August 9, 2022

College Football’s 20 best linebackers of 2022

College Football's 20 best linebacker of 2022

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) warms up with teammates before game against Kentucky Saturday January 1, 2022 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

They’re the most intimidating defenders on the field.

Linebackers set the tone every game and the rest of the defense feeds off of their energy. It’s a position that requires physicality and instincts. The elite ones have great vision and can fly from sideline to sideline. These 20 individuals showed what they can do on the gridiron.

Still, there’s more goals to accomplish. And with spring ball in the air, look for them all to pick up where they left off.

20. Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati: The former two-star prospect led Miami (Ohio) in tackles last season. Not to mention he averaged 9.6 stops per game, which ranked 15th in the FBS. Pace also earned first-team, All-MAC honors. The Cincinnati native stockpiled a jaw-dropping, 12 solo tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble against Ohio. Pace tallied an additional 12 solo stops, including one for loss and a sack at Kent State. He had five solo tackles, including one for loss against Minnesota, and put the quarterback to the turf in the win over Akron. Pace will be a great addition to Luke Fickell’s roster, with all of his leadership, experience and production.

19. SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh: The New York native led the Panthers in stops, and was No. 2 on the team in tackles for loss last season. Dennis was a big reason why Pittsburgh ranked first in the ACC in rush defense and sacks. He tallied four solo tackles apiece against Tennessee and Michigan State. The former two-star prospect racked up a season-high, six solo stops and a sack in the victory over Georgia Tech. Dennis picked off a pass in the win over Clemson. Not to mention he stockpiled five solo tackles and put the quarterback to the turf twice in the ACC Championship Game. Dennis also finished the year with second-team, All-ACC honors.

18. Carlton Martial, Troy: For an individual who had no stars behind his name out of high school, he still gained notoriety with a jaw-dropping, 127 tackles last season. Martial finished sixth in the FBS in tackles per game and earned first-team, All-Sun Belt honors. He generated four solo tackles, a sack and intercepted a pass in the victory at Southern Miss. Martial stockpiled five solo tackles apiece against Louisiana-Monroe and Coastal Carolina. The Alabama native made the quarterback eat grass against Georgia State. The 5-foot-9, 210-pound Martial racked up a season-high, eight solo tackles, including two for loss in the win over Texas State.

17. Josh Chandler-Semedo, Colorado: The former three-star prospect led West Virginia with 110 tackles last season. Chandler-Semedo averaged 8.5 tackles per game, which ranked third in the Big 12. He tallied seven solo stops in the opener at Maryland. Chandler-Semedo racked up five solo tackles apiece against Virginia Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State. The Ohio native generated four solo stops apiece against Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Not to mention he had a season-high, nine solo tackles in the win over TCU. The following week he stockpiled an additional nine solo stops and a sack in the victory over Iowa State. Chandler-Semedo also picked off two passes at Kansas.

16. KD Davis, North Texas: The Texas native led the Mean Green in stops and tackles for loss last season. Davis averaged 9.3 tackles per game, which ranked 20th in the FBS. Not to mention he earned first-team, All-C-USA honors. The six foot, 229-pounder generated eight solo tackles, including three for loss and two sacks in the opener against Northwestern State. Davis tallied five solo stops, including three for loss at Louisiana Tech. He had a season-high, 10 solo tackles, including four for loss against Missouri. The former three-star prospect put the quarterback to the turf against Liberty, Southern Miss and Florida-International.

15. Tatum Bethune, Florida State: The former three-star prospect led Central Florida with 108 tackles last season. Bethune averaged nine tackles per game, which ranked 24th in the FBS. He tallied six solo stops, including one for loss and a sack in the win over Memphis. The Miami native added another six solo tackles in the bowl game against Florida. Bethune racked up a season-high, 11 solo tackles in the victory over East Carolina. The six-foot-one, 230-pounder generated eight solo stops against South Florida, seven against Connecticut and five at Louisville. Despite all of Bethune’s success on the gridiron, he only received Honorable Mention All-AAC consideration.

14. Luke Reimer, Nebraska: The hometown kid led the Huskers with 108 tackles last season. Reimer averaged 9.1 tackles per game, which ranked third in the Big Ten and 23rd in the FBS. He tallied seven solo stops, and intercepted a pass in the win over Buffalo. The six-foot-one, 225-pound Reimer generated six solo tackles apiece against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa. Reimer also forced two fumbles against the Hawkeyes. Not to mention he racked up a season-high, 12 solo tackles against Purdue. Considering all of the production Reimer had in 2021, it’s a head-scratcher as to why he didn’t have no stars behind his name out of high school.

