- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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The state of Texas not only has a special class of running backs in the 2011 cycle, but also one the deepest groups of linebacker prospects in the country. With more and more high school offenses going to the spread, it seems fewer and fewer true linebacker prospects are actually playing the position throughout their high school careers. Many begin their careers at defensive end before eventually moving to linebacker.
The talented junior group includes a number of nationally recruited prospects, a 2011 Under Armour All-American and one school that features three elite linebacker prospects.
Anthony Wallace (Dallas/Skyline)
The 2011 Under Armour All-American is the latest in a long line of talented linebackers out of Skyline High School. The 6-foot, 215-pounder has more than 20 offers including Miami, Florida, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Texas, USC, Oregon, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, TCU, Texas A&M, UCLA and Nebraska. The Sooners hold the edge headed into the summer.
Wallace was a teammate of two 2010 Under Armour All-Americans, linebacker Corey Nelson (Dallas/Skyline) and receiver Mike Davis (Dallas/Skyline), who signed with Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, in February.
P.L. Lindley (Round Rock, Texas/Stony Point)
The 6-2, 205-pounder is an athletic outside linebacker prospect with speed, quickness and change-of-direction ability. He committed to Oklahoma on February 20 over offers from Houston and SMU, along with interest from around the region. His teammate, defensive tackle prospect Jordan Wade, is also committed to the Sooners.
Derrick Matthews (Houston/North Shore)
He is another in a long line of undersized, but very athletic linebackers out of the super-talented Mustangs program. The 6-foot, 180-pound Houston commit is quick, fast and aggressive.
Deryck Gildon (Arlington, Texas/Martin)
The TCU commit is one of the more under-recruited prospects in the 2011 class due to a knee injury he suffered late in the 2009 season. The 6-1, 205-pounder with 4.55 40 speed and quickness is one of the most athletic linebacker prospects in the class. He considered offers from Texas Tech, Baylor, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Houston, Minnesota and SMU before choosing the Mountain West champs.
Kendall Thompson (Carthage, Texas/Carthage)
The 6-3, 230-pounder may have the best instincts of the group. The Texas commit has terrific hands, takes instinctive angles to the football and often plucks interceptions out of the air. He is also a versatile prospect with the ability to grow into an end at the next level or even get a look at tight end if there is a need. Thompson was a big part of the two-time defending 3A champion Carthage team in East Texas.
Trey Brown (Lancaster, Texas/Lancaster)
The 6-1, 205-pound hard-hitter has offers from Oklahoma and Houston along with interest from Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and others from around the region. Texas Tech is the favorite of Brown as he patiently awaits an offer. The past two seasons he has been part of one of the faster defenses in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Franklin Shannon (Dallas/Skyline)
The 6-foot, 207-pounder plays safety for Skyline, but projects to outside linebacker at the next level. He has a combination of closing speed, quickness, physicality, change of direction skills and playmaking ability to make a smooth transition to outside linebacker. He has offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Kansas State, Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Baylor and Arizona, among others.
Clarence Green (Brazoswood, Texas/Brazoswood)
The 5-11, 195-pound, speedy playmaker committed to Missouri on April 26, following a visit to Columbia. He was also offered by Kentucky and Tulsa, along with regional interest from a number of programs. Green is undersized, but plays the game with a nonstop motor and has a nose for the football. The two-time all-district pick totaled 131 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two interceptions last year.
Nico Ornelas (North Richland Hills, Texas/Richland)
The 6-3, 195-pound safety turned linebacker prospect has offers from Kansas, Kansas State, Arkansas and Nebraska, along with interest from around the region. The long-armed prospect with range and 4.6 speed burst onto the scene as a sophomore.
Nathan Broussard (Plano, Texas/West)
Stanford, California and Tulsa have offered the 6-4, 240-pounder and Texas A&M walked away very impressed after a visit to Plano West last week. Vanderbilt, Rice and Baylor, among others, are showing interest. He could also end up with his hand on the ground at the next level.
Rob Hankins (Plano, Texas/Dallas Parish Episcopal)
Hankins is the strongest of the linebacker prospects in the state, sporting a 405-pound bench press and a more than 500-pound squat. The 6-1, 214-pound inside linebacker prospect has offers from Miami, California, Arizona, Notre Dame, Arkansas, Texas Tech, Nebraska and many others. He amassed 136 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 12 sacks as a junior.
