5 Thing Middle Linebackers Need to Show College Scouts

By: Chad Wilson – GridironStuds
Twitter: @gridironstudsYouTube Channel | TikTok: @Gridironstuds

Middle linebacker is the glory position on defense especially when we start talking about college football.  College football is ripe with celebration of the middle linebacker who was the lifeblood of the great defenses in the history of the game.  If you fancy yourself as being the next great college football linebacker,  there are somethings you are going to need to show to sell college football scouts on your ability to do that for their school.

(1) Big Tackler

Notice how I did not say good tackler.  Of course it is nice to be a good tackler or a guy that does not miss tackles very often when you are playing linebacker.  However,  as a middle linebacker,  your tackling sets the tone for the entire defense.  It is kind of hard for a defense to have the reputation of being a ferocious one if the middle linebacker is a soft tackler.  The middle linebacker is the tone setter when it comes to good old fashion hitting.  When the “Mike backer” gets in the A gap and stones the other team’s leader rusher with a punishing hit,  not only does the crowd go crazy but so does his teammates.  This inspires them to do their individual jobs to the utmost and gets the juices going.  A middle linebacker’s job is to hit people so be a hitter that finishes off ball carriers.

(2) Football IQ

While being a big hitter may give off the impression of being a meat-head,  a middle linebacker should be anything but that.  Most of the time,  the defense runs through the “Mike”.  That means you make the calls in the huddle,  survey the defense and alert the defense to what may be coming.  In addition,  any shifts by the offense prior to the snap may require you to change a call or make a check.  Finally,  within a second of the ball being snapped,  the middle linebacker has to know what is going on and move to his assignment instantly.  That’s a lot of responsibility and the guys who are the smartest,  handle it the best.  Think of how much guys like Ray Lewis and Brian Urhlacher knew about the game of football.  These things did not happen by accident.  The guy in the middle has to know it all.

(3) Take on Blocks

If you are going to be in the middle and typically first on the scene,  you are going to have people trying to stop you.  Often times that comes in form of massive linemen that outweigh you and are coming from various angles.  Your ability to excel at the position of middle linebacker means knowing where the blocks are coming from and defeating them quickly.  The quicker you defeat the block either by being slick or with force,  the faster you can make the tackle.  Middle linebackers are measured by tackle numbers and you’re not making tackles if you are getting blocked.  Develop elite abilities in the area of defeating blockers through proper angles, pressure and technique.

(4) Pursuit

Sometimes the play gets beyond you or runs away from you.  This is when you have to show your relentless nature by running down the play and getting involved.  As a middle linebacker,  this doesn’t just mean on run plays.  Even when the ball is thrown down the field and into the secondary,  middle linebackers have to turn around,  haul tail in the direction of the throw and get involved.  As a middle linebacker you have to take any attempt to move the ball into your team’s territory personally.  So,  just because a play did not come directly to you doesn’t mean that you get to take a play off.  When that ball is snapped your mission has to be to get to the football first and deal with the unsavory act of the offense trying to advance the ball towards your goal line.

(5) Blitz

I saved the best part for last.  What middle linebacker doesn’t like to blitz?  Enough with being passive and waiting for the action.  How about dictating it with a nice blitz.  However,  blitzing is an art and if you are to be great,  you better know how to execute a masterpiece.  Many young linebackers think that blitzing means running full speed through a gap and into a blocker.  That’s not it.  A successful blitz results in a sack of the quarterback or a tackle for loss on a running back.  When you slam right into a blocker,  you lessen your chance at making that happen.  Instead,  learn how to be crafty along with forceful in achieving your objective.  Part of that craftiness is learning how to time up your blitzes so that you hit your gap right when the ball is snapped.  Catching the cadence right will be the first good step in achieving your sack and tackle for loss dreams.  Also learning the various ways to dip, swim and rip through blocks will help you be a menace on the other side of the line of scrimmage as well.

There you have five things that will certainly catch a college football coach’s attention.  It helps if you are 6’3″ and 210 lbs. too but if you aren’t,  you control the five things named in this article.  Whether you have that size or not,  being excellent at the different aspects outlined in this article will go far in making your defense great and your team a winner.  When it boils down to it,  that’s the name of the game and will surely attract the attention of somebody that could use your winning ways.

