Top 10 Inside Linebackers in the NCAA for 2016
10 Riley Bullough, Michigan State, Sr.
Riley Bullough was a second team All-Big Ten selection for his performance in 2015. Bullough tallied 75 tackles (35 solo, 40 assisted), 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception, a pass deflection, a fumble recovery, and an interception return for a touchdown. Bullough was tied for fourth on the team in tackles, tied for fifth in tackles for loss, and fourth on the team in sacks last season. His best performance came against Air Force where Bullough recorded a career high 16 tackles (5 solo, 11 assisted) and half a tackle for loss in a 35-21 victory last season. Bullough returns to the Spartans defense looking to return to the Big Ten title game in 2016.
9 Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt, Jr.
Zach Cunningham was a first team All-SEC selection in 2015 for the Commodores. Cunningham recorded 88 tackles (59 solo, 29 assisted), 14 tackles for loss, four sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and a pass defended. Cunningham was seventh in solo tackles and seventh in tackles for loss in the SEC last season. His best performance last season came against Kentucky in a 21-17 victory where Cunningham recorded 10 tackles (5 solo, 5 assisted) and a tackle for loss. Cunningham returns to a Vanderbilt team with experience under its belt and a chip on its shoulder in 2016.
8 Ben Boulware, Clemson, Sr.
Ben Boulware returns to a Clemson Tigers defense after receiving All-ACC first team honors in 2015. Boulware recorded 81 tackles (45 solo, 36 assisted), 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, seven passes defended, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and a fumble recovery last season. Boulware was second in the ACC in forced fumbles, third on the team in tackles, fourth on the team in tackles for loss, and fifth on the team in sacks last season. His best performance of the season came in their 24-22 victory over Notre Dame where Boulware recorded 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 assisted), a forced fumble, and a pass defended. Boulware returns in 2016 hoping to lead the Clemson defense to another ACC Championship.
7 Josey Jewell, Iowa, Jr.
Josey Jewell was a second team All-Big Ten selection for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2015. Jewell recorded 126 tackles (62 solo, 64 assisted), 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, six passes defended, four interceptions, an interception returned for a touchdown, a fumble recovery, and a forced fumble last season. Jewell was second in the Big Ten in tackles, seventh in solo tackles, and third in interceptions last season. His best performance of last season came against Indiana where Jewell recorded 15 tackles (11 solo, 4 assisted), two passes defended, and a tackle for loss in a 35-27 victory. Jewell returns to a loaded Iowa defense looking to upend the Spartans and Buckeyes in 2016.
6 Micah Kiser, Virginia, Jr.
Micah Kiser was an All-ACC first team selection last season for the UVA Cavaliers. The rising junior recorded 117 tackles (65 solo, 52 assisted), 7.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in 2015. Kiser was third in tackles, eighth in sacks, and first in assisted in tackles in the ACC last season. His best performance came against Duke when Kiser registered a career high 17 tackles (10 solo, 7 assisted), two tackles for loss, and a sack in a 42-34 victory. Kiser returns to a new look Cavaliers looking for a bit more respect in the ACC behind Bronco Mendenhall.
5 Keith Kelsey, Louisville, Sr.
Keith Kelsey was a first team All-ACC selection for the Louisville Cardinals in 2015. Kelsey recorded 106 tackles (57 solo, 49 solo), 11.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery last season. Kelsey was first on the team in total tackles, third in tackles for loss, and fourth in sacks. Kelsey’s best performance last season came in a 17-14 victory over Boston College where he racked up 10 tackles (4 solo, 6 assisted), 4.5 tackles for loss, and a sack. Kelsey returns to a Louisville defense looking to wreak havoc and gain some respect in the ACC.
4 Kendell Beckwith, LSU, Sr.
Kendell Beckwith returns for his senior season looking for be a spark for the LSU Tigers defense in what has solely been an Alabama dominated affair. Beckwith returns after recording 73 tackles (45 solo, 28 assisted), 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles last season. Beckwith was second on the team in tackles, second in tackles for loss, and fifth in sacks last season for the LSU Tigers. His best performance came last season against Mississippi State where Beckwith recorded 11 tackles (5 solo, 6 assisted) and a pass defended in a close 21-19 victory. Beckwith returns to the Tigers looking to bring back an SEC title in 2016.
3 Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, Jr.
Jabrill Peppers returns to the Wolverines defense as a linebacker this season after playing safety in 2015 and earning second team All-American honors for his performance. Peppers recorded 45 tackles (34 solo, 11 assisted), 5.5 tackles, and 10 passes defended last season for Michigan. Peppers also appeared on offense for the Wolverines, recording 18 rushes for 72 yards and two touches as well as eight receptions for 79 yards. Peppers best performance last season came in their 38-0 drubbing of Northwestern where he accumulated five tackles (3 solo, 2 assisted), 1.5 tackles for loss, and three passes defended. Peppers returns to the Wolverines looking to have a big season at linebacker in 2016.
2 Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, Jr.
Raekwon McMillan was a second team All-American and first team All-Big Ten selection for his efforts in 2015. McMillan returns after recording 119 tackles (57 solo, 62, assisted), four tackles for loss, four passes defended, 1.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery last season. McMillan was fourth in the Big Ten in tackles, tenth in solo tackles, and fifth in assisted tackles last season as well. His best performance last season came against Illinois where McMillan tallied 14 tackles (6 solo, 8 assisted), two tackles for loss, half a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery in a 28-3 victory. Look for McMillan to lead a Buckeye defense looking to overtake Michigan State as one of the best defenses in the nation in 2016.
1 Reuben Foster, Alabama, Sr.
Reuben Foster took his first year as start in stride in 2015. Foster recorded 73 tackles (48 solo, 25 assisted), eight tackles for loss, seven passes defended, and a sack in 2015 for the defending National Champion Crimson Tide. Foster was second on the team in tackles, fourth in tackles for loss, and tied for third in passes defended for Alabama last season.Foster’s best performance last season came against Tennessee in a 19-14 victory where he tallied 11 tackles (7 solo, 4 assisted), two tackles for loss, a sack, and a pass defended. Foster returns to a loaded Alabama defense ready to produce more as they seek to defend their National Championship.