InsideMizzou.com look at 09 LB Recruiting

InsideMizzou.com's Erik Johnson takes a look at the linebackers recruited by the Big 12's Big 3, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. Johnson compares the three recruiting classes after watching film of each signee. Go inside to get his thoughts on how the class weighs out.

Missouri – Topping the Tigers' class of linebackers is four-star junior-college transfer Josh Tatum. Signed by the University of Southern California out of high school, Tatum red-shirted one season at USC while trying to recover from a knee injury before transferring to San Francisco Community College.

As a sophomore at SFCC, Tatum showed the explosiveness that had made him the seventh-ranked linebacker in the country coming out of high school. Once he diagnosis the play, Tatum can close quickly and explodes through the ball carrier while keep his pads low.

Assuming Tatum gains a thorough understanding of the defense at Missouri, he is likely to be a key contributor this year for the Tigers.

Outside of Tatum, the Missouri coaches brought in four linebackers in the 2009 class. Of the four, two played linebacker in high school while two played safety.

In Andrew Wilson and Adam Burton, the Tigers picked up two prototypical linebackers from the state of Missouri. Wilson, who is already on campus along with Tatum, comes to Columbia at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds.

Wilson excels at shedding blocks and shutting down the inside running game. To improve, Wilson will need to play with a lower center of gravity to enable him to keep pace with the shifty running backs in the Big XII. It is possible that Wilson might end up at defensive end.

Burton (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) played his high school football at Lee's Summit West. Coming off a knee injury in his junior season, Burton looked fully recovered by the end of the 2009 season showing the speed and strength that teams covet in a linebacker.

Physically, Burton looks the part of a Big XII linebacker, but he will need some work on the finer points of playing the position before he cracks the line-up at Mizzou.

Moving to linebacker from the safety spot are Texas products Tavon Bolden (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) and Donavan Bonner (6-foot-2, 210 pounds).

Bolden possesses the athletic ability to play safety in the Big XII but he also possesses the frame to put on enough weight to play outside linebacker. If Bolden adds the needed bulk, he could become a very solid player at Missouri given his athleticism.

If you let yourself forget the position he is playing, Bonner looks very similar to Sean Weatherspoon coming out of high school. He is a very explosive athlete who excels in the open field and closes well. In Bonner and Bolden, the Tigers picked up two athletes who will have a sharp learning curve, but have very high ceilings.

Nebraska – The Cornhuskers did not bring in a lot of quantity as far as linebackers go in 2009, but they did add some quality with Eric Martin and Chris Williams.

Martin is a 6-foot-1, 232 pound linebacker from Rancho Verde High School in California. At times, Martin looks like he lacks the physicality to be a linebacker and then at other times he just explodes through ball carriers. If he is able to become more consistent in that area, Martin could have a very good career for the Huskers.

Along with Cody Green, Chris Williams (6-foot-1, 225 pounds) of Abilene, TX was one of the most highly-regarded players in the Nebraska recruiting class. Williams is an explosive linebacker who can play the pass or the run and shows very good leverage and power at the point of attack.

Unfortunately for Husker fans, Williams tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his final high school game. How he recovers from that injury will go a long way towards determining if he can reach his outstanding potential.

Kansas – Much like Nebraska, the Jayhawks signed two linebackers in their 2009 recruiting class and one was affected by a major knee injury.

Huldon Tharp (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) of Mulvane, KS tore his ACL last summer and was unable to suit up for his senior year of football. Before his injury, Tharp showed very good speed and was adept at avoiding blockers on his way to the ball carrier.

Tharp will need to gain more strength and fully recover from his knee injury to contribute for the Jayhawks, but if can clear those two major hurdles, he has some very good potential.

The second linebacker in the Kansas class is Julian Jones of Lawton, OK. Jones (6-foot-2, 255 pounds) already has the size needed to play linebacker but will have to show improvement on his speed and technique to see the field for Kansas. Jones chose Kansas over New Mexico State.


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