Underrated Stud: Jamall Thompson ’21 DL Sarasota High School, FL

If you don’t like big and fast prospects dominating on both sides of the ball then I urge you to not look at Jamall Thompson’s profile on the GridironStuds App.  I repeat,  do not look at his highlight video or profile if you do not like absolute dominance by a physical specimen.

Standing at 6’3″ 240 lbs.,  Thompson will put his hand on the ground at defensive tackle and be in your backfield quickly like a lead blocker. He has an incredible get off for a player his size.  He’ll run through an offensive lineman like finish line tape and do what he wants on the other side of the line of scrimmage.  You’ll enjoy watching him ruin run plays and pass plays alike.  In the event that he does not ruin the play before it starts,  he has no problems running it down from behind and delivering a a solid tax to the ball carrier.  His size is noticeable on film but what jumps out at you more is his explosion and quickness.  Big and fast is a great combo on the football field and he has it.

On the offensive side of the ball,  Thompson lines up at tight end and has a good time there too.  He displays great hands,  a willingness to eliminate defenders with blocks and speed to make big plays after making the catch.  He could be a legit prospect at tight end too but I just love his potential on the defensive line.  Sarasota currently plays him at defensive tackle but he could be even more dangerous at the defensive end spot because of what he brings to the table athletically.  It’s crazy how players like this slip under the radar.  Currently,  Thompson,  who is a senior,  only has offers from Tennessee State University and Southern Mississippi.  As his profile gets around,  we fully expect more offers to land on his table.

Check Thompson out GridironStuds.com – click here or on the GridironStuds App – download now.

Top Recruit Breakdown: Korey Foreman ’21 DE

By: Chad Wilson
Twitter: @GridironStuds

By now,  if you don’t know who Korey Foreman is then you aren’t much of a recruiting nut and aren’t a college football fanatic.  Foreman is considered the top recruit in the country for the class of 2021 in some circles.  If he’s not #1 then he’s most certainly #2 and rightfully so.  I will tell you why in this top recruit breakdown.

If you’ve been following recruiting at all over the last 1/2 or full decade then you have noticed that there has been a heavy move towards the defensive line in overall rankings.  In general,  there has been a move towards the line of scrimmage as more defensive and offensive lineman have been pushed up in the rankings each year.  This is not be accident.  The move towards the line of scrimmage has coincided with the way the game of football has progressed.  Football has become more a passing endeavor with multiple receivers on the field and running backs being asked to do more than just take handoffs.  As such,  wide receivers and running backs have become more plentiful and less valuable.  Add to this the fact that rule changes have made it harder to play pass defense in the secondary and we have a situation where rushing the passer becomes the best way to stop the epidemic of high powered pass offenses.

With all of that said,  enter Corona Centennial HS senior defensive end Korey Foreman.  Foreman is exactly what the doctor ordered when it comes to rushing the passer,  controlling the line of scrimmage and disrupting an offense.  At the high school level he demands a double team.  It is almost comical to watch teams attempt to take an offensive snap without having two people block him.  Foreman’s well developed lower half is packed with power.  He has two ways of beating you and that’s through you with a massive strength infused bull rush or around you with overwhelming power and quickness.  His agility is surprising for someone with his build and size.  This is why he projects so well at the next level and is a 5 star recruit.

Before any of you attempt to say something like he’s a 5-star recruit because of his size,  I would urge you to watch film and issue a retraction.  Foreman does not just rely on God’s gifts.  First of all,  while he is physically gifted,  it is apparent that he developed those gifts intensively by spending time in the weight room and on the field.  He is technically sound and explosive.  Furthermore,  what you see on film is a guy who will hustle to the football and takes delight in running down the field to catch guys that think they are going to the house.

Ultimately,  what the school the winds up landing Foreman is getting is a guy that appears to have work ethic to go along with the ultimate build for a strong side defensive end.  His explosiveness and technique makes his a threat to the quarterback on every pass play.  His well developed lower half combined with his strength doesn’t make him a liability against the run.  Basically you are screwed either way on offense against him because he can either beat blocks on runs at him or run down plays away from him.  Foreman looks to be the mold for what future strong side defensive ends are going to look like in recruiting.  USC, Clemson and LSU are the primary teams in the hunt for the top rated prospect with USC rumored to be the lead.  Him staying in Los Angeles to become a man of Troy would be an extraordinary get for USC and spark a return to the top for the Trojans.

