The college football season is approaching. There is always debate over ranking the best players in the sport. Here are the top 25 college football linebackers heading into the 2022 season.
Note: While projection of what a player can be is taken into account, most rankings are from what has been seen on the field so far. These are not NFL Draft rankings, but rather focus on the best players in college football.
25. Charlie Thomas, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Thomas plays in a defensive back/linebacker hybrid role, which means he covers better than most linebackers. He had 70 tackles in 2021 as well. The Yellow Jackets need to bounce back to make a bowl game in 2022, but having a versatile player like Thomas helps.
24. Mike Jones Jr., LSU Tigers
There were a lot of expectations from Jones after he transferred from Clemson to LSU. Things didn’t go well early, but they did improve by the end of the season. He had 34 total tackles in 10 games played. Jones will have to do more in 2022 to keep his spot on this list.
23. Troy Brown, Ole Miss Rebels
After four solid seasons at Central Michigan, Brown joins Ole Miss. His best season for the Chippewas came in 2019, when he registered 89 total tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss, demonstrating the ability to stop the run. The offense for Ole Miss is expected to be great under Lane Kiffin, so Brown and the defense will need to step it up.
22. Seth Benson, Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa has one of the best linebacker rooms in the country and Benson is a big reason why. He had 105 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2021. The Hawkeyes won 10 games in 2021 and should compete in the Big Ten West in 2022.
21. Darius Muasau, UCLA Bruins
Muasau had three great seasons for Hawaii before transferring to UCLA. Over his last two seasons with the Rainbow Warriors, he had over 100 tackles in each season. The Bruins made a bowl game last season and look like they will be able to do the same with players like Muasau pitching in.
20. Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati Bearcats
Pace Jr. played three seasons at Miami Ohio and had a breakout year in 2021. He registered 125 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Pace will join his brother at Cincinnati, creating a good linebacker duo.
19. Omar Speights, Oregon State Beavers
Over three years at Oregon State, Speights has been able to show his development. He totaled 87 tackles and five tackles for loss in 2021. The Beavers won seven games last season and look like they can make a bowl game again in 2022.
18. Deshawn Pace, Cincinnati Bearcats
Pace is now joined by his brother at Cincinnati, but DeShawn helped the Bearcats make the College Football Playoff following the 2021 season. He had 95 total tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. With plenty of Cincinnati’s talent graduating or going to the NFL, Pace will be a leader on the defense.
17. Junior Colson, Michigan Wolverines
There weren’t many freshmen who were more impressive than Colson, who had 60 total tackles on Michigan’s run to the CFP last season. This year he is expected to improve in the middle of the Wolverines’ defense, as they look to repeat as Big Ten Champions.
16. KD Davis, North Texas Mean Green
North Texas has a star at linebacker in Davis, who has put three straight impressive seasons in a row out. The 2021 was his best yet, as he registered 120 total tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. Davis is the best player on the North Texas and is hoping to lead the Mean Green to another bowl game in 2022.
15. Ventrell Miller, Florida Gators
After having 86 total tackles in 2021, Miller was only able to play in two games during the 2021 season due to a torn biceps. He returns to Florida and should greatly help the defense after they struggled in 2021.
14. Jeremy Banks, Tennessee Volunteers
Banks started out as a running back, but made the move to linebacker and it has paid off. He had his first big year of production in 2021 with 128 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss. Tennessee played well last season, but will need Banks to help them push forward in the SEC East.
13. Jacquez Jones, Kentucky Wildcats
Jones posted some good seasons for Ole Miss before playing his first season at Kentucky in 2021. He had 82 total tackles for the Wildcats. Kentucky’s defense and offensive line are some of the best parts of the team, so they’ll need to grind out wins in 2022.
12. Mikel Jones, Syracuse Orange
While he had two solid seasons for Syracuse before 2021, he cemented himself as one of the best linebackers in the country with 109 tackles and 12 tackles for loss last season. Syracuse has some talent on their defense and they’ll need to be at their best to make a bowl game.
11. DeMarvion Overshown, Texas Longhorns
Overshown could’ve declared for the 2022 NFL Draft, but chose to return to Texas for the 2022 season. He had 74 total tackles an 5.5 tackles for loss in 2021. Texas is expected to be a lot better than they were last season and Overshown returning is one of the many reasons why.
10. Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington Huskies
Ulofoshio burst onto the scene with 47 total tackles in four games played during the COVID-shortened 2020 season. In six games last season, he registered 51 total tackles. He had an injury which limited him last season, but he also is expected to miss some time during the 2022 season.
9. Carlton Martial, Troy Trojans
Martial might be one of the most undersized linebackers in college football, but he has three straight seasons of over 100 total tackles. He flies around the field making plays for Troy and is one of the best players in the Sun Belt. After missing a bowl game in 2021, Martial can help them get back on track.
8. Drake Thomas, NC State Wolfpack
Another team with a very talented linebacker room is NC State. Thomas had 99 total tackles in 2021, as the Wolfpack won nine games. Thomas had his best season yet in 2021 and will hope to improve again in 2022.
7. Payton Wilson, NC State Wolfpack
In 2020, Wilson posted 108 total tackles in 10 games played. He was injured just two games into the 2021 season, but returns for the 2022 season. With Wilson, Thomas and Isaiah Moore, there may not be a group of better, proven linebackers in the country.
6. Bumper Pool, Arkansas Razorbacks
Pool is entering his fifth season with the Razorbacks after producing well over the last three seasons. He had 125 total tackles in 2021, which was his best season of production. Expectations are higher for Arkansas in 2022, but they have plenty of talent especially with Pool’s return.
5. Owen Pappoe, Auburn Tigers
For the 2020 season, Pappoe had 93 total tackles. In five games during the 2021 season, he had 23 total tackles. He missed some time for a leg injury and Auburn missed his presence. Having him back for 2022 gives them a chance to make a bowl game.
4. Jack Campbell, Iowa Hawkeyes
Campbell only has one year of major production under his belt, but he had amazing numbers. With 140 total tackles, he was the clear leader of Iowa on defense. Another good season from Campbell could help the Hawkeyes win the Big Ten West.
3. Trenton Simpson, Clemson Tigers
Simpson did a little bit of everything for the Tigers in 2021. He had 65 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks on the season. Clemson’s defense is going to be one of the best in the country, which will be needed as the offense has some issues to iron out from last season.
2. Henry To’o To’o, Alabama Crimson Tide
To’o To’o is another player who could’ve gone pro following the 2021 season, but decided to return to Alabama as they try to win a National Championship. He had 111 total tackles for the Crimson Tide and has plenty of experience to lead the defense in 2022.
1. Noah Sewell, Oregon Ducks
The Ducks have another star with the last name Sewell. Penei’s brother Noah was making plays in 2021 with 114 total tackles. He showed up in some of Oregon’s biggest games. There are some concerns about him in coverage, but Sewell can stop the run with the best of them.
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