Melvin Spears (Allen, Texas/Allen)
The 6-1, 215-pounder has offers from Big Ten programs Iowa and Minnesota, along with interest from the majority of Big 12 schools and every other regional program. He is one of several members in the junior class at Allen High School expected to sign with an FBS program in February.
Ryan Simmons (Cibolo, Texas/Steele)
The 6-foot, 229-pound inside linebacker showed why he is the target of a number of schools at a recent Nike NFTC Combine in Baton Rouge, La. A downhill, physical linebacker, Simmons has offers from Wake Forest, Purdue, Stanford, Iowa State and Houston, along with interest from Oklahoma. The Demon Deacons have moved into the lead in recent weeks. Simmons is teammates at Cibolo Steele with top 2011 prospects running back Malcolm Brown and defensive tackle Marquis Anderson.
Simmons is the brother of 2010 McDonald's All-American Game co-MVP, Meighan Simmons, who signed with Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
Kellen Jones (Houston/St. Pius X)
The 6-foot, 210-pounder is the least-publicized linebacker in the state, but is one of the most talented with offers from Arizona, Missouri, Houston, Colorado, Kansas State and Arkansas, along with increasing interest from regional and national programs. He missed time due to injury in 2009, but that hasn't kept the recruiters from knocking down his door since January.
Laderice Sanders (Arlington, Texas/Arlington High)
The 6-1, 215-pounder selected TCU over an offer from Minnesota and interest from around the region. Sanders isn't as publicized as many of the other linebackers, but gained the praise of many head coaches in a talented district.
Devon Hocutt (Killeen, Texas/Ellison)
The Texas Tech commit will likely make the move to the defensive line at the next level. The 5-11, 268-pounder with 4.8 speed and a true love for competing is a prospect to keep an eye on. Hocutt seemingly shows up at every combine looking to compete and gain as much experience against top-notch competition as possible.
Chet Moss (Cedar Park, Texas/Cedar Park)
The 6-1, 220-pound future Texas inside linebacker somewhat flew under the radar as a junior after missing half the season due to illness and injury. He picked the Longhorns over offers from SMU and Rice.
Steve Edmond (Daingerfield, Texas/Daingerfield)
The Texas commit is quite possibly the most productive defensive player in the entire state after he recorded 182 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and five interceptions last season, while also seeing some spot duty at tight end. The 6-3, 235-pound, hard-hitting, instinctive prospect is the defensive leader for the two-time defending 2A state champions. He is one of the rare linebacker prospects that faced power running teams on a consistent basis the past couple of seasons. Edmond picked Texas over offers from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Oklahoma State, USC, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor and others along with interest from every national power.
Clear Springs trio
Trevon Randle (League City, Texas/Clear Springs)
The 6-1, 205-pouner is one of the top playmakers in the Houston area. The former district sophomore of the year with 4.55 speed committed to LSU on February 20 over offers from Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Nebraska and Baylor along with interest from Texas. Randle totaled 152 tackles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions last season and enters his senior season with nearly 275 career tackles.
Howard Matthews (League City, Texas/Clear Springs)
The 6-2, 205-pounder is one of the true sleeper prospects in the state after playing at Seguin High School in 2009 before transferring to Clear Springs for the spring semester. Matthews played safety at Seguin and will likely play running back, safety and linebacker for the Chargers, but projects to outside linebacker at the next level. Texas A&M and Houston are showing interest.
Donnie Baggs (League City, Texas/Clear Springs)
He is one of three talented linebacker prospects at Clear Springs High School, 20 miles south of Houston. The 6-2, 205-pound former safety brings pass-rushing ability off the edge. He has offers from Texas A&M, Missouri, Baylor, Houston, Kansas, Kansas State, Arizona and Rice. The Aggies have a big lead and a commitment is expected in the near future.
Best of the rest
Other top linebacker prospects in the Lone Star State include SMU commit Jonathan Yenga (Euless, Texas/Trinity), Desmond Pulliam (Louise, Texas/Louise), David Santos (Houston/Klein Collins), Chad Polk (Dallas/Woodrow Wilson), Collin Garrett (Beaumont, Texas/West Brook), Nick Morrow (Edna, Texas/Edna) and Jeremy Stallworth (Carrollton, Texas/Newman Smith).
Gerry Hamilton has covered recruiting in Texas and the Southwest for more than a decade. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The state of Texas' 2011 class is absolutely loaded at the linebacker position, writes Gerry Hamilton.