Top Recruit Breakdown: ’21 S Andrew Mukuba – Clemson Commit

The Clemson Tigers secured yet another commit in their 5th ranked 2021 class on October 1st when LBJ High School, Texas safety Andrew Mukuba made his pledge.  The commitment came as no surprise as many had him as a Clemson lean but let’s take a look at why Mukuba is Clemson Tigers material.

The biggest thing that jumps out on film for Mukuba is his tackling ability.  This young man is not scared and will definitely run the alley to fill on any given sweep play.  What’s also great is that on plays where Mukuba must fill the alley (area in between the corner and the end of the line of scrimmage) Mukuba comes with force and technique.  Many safeties will run the alley with speed but will opt for diving at the ball carriers legs in an attempt to sweep his legs out,  not so for Mukuba.  Instead,  this young prospects will come waist to chest high,  wrap and take the ball carrier down.  Overall,  he has solid tackling technique on most plays.  Where he may get into trouble is on plays across the middle where he will occasionally opt for the shoulder throw which gets you kicked out of college football games these days.  Fortunately for Clemson this is correctable.

What you also love about Mukuba are his ball skills.  In this day in age,  ball skills for a safety are crucial.  Gone are the days where you can eat as a safety off of being a hard hitting intimidator.  Legislation has greatly reduced that element from the game at all levels.  Now wide receivers can prance through the middle of defenses without fear of repercussions.  So someone has to pay and that is the quarterback.  Mukuba shows the ability to read the play,  track the ball in flight and come down with it.  Some safeties struggle with this aspect of the game but not this prospect.  Mukuba also appears on offense quite a bit for LBJ at wide receiver.  This is why he possess the ball skills that he does.  He’s not just a moonlighter at wide receiver either.  He’s a legit playmaker at the WR spot and would likely be highly recruited at that spot as well.  He looks to have good not great speed but plenty good enough for the safety position.  He also appears to be a naturally strong athlete that shows little trouble dispatching of would be tacklers after the catch.

One final bonus is that he can be used in the return game if needed.  If you’re Clemson you usually have a dynamic offensive player in that spot but should the need come up,  Mukuba has definitely shown strong return abilities on his high school tape.  Overall,  a strong prospect worthy of his 4 star grade and 35+ offers from schools like Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and the aforementioned Texas.

5 Things An Outside Linebacker Needs to Show On FILM to Get Recruited

Your highlight film is your resume.  Your job is to get a scholarship.  Your resume is what gets your hired.  So don’t take that highlight video for granted.  If you play outside linebacker and want to have a chance at continuing to do so at the college level,  there are some things you are going to need to have on your resume.

We are going to go on the assumption that you have the height and athleticism requirements to play college football.  Sometimes telling people that ruffles their feathers.  It gets put into better perspective when we draw an academic example.  No one is yelling at Harvard and Yale when they don’t accept you for having an 800 SAT score.  Likewise,  there are some physical requirements that an athlete needs to meet to be considered for a football scholarship.  That,  my friends,  is what we call the facts of life.  Perhaps you lack those things and it bothers you.  Trust me,  I totally understand.  I am not saying that your goal is impossible but I am telling you that it will be very difficult.  The only way that you will have a chance is to have and present these five things on your recruiting highlight video.

(1) Tackling

This is a no brainer.  Linebackers tackle.  In fact,  linebackers are the best tacklers on the football team.  Defensive linemen are often entangled with offensive linemen and defensive back’s primary job is to cover.  A linebacker’s job is to tackle.  If you can’t do that,  then you aren’t a linebacker.  Nice form tackles,  aggressive tackles with technique are the beef in your taco when it comes to a highlight video.  Get those solid tackles on film early and often.  Football is an aggressive game and as such,  it grabs the attention of college coaches and evaluators.  I’d avoid the drag down,  had to spin him around tackles on film unless you did something highly athletic before you got there. Weak tackles from a linebacker do little to convince a college coach that you are his guy.

