In and Out

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In and Out
by Warren DeLuca

Note: This is second in a series of college prospect profiles in preparation for the 2005 NFL Draft next April. This time, we take a look at the top ten linebacker prospects.

Few college programs employ base 3-4 defenses, so when the Texans scout for new linebackers, they have to use a little imagination to forecast how defensive players will fit into their scheme. The team’s history of switching 4-3 defensive ends such as Antwan Peek and Jason Babin to outside linebacker is well documented, but Houston has also switched players from the middle and outside positions to the inside, such as Jay Foreman and Jamie Sharper, respectively.

Of’s top five inside linebacker prospects, only Ahmad Brooks of Virginia plays the position in a 3-4 defense. Lance Mitchell of Oklahoma and Kirk Morrison of San Diego State man the middle in 4-3 schemes, while Michael Boley of Southern Miss and Derrick Johnson of Texas project inside even though they play the 4-3 outside position in college.

Projections abound outside as well, with 4-3 defensive ends Jonathan Jackson of Oklahoma, Mathias Kiwanuka of Boston College, Matt Roth of Iowa, and Justin Tuck of Notre Dame all shifting to a two-point stance. Daryl Blackstock of Virginia is the sole player with experience as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

Although most lack experience as 3-4 linebackers, they all have flashed the skills to thrive in the Texans’ defense. The inside linebacker prospects can fly to the football and make plays, while the outside linebackers know how to defeat offensive tackles and track down the quarterback. They have talent that cannot be taught, and Dom Capers and Vic Fangio would be happy to take care of the rest.

Five more inside linebacker candidates to watch:

Kevin Burnett, Tennessee
Will Derting, Washington State
A.J. Hawk, Ohio State
Abdul Hodge, Iowa
Barrett Ruud, Nebraska

And on the outside:

Adell Duckett, Texas Tech
George Gause, South Carolina
Eric Henderson, Georgia Tech
Eric Moore, Florida State
Bill Swancutt, Oregon State

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