. A linebacker renowned for his high-impact tackles, Gaoteote will be a leading draft prospect on a USC defence that features three or four top-100 talents. He’s not the type of linebacker that NFL defensive coordinators seem to be turner to; however, he is a wonderful talent in his own right.
Baron Browning – Senior, Ohio State
6’3″, 240 pounds
He enters his final season for the Buckeyes having appeared in 36 games. He has 80 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and six quarterback sacks through three seasons. Baron finished season 2019, a year in which he spent his team in the rotation at middle linebacker, with 43 tackles, ten tackles for loss and five sacks.
An athletic wonder, Baron is equally adept in coverage, where he can go stride for stride with most receivers, as he is blitzing the quarterback on designed plays. Baron plays with the intention to bury the ball carrier and may get his chance to line up more as an edge rusher with Chase Young off to the NFL.
Others to watch
Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher, Virginia’s Charles Snowden, Wisconsin’s Jack Sanborn, North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt and LSU’s Jabril Cox
Best non-draft eligible player to watch
Alabama’s Christian Harris