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What School Is Linebacker U.?

Welcome to the sixth installment in our series to determine which schools have done the best job in recent years of producing top NFL draft picks.

Miami (repped by Jonathan Vilma) leads the Linebacker U rankings, followed by Tennessee (with Jerod Mayo) and Georgia (with 2013 draft entrant Jarvis Jones)

You can check out the links below for our look at the schools who have done the best job of producing quarterbacks, defensive linemen, wide receivers, defensive backs and the offensive line. Today, we take a look at the schools who have done the best job of preparing and producing linebackers for the NFL.

For our analysis, we used the last 15 years of the NFL draft. In each draft, we looked for linebackers who were drafted in the first three rounds. For the purpose of this analysis, we included all players listed as linebackers, inside linebackers, outside linebackers and middle linebackers in the NFL.com draft history web site. And, keep in mind, some college defensive ends played linebacker in the NFL and vice versa.

Below the school rankings we also have more data on schools and conferences that have produced linebackers at football’s highest level. Plus, we have more interesting information on the linebacker position group.

Linebacker U. Ratings

Using the last 15 years of the NFL draft (top three rounds) as a barometer, here is a look at which schools have excelled at producing linebackers for the NFL (Note: We used first-round picks to break any ties):

1. Miami (Fla.)

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 4.

* The Skinny: Miami becomes the first program to lead these rankings at two different positions. Miami also topped our analysis at the defensive back position. Miami was also fifth with wide receivers, sixth on the defensive line and 10th on the offensive line.

The ‘Canes have produced a number of top draftees, including four first-round picks in the last 15 years. That group includes Dan Morgan (2001), Jonathan Vilma (2004), D.J. Williams (2004) and Jon Beason (2007).

Obviously, one of the most famous Miami linebacker alums Ray Lewis just retired from the Baltimore Ravens. But he was drafted prior to 1998 (in 1996) and doesn’t count in these rankings.

2. Tennessee

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 3.

* The Skinny: Tennessee has had some sustained success in producing linebackers over the last 15 years. First-rounders from Tennessee in that period include Al Wilson (1999), Jerrod Mayo (2008) and Robert Ayers (2009).

3. Georgia

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 8; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Georgia is poised to make a big jump this year with a pair of potential first-rounders in Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree. Looking back, some of Georgia’s top linebacker draftees since 1998 include David Pollack (first round, 2005), Odell Thurman (second round, 2005) and Boss Bailey (second round, 2003).

Georgia was also in the top 10 in our rankings of quarterbacks (fourth) and wide receivers and offensive line (both ninth).

4. Southern California

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 5.

* The Skinny: USC has had some real star power at the linebacker position. First-rounders in the last 15 years include Chris Claiborne (1999), Keith Rivers (2008), Clay Matthews III (2009), Brian Cushing (2009) and Nick Perry (2012).

That 2009 draft was really something for USC linebackers. Matthews and Cushing went in the first round, Rey Maualuga went in the second and Kaluka Maiava went in the fourth.

USC joins Florida as the only school mentioned in all six of our position analyses. The Trojans were first in quarterbacks, second in offensive linemen, sixth in wide receivers and seventh in defensive backs and defensive linemen.

5. Ohio State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 4.

* The Skinny: Ohio State has produced four first-round linebackers in the last 15 years, including Andy Katzenmoyer (1999), A.J. Hawk (2006), Bobby Carpenter (2006) and Vernon Gholston (2008). Gholston played defensive end at OSU, but was drafted as a linebacker. James Laurinaitis (second round, 2009) is another notable.

Ohio State was also in the top 10 with a No. 2 finish in defensive backs and fourth with wide receivers.

6. Florida State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 7; First-Round Picks: 3.

* The Skinny: Florida State has had three first-rounders in the past 15 years, including Kamerion Wimbley (2006), Ernie Sims (2006) and Lawrence Timmons (2007). FSU could have another entrée here in 2014 with possible first- or second-rounder Christian Jones.

FSU has been mentioned in three previous position stories, finishing first for defensive linemen, third for receivers and fifth for defensive backs.

7. Purdue

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 6; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Yes, Purdue. This is the first time we’ve seen Purdue mentioned in our position analysis series. Purdue’s first-rounders were Anthony Spencer (2007) and Ryan Kerrigan (2011). And, yes, Kerrigan played defensive end at Purdue but was listed as a linebacker on draft day.

8. (tie) Florida

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 6; First-Round Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Florida is one of two schools that have been mentioned in all six of our position analyses. Florida was No. 1 in wide receivers, third in offensive linemen, ninth in defensive backs and quarterbacks and 10th on the defensive line list.

