The Lookout List: Linebacker & Safety
By Alex Chinery
With the 2020 NFL Draft in the books its time to shift focus towards the 2020 college football season. After the generational prospect Isaiah Simmons departed Clemson to the NFL, the middle of the field needs a new breed to step up. In the linebacker spot once again one name stands out from the crowd, whereas this safety class has the potential to be the best in some years. Read about the headliners below:
Micah Parsons, Penn State
Quite often the term ‘do-it-all linebacker’ is used to sum up steady players who don’t excel at any one part of playing the position. Micah Parsons isn’t that kind of a do-it-all backer. A master of all trades, Parsons is an athletic freak who is elite against both the run and the pass. A livewire who makes plays sideline to sideline with ease, Parsons possesses fantastic instincts for the position and a motor to make plays all over the field. Parsons has the size and coverage ability to live with tight ends (practicing against Pat Freiermuth certainly helps) and the speed to compete with some of the shiftier slot receivers. Parsons is a top five talent in this draft class and is sure to be in the conversation at the top of round one come draft day.
Key Game – vs Ohio State 24th October
Dylan Moses, Alabama
A heat-seeking missile who seems to have a constant lock on where the ball is, Moses is a physical specimen. Built like a brick outhouse, he won’t be run over any time soon. Moses only has one level of effort and that’s 11/10; he flies all over the field with reckless abandon and produces some monster hits. When he lines up a ball carrier, they’re going to hit the deck. Moses could improve his ability to deal with blockers that make their way to the second level. Plus, there is the obvious concern of how he returns after suffering a season ending knee injury on the eve of last season. If Moses can come back at close to 100%, he will be the leader of the Alabama defense in 2020.
Key Game – vs Auburn 28th November
Chazz Surratt, UNC
A former high school quarterback who only transitioned to playing linebacker in 2019, Chazz Surratt is poised to rocket up draft boards in 2020. Surratt has outstanding physical traits and excellent range as he flies all over the field. He uses this athleticism to shoot gaps with a purpose and urgency that leads to impressive tackles and run stuffs. You can see he has a quarterback’s brain when playing the position as he picked up some of the read concepts very quickly last year. Surratt is still very much a development prospect and still learning the nuances of the position.
Key Game – vs Auburn 12th September
KJ Britt, Auburn
First team all SEC in his first year as a starter last season, KJ Britt is a solid tackler who loves to make plays in the backfield. 10 tackles for loss and almost 70 tackles in 2019 showed his playmaking ability. Britt is slightly one dimensional: good at shooting gaps in the run game but needs to improve his coverage ability to stop being burnt in the passing game. Expect him to make his name living in the backfield in 2020 with some TFL’s that will make your jaw hit the floor. However, unless he improves his coverage Britt will struggle to take the next step.
Key Game – @ Alabama November 28th
Palaie Gaoteote IV, USC
A former top recruit who lays the boom with his tackling, PG4 projects as a coverage outside backer at the next level but has the versatility to play inside. Gaoteote possesses the desirable combination of great sideline to sideline range with the physicality required to dominate people in the box. He uses his physicality to match up in coverage and tries to mask his lack of ability to mirror route runners. It’s a technique that works when done correctly but needs some refinement over the course of this season. Expect big hits and wild rangy plays as Gaoteote leads the USC defense.
Key Game – vs Alabama September 5th
Andre Cisco, Syracuse
A ball hawking junior with first round potential and the production to match. Andre Cisco is going to be in the pre-season All American conversation for all publishers despite playing in the less heralded north east of the country. After bursting on to the scene in his freshman season Cisco continued his playmaking a year ago when he pulled in five interceptions in just nine games. With the coveted ability to thrive in single high coverage Cisco is already on NFL radars and a strong season will push him toward the top of the first round. Watch out for the roving number 7 in ‘Cuse games this year because odds are, he’s snagging a pick.
Key Game – @ Pitt 28th November
Jevon Holland, Oregon
A do-it-all safety in the middle of the field that has drawn comparisons to former Florida State star Derwin James. Holland is an explosive athlete who makes a living busting the best laid plans of offenses in a multitude of ways. Strong ball skills and good short area quickness means that opposing quarterbacks must be aware of where he is on the field at all times. As is shown in his stats Holland is a playmaker who snags interceptions on the regular, but he is by no means accomplished at playing single high and needs to do work if he is to play a free safety role. Holland is already an accomplished weapon for the Oregon defense; some development on the back end and he could challenge to be the best safety in this class.
Key Game – vs Ohio State September 12th
Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
After a non-contact ACL tear ended his season early in 2019, Hamsah Nasirildenn returns to Talahassee for his senior year. A physically gifted safety who is at his best in the middle of the field, Nasirildeen uses his exceptional explosion and fluid movement to be chameleon-like in coverage, matching himself to the player standing across him. Nasirildeen takes great angles in pursuit in the run game and his motor allows him to put up tackle numbers usually reserved for linebackers. He has some trouble locating the ball and making plays and must get better at beating running backs when blitzing. Nasirildeen projects as an interesting ‘Rover’ (Linebacker/Safety hybrid) at the next level given his size.
Key Game – vs Clemson 10th October
Caden Sterns, Texas
Perhaps the man with the most to prove in all of college football. Sterns has the upside of a top of round 1 player but a repeat of the struggles in his sophomore season and he will fall to the mid rounds. The highlight reel of his freshman season is stuffed full of impressive plays all over the field, and was enough to excite everyone in the college football world. Perhaps expectations were set too high for his second season, or maybe he was working through more injuries than we were told about but Sterns disappointed in his sophomore year. Zero interceptions and consistently blown assignments caused a lot of people to pump the breaks. A healthy Caden Sterns could be the best safety in the nation; if he is the Longhorns defense will be scary.
Key Game – vs Oklahoma 10th October
Richard LeCounte, Georgia
A throwback enforcer who hits hard and reads the game superbly. LeCounte’s high football IQ aides premier plays, allowing him to get to gaps a fraction ahead of the running back or anticipating a route over the middle of the field. The senior Bulldog is fantastic at following the eyes of the quarterback, allowing him to pull in four interceptions a season ago. Plays with a reckless abandon that doesn’t suit his small frame and can lead to missed tackles. LeCounte also struggles on an island in coverage and works best when he has a partner over the top of the field. LeCounte is a name who could pop this season if used correctly in this Georgia Defense. Expect to hear the name on SEC Saturdays.
Key Game – @ Alabama 19th September
the head of seven step drop, the touchdowns analytics page. alex is a Texas longhorns and green bay packers fan. he is one of the college chaps trio and produces the touchdown nfl podcast!