(2) Ability to Blitz

Blitzing is a big part of playing linebacker in many schemes.  Often times,  outside linebackers are the ones bringing the heat off of the edge.  Having the ability to show good timing along with an ability to get through gaps is a great thing.  If you play linebacker then you also know that most blitzes don’t result in you getting to the quarterback or ball carrier untouched.  Despite that,  the job still has to get done.  Show on film that you know how to blitz,  defeat a blocker and still accomplish the goal.  Truth be told,  anyone can go in and blow up a play when no one blocks them.  The superior linebackers know how to either avoid or run through a block to make the big play for the defense.

(3) Ability to Cover

Football is a passing game now.  Offenses are sending out four and five receivers into patterns regularly.  It’s nice for a coach to not have to sub guys out because they are a liability in the pass game.  If you have coverage ability and you should,  get that on film within the first 10 plays.  If you can lock down a tight end,  running back or slot receiver,  your value goes up sharply in the eyes of college football scout.

(4) Hustle

When you are playing outside linebacker,  you will definitely have times when the play is run away from you.  Nothing is worse than a guy who shuts it down when the play is not coming his way.  Few things are more exciting than watching a guy hunt down a ball carrier from the other side of the field.  Even if you are not blessed with tremendous speed,  you can appear to be fast just by keeping your foot on the gas at all times.  Many guys slow down on the football field when the action isn’t coming their way.  If you hustle to the ball always,  you will look fast on film zooming past all of the slackers.  If you inspire the rest of your team to hustle then you can be on a great defense that attracts a lot of college scouts.

(5) Take on Blocks

If you play defense then you know that taking on blocks is a big part of your job description.  Getting off of blocks is a highly valuable skill.  Being an un-blockable defender is the stuff that legends are made of.  If you possess this skill,  you most certainly want to display it.  There’s no scheme played on defense that allows a defender to run free every time.  However,  if you are good at beating blocks then the offense has to use two guys to do the job.  Every defensive coach wants a unit full of guys that require a double team.  You don’t have to be the president of the math club to know that this won’t work for the offense.  Show your ability to beat blocks so you instantly become a prize for a college football coach prowling for recruits.

So there you have it.  If you possess all of those skills then congratulations.  However,  don’t be an idiot.  Everyone one of those skills better be on display in the first 10 plays on your highlight video.  Don’t make the coach wait to see all of the tools in your toolbox because he may not stick around to find them.  If you are missing one or more of those skills then you had better get busy on acquiring those skills.  This goes for you athletically gifted studs too.  At some point,  just being big, tall and fast is not going to be enough.  Be a skillful player and show it on film.

Video of the Day: ’22 QB Nathan Kornely is Full Service

Running GridironStuds.com and the GridironStuds app I get the chance to see 1,000’s of videos annually.  Some highlight videos are good but most are shall we say “not up to snuff”.  As such,  I tend to get excited when I see one done the right way and that would accurately describe the highlight video for ’22 quarterback Nathan Kornely.

Kornely is a rising junior out of Villa Park HS in Anaheim, California.  Primarily a JV quarterback in 2019,  Kornely will be making the big step up into the varsity starter role in 2020 for the Spartans with the hopes of returning them to their winning ways.  2019 saw them produce a rare losing season at 4-6.  Kornely I think is just the man for the job.  His highlight video hits you in the face right away with his array of talents.  Within the first two minutes you will see him hit the deep ball,  make a touch throw,  scramble for a first down,  roll out and hit a target on the sidelines and fit the ball into a tight pack of defenders to his wide receiver.   This is how highlight videos for quarterbacks should be made.  IN a day in age where quarterbacks are being asked to do so much,  Kornely’s abilities should delight you.

What you also like to see is his poise as he definitely looks like he is in control when he’s at the controls.  Whether it is spotting the blitz,  avoiding the rush or executing a play action fake,  Kornely gives you the look of polish that only a well manicured brass door knob can appreciate.  It only stands to reason that his efforts and skills will continue to grow as he grows physically and gains more experience.  Villa Park is a proud program and they should be elated that their most important position is in the hands of a highly capable signal caller.  Villa Park is not amongst the most popular programs in the Southern California area but they are no slouch.  If Kornely comes up big this season,  as I expect he will,  then look out for loads of D1 attention.  Your favorite school may be on the radar.

To check out Nathan Kornely’s profile and highlight video,  download the GridironStuds App (available for iPhone and android) Click here  or visit his profile on the GridironStuds.com website.  Click here.