Ask Farrell: Which three-star LB will emerge in the 2020 class?
There were two linebackers taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft: LSU’s Devin White, who was rated out of high school as a four-star fullback, and Michigan's Devin Bush. White starred for the Tigers and he was drafted fifth overall by Tampa Bay and Bush, who faced questions heading into college about his size, was taken five picks later by Pittsburgh.
Just two more linebackers were drafted in the second round, and they weren't even expected to be college stars, let alone future NFL draft picks. Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai was rated as a two-star athlete and Ben Banogu was a two-star defensive end.
All this backstory proves out one thing: Linebacker can be a really unpredictable position as players grow into and out of the position. After all, Luke Kuechly was a three-star coming out of Cincinnati (Ohio) St. Xavier.
The top linebacker in the 2020 NFL Draft, Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, was also a three-star prospect coming out of Olathe (Kan.) North and there were programs in his region who didn’t even offer before Clemson took a shot and struck gold.
MORE ASK FARRELL: Who will be next unheralded 3-star DE to emerge?
CLASS OF 2020 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Position | Team | State
Three-star prospects over the years have shined and outplayed the four- and five-star prospects on many occasions and the 2020 class will probably be no different.
Leading the way among the three-stars at inside linebacker are Florida State’s Jayion McCluster, Auburn’s Desmond Tisdol, Michigan’s Nikhai Hill-Green, Miami’s Tirek Austin-Cave and Clemson’s Sergio Allen.
At outside linebacker, FIU’s AJ Mathis, Arizona State’s Caleb McCullough, Georgia Tech’s Tyson Meiguez, Auburn’s Cam Riley and Wisconsin’s Jordan Turner lead the way among three-stars.
We ask Rivals National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell to target some inside and outside linebackers who could outplay their ranking in the coming years and to describe why he likes those players to surprise?
"The guys that stand out to me are McCluster at Florida State, Allen at Clemson, Riley at Auburn and Turner at Wisconsin. Each of these players has different strengths but one thing stands out about them to me — they are high effort and energy guys.
"McCluster is excellent in coverage while Allen is a big hitter. Riley has great size and could grow into a defensive end or edge player while Turner is also a huge kid who can play outside or inside. I think all four of these prospects have a chance to play at a four star level if they develop.