Five-Star Geography: Breaking down five trends at LB
There have been plenty of five-star linebackers in Rivals history dating back to 2002. Today, we ask Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell five questions about the position after analyzing some surprising numbers and breaking down the states.
1. Will Justin Flowe be the best-ever linebacker out of California?
Overview: He’s ranked as the second-best prospect in the 2020 class, and he’s a vicious, hard-hitting linebacker who has almost never disappointed at any event. Flowe is one of nine five-star linebackers from California in Rivals history, but there’s a decent chance he will go down as the best. Another one is Vontaze Burfict, and Flowe has received some comparisons to Burfict but Flowe is faster, more athletic and might be a bigger hitter. The others are Chris Galippo, Curtis Robinson, Chad Khalilimoku, John Houston, Allen Bradford, Mique Juarez and Caleb Kelly.
Farrell’s take: Based on what I can see, I’d expect Flowe to be the best of the bunch, barring injury. He has fewer question marks than any of the others at the same stage and his motor and aggressive nature and love of football are always on display. Burfict has had a great career, and he’s the standard, but Flowe can be even better.
2. Why don’t IMG linebackers stay in-state?
Overview: So many top prospects flood to Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy every year but the in-state powerhouses - Florida State, Florida and Miami - have not been able to take advantage at all. Four of the 10 five-star linebackers from the state of Florida played at IMG: Rahshaun Smith, Dylan Moses, Jordan Anthony and Nolan Smith. None picked the Seminoles, Gators or Hurricanes. On the flip side, five of the six five-stars who didn’t play at IMG have picked an in-state school, with four picking Florida State. A big opportunity for the in-state powers has been missed and it’s been to their detriment.
Farrell’s take: I’m not sure why this is the case because it’s not like many of these players returned to play for their home-state school. Moses was from Louisiana and chose Alabama, Smith and Anthony were from Maryland and chose Clemson and Michigan, respectively, and Smith was the only one to return to his home state, as he chose Georgia. When IMG was formed, many felt it would be too much of an advantage for the Florida schools, but that has not been the case and I’m not sure of the reason.
3. Alabama has dominated with five-star in-state linebackers. Can a team crack that dominance?
Overview: There have been six five-star linebackers from the state of Alabama in Rivals history - and five have gone on to play for the Crimson Tide. That utter dominance is even more pointed when one considers Rashaan Evans and Reuben Foster both picked Alabama even though they played at Auburn High School. That is incredible to consider and it’s probably a big reason why the Crimson Tide have been the best program in college football over the last many years. Nico Johnson, Lyndell Wilson and Ben Davis also picked ‘Bama. Tre Williams was the lone five-star linebacker from the state to pick the Tigers.
Farrell’s take: No, I don’t see this changing anytime soon, as long as Nick Saban is around and Alabama is a power. The lure of playing on the Alabama defense for Saban is too strong and it’s really hard for teams outside the state to come in and compete for these players.
4. Is Mike Mitchell the biggest surprise miss in Rivals history at linebacker?
Overview: Mitchell was not only a five-star linebacker but third at outside linebacker behind only Jaylon Smith and Matthew Thomas, who are both on NFL rosters. He was also the top-rated prospect in the state of Texas, ahead of A’Shawn Robinson. He picked Ohio State over Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oregon and many others, and Mitchell was a freak-show level athlete who was highly coveted by then-coach Urban Meyer.
But Mitchell never really worked out at Ohio State as injuries were definitely an issue and then he transferred to Texas Tech, where the injury bug hit again. He eventually ended up at Southeastern, a school in the NAIA.
Farrell’s take: It's hard to quantify the biggest linebacker bust ever, but Mitchell is a puzzling one because he reminded me so much of Brian Cushing, who obviously turned out to be great. I’d say Curtis Grant and his lack of success at Ohio State was more surprising as the No 2 player in the country, but Mitchell made even less of an impact in college and he should have been a star.
5. Will Micah Parsons go down as one of the best LBs in Penn State history?
Overview: LaVar Arrington. Paul Posluszny. Jack Ham. Dan Connor. Sean Lee. The list goes on and on of outstanding linebackers who have gone through Penn State, and now there is Parsons, who led the Nittany Lions in tackles as a freshman last season. Parsons was such a special recruit and a must-have for Penn State coach James Franklin that when the five-star got on campus, he was experimented across the defense because he’s such a special athlete and unique player. From a physical perspective, Parsons was on another level at the Army All-American Bowl before he got to Happy Valley. A major sophomore season could be ahead for Parsons as he looks to join a long list of superstar linebackers at Penn State.
Farrell’s take: I think he’ll join the elite at Penn State, barring an injury as he’s a rare athlete. Remember, this was a kid who was mainly a defensive end in high school and took to standing up so easily that it’s scary to see how much he’ll improve. Parsons was a can't-miss and has not disappointed.