13. Jacoby Windmon, Michigan State: The New Orleans native led UNLV in stops, tackles for loss and sacks last season. Windmon averaged 9.8 tackles per game, which ranked 13th in the FBS. He was No. 7 in the nation in solo tackles per game, and earned second-team, All-Mountain West honors. Windmon tallied six solo stops apiece against Eastern Washington and Arizona State. Not to mention he generated three sacks against San Diego State. Windmon also put the quarterback to the turf in victories over New Mexico and Hawaii. Windmon had a season-high, 12 solo tackles against Air Force. His four tackles for loss against Utah State were also a season-high.

12. Nick Jackson, Virginia: The former three-star prospect led the Cavaliers with 117 tackles last season. Jackson averaged 9.8 tackles per game, which ranked first in the ACC and 14th in the FBS. He generated five solo tackles apiece against North Carolina, Louisville and Duke. The Atlanta native stockpiled seven solo stops and put the quarterback to the turf against Pittsburgh. Jackson had a season-high, nine solo tackles at BYU and three others in the win over Illinois. The six-foot-one, 240-pounder tallied four solo stops apiece against William and Mary, Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The cherry on top to Jackson’s stellar season was ending it with second-team, All-ACC honors.

11. Kyle Harmon, San Jose State: The former three-star prospect originally signed with California in 2017. Harmon led the Spartans with a jaw-dropping, 134 tackles last season and finished with first-team, All-Mountain West honors. His 11.1 tackles per game ranked third in the FBS. Not to mention he was No. 6 in the country in solo tackles per game. Harmon tallied nine solo stops apiece against Wyoming and Fresno State. He made the quarterback eat grass in the victory over UNLV. Harmon racked up seven solo tackles apiece against Western Michigan and Utah State. The six-foot, 225-pounder stockpiled a season-high, 12 solo tackles against Nevada.

10. Daniel Green, Kansas State: The Portland native led the Wildcats in stops and tackles for loss last season. Green averaged 5.3 solo tackles per game, which tied for 18th in the FBS. He tallied four solo stops apiece in victories over Stanford, Southern Illinois and LSU. The former four-star prospect racked up nine solo tackles, including one for loss and a sack in the win over Nevada. In back-to-back weeks against TCU and Kansas, Green combined for 12 solo tackles, including five for loss. Over Kansas State’s final three games of the regular season, Green combined for 24 solo tackles, including 5.5 for loss and two sacks. Green’s 10 solo stops at Texas were a season-high.

9. Andre Carter, Army: The Texas native delivered a monster campaign in 2021. Carter led the Black Knights in tackles for loss and sacks. He ranked first in the FBS in sacks per game. Carter was eighth in the country in tackles for loss per game. Not to mention he earned third-team, AP All-America honors for his efforts. Carter was unblockable and helped Army’s defense finish 16th in the FBS against the run. The six-foot-seven, 250-pounder stockpiled three sacks apiece in victories over Georgia State and Massachusetts, plus he put the quarterback to the turf twice at Ball State. Carter also had a sack against Missouri, Liberty, Bucknell, Wisconsin, Miami (Ohio) and Western Kentucky.

8. Bumper Pool, Arkansas: The former four-star prospect is coming off back-to-back seasons of 100-plus tackles. Pool led the Razorbacks in stops in 2021, and tied for second on the team in tackles for loss. He’s one of the most productive linebackers in the country and earned second-team, All-SEC honors. Not to mention Pool averaged 9.6 tackles per game, which ranked second in the league and 16th in the FBS. The Texas native generated five solo tackles apiece against Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Missouri. Pool racked up a season-high, seven solo stops against Georgia. He also added six solo tackles in the victory at LSU. All Pool needs is 60 tackles this fall to become Arkansas’ all-time career leader.

7. Mikel Jones, Syracuse: The Miami native led the Orangemen in stops and tackles for loss last season. Jones generated seven solo tackles against Rutgers. The following week he added seven more stops in the win over Albany. Jones put the quarterback to the turf twice, and recovered a fumble in the victory over Liberty. The six-foot-one, 220-pounder stockpiled a season-high, 10 solo stops, including a tackle for loss against Clemson. Jones also delivered a sack at Louisville. Over the Orangemen final two games, Jones combined for 13 solo stops, 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. He finished the year with first-team, All-ACC honors.