Some notable names include third-rounder Channing Crowder in 2005 and a pair of second-rounders in 2010 in Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes.

8. (tie) Oklahoma

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 6; First-Round Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Oklahoma has produced some big name linebackers in recent years, including Rocky Calmus (third round, 2002), Teddy Lehman (second round, 2004) and Dan Cody (second round, 2005).

Oklahoma was also in the top 10 in defensive backs (sixth) and wide receivers and offensive linemen (both seventh).

10. Alabama

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Alabama has had two recent first-round picks in Rolando McClain (2010) and Dont’a Hightower (2012). The next one in that line could be C.J. Mosley in 2014. Alabama was also fourth in defensive backs and fifth in offensive linemen.

11. (tie) Georgia Tech

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Keith Brooking was a first-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 1998. The Yellow Jackets have had four third-round picks since then, including Philip Wheeler in 2008.

11. (tie) Penn State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Penn State has long celebrated itself as Linebacker U. That tradition goes back to the 1960s and 1970s with such names as Dennis Onkotz, Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan and others.

But Penn State has only had five linebackers drafted in the first three rounds over the last 15 years. The biggest name in that stretch was LaVar Arrington, taken second overall in the 2000 draft. Second-rounders in that stretch include Paul Posluszny in 2007 and Sean Lee in 2010. NaVarro Bowman, already a two-time All-Pro, was a third-round pick in 2010. Cameron Wake, an undrafted free agent out of PSU, has also made a name for himself in the NFL.

13. Michigan

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 0.

* The Skinny: Michigan has had five linebackers taken in the second round in the last 15 years, including Ian Gold (2000), LaMarr Woodley (2007) and Jonas Mouton (2012).

14. Auburn

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Auburn has had two first-round picks in the last 15 years: Takeo Spikes in 1998 and Karlos Dansby in 2004.

15. Clemson

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Clemson’s lone first-round linebacker in the last 15 years was Anthony Simmons in 1998.

More Comparisons

As we compiled the data, here were some more interesting comparisons:

* Honorable Mentions – Eleven schools have produced three linebackers drafted in the first three rounds of the draft over the last 15 years. This group includes Iowa, Kansas State, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, N.C. State, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Virginia Tech and Virginia.

* First-Round Picks -- In terms of first-round picks of linebackers over the last 15 years, USC leads the way with five. Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) are next with four. Tennessee and Florida State each had three, while Auburn, Alabama, Purdue and Missouri each had two.

* Top-Five Picks – In the last 15 years, only four linebackers have been taken in the top three picks of the NFL draft.

Topping that list were Penn State’s LaVar Arrington, taken second overall by Washington in 2000, and Texas A&M’s Von Miller, also taken second overall by Denver in 2011.

Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry was the No. 4 overall pick by Seattle in 2009, while Ohio State’s A.J. Hawk was the fifth overall pick by Green Bay in 2006.

* All-Pro Picks – Over the last 15 years, several schools have excelled in producing NFL All-Pro picks at linebacker.

In that period, that top All-Pro producer in terms of selections was Miami with Ray Lewis (eight All-Pro selections in the last 15 years) and Jon Beason (one All-Pro season).

USC has the most All-Pro linebackers in that stretch with three players representing a combined four All-Pro selections since 1998. That group includes Clay Matthews, Lofa Tatupu and Junior Seau.

Other schools with multiple All-Pro linebackers since 1998 include Penn State (NaVarro Bowman and Cameron Wake, combining for three All-Pro picks) and Tennessee (Jerod Mayo and Al Wilson, combining for two picks).

Individuals with multiple All-Pro picks at linebacker in that time frame include Florida State’s Derrick Brooks (six appearances) and Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis, Texas Tech’s Zach Thomas and Troy State’s DeMarcus Ware (five each). New Mexico’s Brian Urlacher is next with four All-Pro selections in that period.

* This Year’s Class – Linebackers projected by some as first- or second-round picks in this year’s draft include Oregon’s Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso, LSU’s Barkevious Mingo and Kevin Minter, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Florida’s Jon Bostic and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown.

* Next Year’s Class – Some of the top linebacker names mentioned for the 2014 NFL draft include Western Kentucky’s Andrew Jackson, Michigan State’s Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, Cincinnati’s Greg Blair, Stanford’s Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, Wisconsin’s Chris Borland, Penn State’s Glenn Carson, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Florida State’s Christian Jones.

Previous Installments

Here are links to the previous installments in this series:

Quarterback U.

Defensive Line U.

Wide Receiver U.

Defensive Back U.

Offensive Line U.

Stay tuned for analysis of the schools who have produced top draftees at the running back position group.

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