Linebacker is an interesting position during Senior Bowl week. The practices and drills for the linebackers really showcase a players fluidity and agility, how they will move and react while playing defense. The backs on backers drill shows more for RBs, but a good pass rushing LB can flash in those. Maybe the best part to gleam is how these LBs cover TEs throughout the week in drills. Depending on the coaches set those up, it can be a drill that adds to a player’s profile.
This is a good crop of LBs with some upside, and even with a few dropping off from practicing this year, it should still be a strength of the Senior Bowl.
Damone Clark, LSU
Clark had an excellent year at LSU becoming the shining spot of their defense. With 137 tackles and 5.5 sacks this year, Clark was an in the box backer who was used as a pass rusher in some different packages. This gives him a lot of versatility to play inside or outside in the NFL and fit a variety of defenses. One of the biggest draft risers this year, Clark is an intriguing prospect.
The Senior Bowl should give him the opportunity to showcase his various skills. A key point will be assessing his change of direction and sideline to sideline ability. There is a ton of great LBs on the American team, but Clark could stand out with that versatility. Expect some good Day 2 buzz coming out of the week.
JoJo Domann, Nebraska
Domann had an excellent season for Nebraska with 73 tackles in 10 games and 2 interceptions as well. His coverage ability as a LB is excellent, and he showed quickness hitting the hole on the tackles. The Senior Bowl should be a unique opportunity as Domann will likely take some reps at Safety where some teams will value his skillset more.
Domann should be a big Senior Bowl riser if he shows enough in Safety reps to be a versatile piece. With his coverage ability and size, this seems likely to happen, even if it takes a practice to adjust. The game itself could also be a selling point and Domann should get some Day 2 buzz.
Aaron Hansford, Texas A&M
Hansford showed himself to be a great run defender with 89 tackles and 8.5 TFL this season. His read and react ability helped keep the A&M run defense one of the best in the SEC. Add in solid size to body bigger runners, and Hansford is a 2-down LB in the NFL.
2-down LBs can have some problems at the Senior Bowl. Tackling doesn’t happen much in practice. Though some tackle drills will have Hansford looking good, the major pass rushing and coverage drills are not his strength. Hansford may be lost in the shuffle and stick as a Day 3 pick.
D’Marco Jackson, Appalachian State
Jackson is a run stuffing LB who had eye popping statistics this year. With 120 tackles, 6 sacks, and 19 TFL, he racked up some big statistics playing against the run. Though Jackson isn’t the most athletic LB at the Senior Bowl, this week should give him an opportunity to work into coverage and play outside of the defined role he was in at App State.
If Jackson can adjust quickly to coverage and playing a more versatile role, then the week in Mobile should go well in theory. In terms of predicting success, other LBs are likely to outshine him though and it is doubtful there is massive buzz surrounding Jackson after the week.
Channing Tindall, Georgia
Tindall was a bigger part of the Bulldogs championship defense than he often gets credit for. The hard hitting ILB knows how to lay the lumber, but he can still utilize wrap up techniques in his tackling. Some questions linger about coverage ability, but that seemed to improve through the season. Getting coaching from the Lions in the Senior Bowl could be a nice opportunity to keep expanding his skillset.
Senior Bowl week should be good to Tindall. Even if he plays a bit stiff at times, the mental side of the game will come out during the week of practices. He also has the mentality Dan Campbell and the Lions staff like, and they are in need of a LB, so it could be a Round 2 or 3 match.
Quay Walker, Georgia
Walker was often in the background of the Georgia defense, but he and Tindall manned the inside for the Georgia defense. Walker is stoutly built and a brick wall for RBs to try and run through. He was able to freelance more, dropping into coverage or blitzing on delays, which did lead to more mental mistakes, but the physical acumen is there. A potential Day 2 pick with upside due to his raw ability, Walker is intriguing.
Walker is one of the LBs I fear getting lost in the shuffle as well. He looks the part, but mental mistakes could lead to some bad reps getting noticed without the good ones standing out. There are draft capital implications to how he does during the week, so it is big for his draft stock.
Troy Andersen, Montana State
Andersen has been such a unique player in his time at Montana State. He started in 2017 playing LB and RB. The next season, he started at QB and was First Team All-Big Sky at that position. In 2019 it was back to LB with some FB mixed in. Finally, this past year, he played full time at LB and was absolutely dominant. Andersen is some type of 1930s throw back player holding the single season school record in rushing touchdowns, but going pro at Linebacker. His week in Mobile will be an interesting one.
