Ranking the linebackers

CUTigers.com takes a look at the top linebackers Clemson will face this fall.

1. MLB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
2010: Da'Quan Bowers was the only other All-ACC defensive selection to receive more votes than Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles (183) and solo tackles (110). Kuechly was also a Bronko Nagurski Award finalist and a runner-up for the Butkus Award. Against Clemson, Kuechly had 14 tackles (10 solo) and an interception.

What he's doing here: Kuechly, a junior, may very well be the nation's top linebacker. He's been named an All-American by the Walter Camp Football Association, Football Writers Association of America and America Football Coaches Association. In 22-straight games, Kuechly has registered at least 10 tackles--the longest active streak in the country. Kuechly stepped in as the starter at middle linebacker when Mark Herzelich was forced to miss the year because of cancer. Kuechly set an NCAA freshman record with 158 tackles that season.



2. Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech
2010: Taylor was named second-team All-ACC selection, his first season as a starter. He led the Hokies with 84 tackles, which included 15.5 for loss and six sacks. The best game of Taylor's career was his 14 tackle, two sack performance against Georgia Tech.

What he's doing here: The redshirt junior from Myrtle Beach was a four-star middle linebacker in the class of 2007. A candidate to start during his freshman year at Virginia Tech, Taylor was forced to sit out with a redshirt because of a shoulder injury. An injury to Barquell Rivers allowed Taylor to step in as the starter at middle linebacker in 2010. Taylor is expected to be back as the middle linebacker of the Virginia Tech defense.



3. Nigel Bradham, Florida State
2010: From the weak-side linebacker spot, Bradham led the Seminoles in tackles (98) and was 11th in the ACC. A starter in all 14 games, he also established a personal-best for a season with 5.5 sacks. Bradham registered eight tackles against Clemson.

What he's doing here: Like he was in 2010, Bradham led Florida State with 93 tackles in 2009. He was also in on 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks that season. As a freshman in 2008, Bradham played in all 13 games and was the fourth-leading tackler among the Seminoles' linebackers. Scout.com named Bradham the No. 1 middle linebacker in the class of 2008.



Honorable mention: Kenny Tate, Maryland
2010: Tate, a first-team All ACC selection as a defensive back last season, led the Terrapins with 100 tackles. He was the second-leading tackler in the conference among all defensive backs. Tate was a member of the 2010 Bronko Nagurski watch list.

What he's doing here: Moved to the ‘star' position in the spring under first-year Maryland head coach Randy Edsall, Tate will play a hybrid free safety/linebacker position. Tate is one of three seniors that was named a team captain for the upcoming season.


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