On paper, the 2011 outside linebacker class may be one of the weakest we have seen in recent years. Six outside linebackers made the ESPNU 150 this year, less than half of the 13 a year ago. Some of it can be justified. This year's inside linebacker class is particularly strong, with a few outstanding prospects who could also project as outside linebackers (at the strong outside position) thus deepening this class.
It should also be noted that there is a prospect in the athlete category, James Wilder II (Tampa, Fla./Plant), who could just as easily rank high here as well, maybe at the top spot. The No. 9 overall prospect is a big, fast and explosive edge rusher who is also being recruited to play running back, which is why he's listed as an athlete.
While high-end depth is lacking, Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C./Anson) and Trey DePriest (Springfield, Ohio/South) have the physical tools to play early at the next level. Conversely, Curt Maggitt (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer) and Ryan Shazier (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) boast some of the better upside in the entire ESPNU 150, perhaps making this a stronger class three or four years down the line.
Stephone Anthony (Wadesboro, N.C./Anson Senior)
Ht.: 6-2 | Wt.: 220 pounds | Stars: 4 | OLB rank: 1 | ESPNU 150 rank: 29
Arguably the best total football player in this OLB group, Anthony is tough, fast and explosive between the white lines. Also a talented running back showcasing his athleticism, this North Carolina native can stack the inside run with strength, make plays sideline to sideline with speed or drop back in coverage and mirror backs tightly in space. Those well-rounded tools, as well as his great instincts, should get this highly coveted prospect on the field early.
Trey DePriest (Springfield, Ohio/South)
Ht.: 6-1 | Wt.: 225 pounds | Stars: 4 | OLB rank: 2 | ESPNU 150 rank: 35
The Ohio native made a case for the top spot, and like Anthony, he first impresses you with his every-down play and keen instincts. The No. 3-rated prospect in Ohio is versatile, athletic and one of the best at pursuing downhill through trash. He isn't very flashy, but he covers the field with excellent production.
Curt Maggitt (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla./Dwyer)
Ht.: 6-3 | Wt.: 194 pounds | Stars: 4 | OLB rank: 3 | ESPNU 150 rank: 59
He missed some time because of a shoulder injury, but when he's healthy, this lean, fast and attacking hybrid linebacker is disruptive on the perimeter. Maggitt is one of the better pass-rushers in this OLB class and a defender you just want to free up to pursue. He needs to fill out his leaner frame, but can flat-out run and has the speed to alter offensive game plans at the next level.
OLBs to watch
" While explosive off the edge, Ryan Shazier (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Plantation) lacks the size to remain at end in college and is going to take a bit of time to develop as a true outside linebacker. With that said, he still can be a difference maker with his ability to get after quarterback and wreak havoc on the outside. Shazier should blossom into a productive college defender, particularly if he lands in a heavy-pressure scheme. He's an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on.
" Falling just outside the ESPNU 150, the highly debated Brent Calloway (Russellville, Ala.) is certainly a very good football player, shining on both sides of the ball at the high school level. While he's an explosive vertical attacker, we do question this Alabama commit's coverage skills, ability to read and react from normal linebacker depth, and lack of ideal body length for a perimeter defender. He still has all the physical tools to develop into a good SEC linebacker.
" Lateek Townsend (Bennettsville, S.C./Marlboro County) is one of the best blitzers in this class. He is very athletic and quick off the snap with the ability to attack from any angle on the field. His productivity behind the line of scrimmage is very impressive and should carry over to college in time. Like Shazier, he will need to add some size to stack the run but should earn his way into early pressure packages.
TCU is winning on the field with its recruiting efforts off it. Deryck Gildon (Arlington, Texas/James Martin) and Laderice Sanders (Arlington, Texas) have good athleticism and provide all-around production. Gildon is the No. 9-ranked OLB and is very underrated in our eyes. … Three-star prospect Micah Seau (San Diego, Calif./Bishop Union) shows flashes of downhill explosion reminiscent of his uncle and future NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau. … Hybrid OLB Jason Gibson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) has a pass-rushing skill set similar to Maggit's but is more physical at this time. … Recent Alabama commit Vinnie Sunseri (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge) is the son of Crimson Tide coach Sal Sunseri. While he lacks ideal measurables, there are few better overall football players in this group. … Six of the top-rated prospects in this OLB class are still undecided.
Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school levels.