Andersen will be a media darling during the week as a strong leader and interviewer. He can back it up on the field too with great tackling technique and excellent read and react skills. It will be interesting to see the older small school prospect go up against TEs and RBs in drills. Expect a little bit of buzz and Andersen being a solid Day 3 draft pick.
Brian Asamoah II, Oklahoma
Asamoah was an overlooked part of the Sooner defense this year. He is on the smaller side, but is extremely fluid in his movement and a solid coverage LB with make-up speed if he gets behind a route. Asamoah feels like one of those “better in the NFL than in college” types.
Asamoah is one of the picks to smash Senior Bowl week. Everything plays to his strengths of his athleticism and toughness. Though Oklahoma’s defense didn’t seem to properly utilize his skillset, the Jets coaching staff should be able to do so. He could even be a natural fit for the Jets themselves if he builds a relationship with that coaching staff.
Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati
Beavers is one of the best LBs in the draft. He is massive, being listed at 6’4 and 255 pounds and was a big reason for Cincinnati’s success this season. With a weak Front 7 (especially against the run) the Bearcats relied on Beavers to do a bit of everything. He exploded into gaps to stop RBs. He moved into coverage against big TEs and got physical with them. He even blitzed from time to time as almost another D-Lineman.
Beavers should have a great Senior Bowl week. He is physically imposing and can really move for his size. Add on a high football IQ, and he should be a leader among this LB group. Expect some great buzz and maybe even late first round conversation to come up after the week.
Terrel Bernard, Baylor
Benard has been a versatile LB throughout his time at Baylor playing both the WILL and MIKE positions over that time. He is on the slimmer end, but it allows him to rush the passer from an outside spot often. He racked up 7.5 sacks this past season and is at his best when in lateral movement. He may be more of a specific fit for more of a WILL in a 4-3 or a JACK in a 3-4.
The Senior Bowl could go either way for Bernard. He is athletic and it will be a good opportunity to showcase that next to bigger LBs, but it can be tough to stand out as a pass rushing LB throughout the week. Expect not a ton of buzz but a few splash plays.
Devin Lloyd, Utah
Lloyd is one of the top LBs in the draft and a potential first round pick. Due to this, it appears he won’t be participating in the on field aspect of the Senior Bowl. Though disappointing (especially since the Jets are a team in need of another LB,) his stock is already pretty cemented and it wasn’t worth the injury risk to participate. This is especially true if he is worn down from the season as it is.
Jesse Luketa, Penn State
Luketa was an intriguing player for a tough Nittany Lions defense this year. He is a big physical LB who plays disciplined and doesn’t go outside structure very much. This has led to no eye popping stats, but rare mistakes throughout his play this season. It makes him an intriguing special teams and back-up type at the next level.
It is doubtful Luketa will make big splash highlight plays during Senior Bowl week and may be on the lower end of the LB roster. Don’t expect a ton of buzz, but solidifying his Day 3 status as a smart football player who is easy to coach.
Chad Muma, Wyoming
Muma is a crazy talented Wyoming LB in the same vein of former Cowboys LB Logan Wilson (who has been a stud for the Bengals). As one of the best read and reaction LBs in college football this past year, Muma has a bright future ahead of him. Currently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he has been a major inspiration to reach the heights he has. Though he is still raw in pass coverage, the Senior Bowl gives a great opportunity for Muma to develop that area of his game and show what he’s got.
Muma’s fluidity and explosion will be eye popping in a Senior Bowl environment. He also is a great fit for the Jets defense, so their coaching staff will love him. If he can show out in coverage, then there should be major early Day 2 buzz for Muma. If not, those questions may remain and be discussed.
Mike Rose, Iowa State
Rose is an interesting prospect with a long line of production in his college career for the Cyclones. An in the box tackler with some pass coverage upside, the Senior Bowl week would have been an ideal spot to evaluate him a bit further and see if he can go in the top 70 or so. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Rose will be participating on the field at the Senior Bowl, likely due to the wear and tear of the season. It may be a missed opportunity for him to separate himself in the 2nd tier of LBs.