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June 14, 2012

Texas' best OLBs for 2013

Mike Mitchell, Prestonwood Christian Academy (6'4", 215/ 151 tackles, 32 TFL, 11 sacks and 2 INT in 2011)
Deoundrei Davis, Cy Woods (6'3" 215/ Texas commit)
Deon Hollins Jr., Fort Bend Marshall (6'2", 225/ 70 tackles, 22 TFL, 16 sacks in 2011/ UCLA commit)
Raaquan Davis, Rockwall Heath (6'2", 208/ 111 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT in 2011/ Baylor commit)
Naashon Hughes, Harker Heights (6'4", 210/ Texas commit)
Paul Whitmill, Bastrop (5'11", 200/ 95 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks in 2011/ TCU commit)
Travon Blanchard, West Orange Stark (6'2", 185/ Baylor commit)
Brandon Hines, Dallas Kimball (6'2", 182/ 51 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 fumble recovery in 2010)
Xavier Phillips, Fort Worth All Saints (6'2", 220/ 96 tackles, 24 TFL, 12 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries in 2011)
Kenneth O'Neal, South Grand Prairie (6'1", 205/ 98 tackles in 2011)

The outside linebacker in today's game generally consists of two types of players. First, there's the pass rusher who may be a defensive end in high school and can play the rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The other is the outside linebacker who lines up over a slot receiver in space and is expected to be able to jam and run with that receiver in the short zones.

Prestonwood's Mitchell and Cy Woods' Davis project to be coverage linebackers on the next level at the Sam position. Both are relatively tall and can run. In fact, both are considered to be the equivalent of five tool players in baseball in that they have the size to be on the field for early downs versus the run and yet have the athleticism to stay on the field on third downs against the pass. In fact, both have the frame to play inside. All of these items separates them from the remainder of the linebackers in the state of Texas regardless of whether they are inside or outside guys.

Mitchell's father Ken played for the Atlanta Falcons in the early 70's. He is a very physical player who doesn't mind running through people to get somewhere. He can chase people down from anywhere on the field and has great straight line speed. He takes good angles and has great balance which means that he doesn't get knocked off his feet by blockers. He's also got a really good first step as a pass rusher. Most of all, he plays hard every down. He's a great effort guy.

Davis is a 6 foot 3, 215 pound prospect with the agility and athleticism of a safety. He explodes to the ball and moves laterally probably better than any linebacker in the state. In addition, he's a special teams demon who has blocked several kicks.

In contrast, Hollins is a pass rusher deluxe with 25 sacks over the past two seasons. Despite lining up in a four point stance, he fires off so quickly it's like he knows the snap count. People have a hard time getting their hands on him because he is usually past them before they get set. In addition, he generates great leverage for a guy his size because he plays so low. He also has very good technique, uses his hands well, and has a knack for avoiding blockers.

Davis is a rangy backer who's very much at home in coverage. Lining up against multiple slots, he can attack screens and uses his size to knock people around before they have a chance to do anything with the ball. He understands routes and how to drop and take them away. He has good recognition skills and doesn't overreact to plays run away from him, scraping and filling from the backside. He also plays with an attitude and accelerates to the ball.

Like Davis and Mitchell, Hughes is tall and can run. He's not as explosive as some of the guys on the list but can play either safety or linebacker. Because of his frame and long arms, he takes up a lot of space in the short zones and it's hard to go around or over him in coverage.

Whitmill is a little smaller than most of the guys on the list. However, due to this factor and his quick feet, he's harder for a blocker to get to and does a good job of staying on his feet and when they do. He's also stronger than he appears and doesn't mind lowering his shoulder.

Hines and Blanchard are very similar physically…tall guys who are going to play at a much greater weight when they get to college and into a weight program. Both move well and are at their best when they can avoid contact and use their quick first steps. Hines is more of an inside guy in high school while Blanchard is more adept at drops and recognizing routes. Phillips is a pass rusher coming off the edge like Hollins.


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