6. Henry To’oto’o, Alabama: The former Tennessee Volunteer led the SEC Champs in tackles last season. To’oto’o averaged 7.5 tackles per game, which ranked eighth in the league. He stockpiled seven solo tackles and a sack at Mississippi State. The 21-year old generated seven more solo stops in the SEC Championship Game. His eight solo tackles, including three for loss and two sacks against Arkansas, were all season-highs. To’oto’o also made the quarterback eat grass against New Mexico State. The California native racked up six solo stops, including one for loss in the Iron Bowl. To’oto’o finished the season with second-team, All-SEC honors.

5. Noah Sewell, Oregon: The former five-star prospect led the Ducks with 114 tackles last season. Sewell has amazing instincts and always seem to be around the ball. He generated three solo tackles, a sack and forced a fumble in the opening win over Fresno State. The following week Sewell delivered four solo stops in the victory at Ohio State. The six-foot-three, 251-pounder put the quarterback to the turf against California and Utah. Sewell had a season-high, eight solo stops, including one for loss and forced a fumble in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Samoa native finished the season with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors. With Kayvon Thibodeaux off to the NFL, Sewell will be Oregon’s enforcer.

4. Drake Thomas, NC State: He led the Wolfpack in stops and tackles for loss last season. Thomas averaged 8.3 tackles per game, which ranked fourth in the conference. Not to mention he earned first-team, All-ACC honors. The North Carolina native picked off a pass in victories over South Florida, Clemson and Syracuse. Thomas generated six total tackles apiece against Mississippi State and Wake Forest. The former three-star prospect tallied four solo stops apiece in wins over Boston College, Florida State and North Carolina. In back-to-back games against Miami and Louisville, Thomas combined for 14 solo tackles and four sacks.

3. Jack Campbell, Iowa: The former three-star prospect finished third in the Big Ten and 10th in the FBS in tackles per game last season. Campbell made plays all over the field for the Hawkeyes and was named their defensive MVP. He’s a big reason why Iowa ranked third in the league in total defense. Not to mention he earned first-team, All-Big Ten honors. Campbell stockpiled seven solo tackles apiece in wins over Colorado State and Penn State. He tallied six solo stops apiece in victories over Iowa State, Northwestern and Minnesota. The Iowa native picked off a pass against Illinois and Michigan. Campbell also had four solo stops apiece against Wisconsin and Kentucky.

2. Jeremy Banks, Tennessee: The former four-star prospect was originally recruited as a running back, but led the Volunteers in tackles last season. Jones tied for first on the team in tackles for loss and sacks. He ranked second in the SEC and 12th in the FBS in tackles per game. The Tennessee native generated five solo tackles, including two for loss and a sack against Pittsburgh. Banks tallied two tackles for loss, a sack and picked off a pass in the victory over Missouri. In back-to-back games against South Carolina and Ole Miss, he combined for 13 solo stops, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Banks left a lasting impression with a season-high, 10 solo tackles  and a sack against Purdue.

1. Will Anderson, Alabama: The former five-star prospect dominated and looked like a man among boys last season. Anderson finished first in the FBS with a jaw-dropping, 34.5 tackles for loss, and second on the team in stops. His 17.5 sacks were the third most in a single-season, behind Derrick Thomas. Anderson’s four sacks in the win over Mississippi State tied for No. 2 all-time in a single game for Alabama. The Georgia native stockpiled a season-high, eight solo tackles against LSU. Anderson tallied two sacks apiece in victories over Cincinnati, New Mexico State and Tennessee. For his video game production, Anderson earned first-team, AP and USA Today All-America honors.

Honorable Mention

Nick Henrich, Nebraska: The Omaha native finished second on the team in tackles last season. He averaged 8.2 tackles per game, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten. Henrich alongside Reimer will help Nebraska field one of the best linebacker duos in the league.

Jackson Mitchell, Connecticut: The six-foot, 229-pounder was the lone bright spot for the Huskies’ defense in 2021. Mitchell racked up 120 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. Not to mention he averaged 10 stops per game, which ranked 11th in the FBS.

Shaka Heyward, Duke: The former three-star prospect led the Blue Devils in stops and tackles for loss last season. Heyward averaged 8.2 tackles per game, which ranked sixth in the conference. The Georgia native also earned third-team, All-ACC honors.

James Patterson, Buffalo: The Maryland native led the Bulls in stops and tackles for loss last season. Patterson averaged 9.5 tackles per game, which ranked 17th in the FBS. Not to mention he finished the year with first-team, All-MAC honors.

Darren Anders, Bowling Green: The former two-star prospect led the Falcons with 124 tackles last season. Anders averaged 10.3 tackles per game, which ranked eighth in the FBS. The Ohio native also finished 2021 with first-team, All-MAC honors. He’s arguably one of the MAC’s best defenders.