2010: The Year of the Texas Linebacker

When taking an early look at the talent in the state of Texas in the junior class, one position clearly stands out. In recent years, Texas hasn't produced a high volume of nationally recruited linebacker prospects, but that will change with the 2010 class that is led by several of the nation's best, including Dallas Skyline's Corey Nelson and Cedar Hill's Aaron Benson.

The class of 2010 in the state of Texas at the linebacker position has the chance to be a special one. The elite level talent is there with Skyline's Corey Nelson. The top 100 national talent is there too with Cedar Hill's Aaron Benson and Hightower's Shaun Lewis. The top 300 type of talent nationally is there in numbers as well as quality depth up and down the top 200 prospects in the state of Texas for many a program to reap the rewards of recruiting the Lone Star State.

With the offers piling up for some, interest picking up for others and the evaluation process just beginning for others around the state, Burnt Orange Beat takes a look at the linebacker position in the junior class.

Corey Nelson

Nelson is one of the elite linebacker prospects in the country in the 2010 class. Blessed with a blend of quickness, game speed, ability to play sideline to sideline, punt blocking ability, and overall playmaking ability quite possibly not seen in the state since Derek Johnson at Waco High, the Dallas Skyline star is an elite level prospect.

Nelson was recently named to the AP 5A 1st team all-state squad after a record setting junior season in 2008. The 6-0, 205-pound backer recorded 156 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, nine blocked punts, five fumbles caused, four pass breakups and three fumble recoveries in 14 games leading Skyline to a 12-2 season.

The stellar junior season came following a terrific sophomore campaign at playing as an undersized defensive end in 2007. Nelson, then 6-0, 185-pounds, racked up 75 tackles and 12 sacks in 14 games.

Nelson, #7 on the Burnt Orange Beat 2010 list, has already received offers from many of the top programs in the nation. Programs that have extended offers are Florida, Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Oregon, Texas Tech, Nebraska and Kansas among others with the Texas Longhorns to offer in February.

Oklahoma appears to have the early lead headed into junior days and the spring evaluation period.

Aaron Benson

Cedar Hill seemingly produces a national 100 type of prospect on a yearly basis. In 2010, Aaron Benson will likely carry on that growing tradition. Nelson, 6-0, 207 pounds, played in the middle as a freshman and sophomore before making the move to the outside in 2008.

The switch ended up being pure gold for the cousin of former Texas Longhorn running back Cedric Benson as the talented junior more than doubled his production from a year ago.

In 14 games, Cedar Hill went 12-2 and Benson tallied 132 tackles, eight sacks, three interceptions, one fumble return for a touchdown and one blocked field goal.

The junior that is blessed with legitimate 4.6 speed and the ability to change direction has already received offers from LSU, Iowa and Texas A&M with many more to come. The list of likely offers includes the Texas Longhorns, who are the early favorite to land the talented outside linebacker.

Benson has been starter for the Cedar Hill Longhorns since his freshman season in which he started the first handful of games before playing in a reserve role on the 5A state championship team.

Shaun Lewis

Not many juniors put together a more successful season both individually and from a team standpoint as the 6-0, 195-pound speedy Hightower defender. Lewis was a key cog in the Hurricane's undefeated run to the 5A state title game, in which they came up just short to the Allen Eagles.

Lewis was named to the AP 5A honorable mention all-state team for his efforts that included double-digit sacks.

Lewis burst onto the scene as a sophomore in the Ford Bend Independent School District being talked about as a young player that was often dominant on Friday nights. In 2007, Lewis recorded 100 tackles and 11 sacks for the 10-4 regional finalist Hurricanes.

With the skill set that includes quickness, the game speed to run sideline to sideline, an instinct for rushing the passer and big time change of direction, Lewis already has a half dozen offers or more in hand.

Lewis is currently holding offers from Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M, Houston, Stanford and Duke with Texas and Alabama as possible offers in February.

Rashod Favors

The name Rashod Favors has been popping up in the Fort Worth area since the summer before his freshman season. The Dunbar safety has long been talked about as a running back prospect, but appears to have taken a liking to the defensive side of the ball while still playing some limited snaps in the offensive backfield.

At 6-0, 215 pounds of all muscle, Favors sits back at his free safety position on the high school level with the look of intimidation for the average running back or receiver. While Favors plays free safety for the Flyin' Wildcats, a move to outside linebacker on the college level is likely.

Favors, recently voted 7-4A 1st team at safety, is receiving heavy interest from Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa among others.

At safety, Favors shows a bled of power, speed and ability to change direction and make a play on the ball with soft hands that lends itself to a move to outside backer. With the body type to carry 230-235 pounds and quality academics and SAT test score in the books, look for Favors to be a heavily recruited prospect.

Aaron Franklin

Franklin is the sleeper linebacker in the state, if not the sleeper prospect. Franklin missed the entire 2008 season after an ACL tear suffered last spring. At 6-1.5, 217 pounds with 21.8 200-meter speed, Franklin is a prospect that is receiving heavy recruiting interest despite not playing as a junior. Throw in the fact that he is a 4.0 student and college programs are keeping a close eye on the Marshall Maverick.

Programs such as Oklahoma, LSU, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are all recruiting Franklin. While the offers may not follow until the speedy backer returns to the practice field in the spring, there is little doubt that Franklin will be a top regional recruit with the ability to be one of the fastest rising prospects nationally in April and May.

Kris Catlin

Any other year, San Antonio Madison outside linebacker Kris Catlin would be talked about as one of the top backer prospects. While Catlin has the desired frame at 6-1, 210 pounds and the speed and quickness desired by college programs, he doesn't play the game with the tenacity and playmaking ability of others.

Catlin, who recorded about 100 tackles on the season, will be a regionally recruited prospect with the ability to gain some national recruiting attention in the spring with solid combine performances and a spring in which he shows some improved aggressiveness.

With 2011 elite level running back Aaron Green and 2010 WR/flex TE prospect Nate Askew, Madison will be a stop for every college coach in the spring, which should also help Catlin. Throw in senior safety Andrew Green (Nebraska commit) being regionally recruited in 2008 and Catlin will have every chance to show what he can bring to a program.

Quentin Parks

Atascocita receiver Quentin Parks is an interesting prospect. In the spring of 2008, Parks played safety as well as receiver and showed the ability and willingness to come up, fill and make big hits from the safety position while also possessing the ball skills and change of direction to cover in space. Throw in Parks' body type, which is 6-3, 215 pounds with 4.65 speed and the ability to get much stronger and weigh 240 or more in time, the junior could be projected at outside linebacker on the defensive side of the ball.

In 2008, Parks played receiver only for the most part for an Atascocita team that lost in the first round of the playoffs. While his numbers were on par with some others, his ability to move at 6-3, 215 pounds was on display every Friday night.

In addition to being projected as a possible outside backer, college programs are also looking at Parks in a flex/split tight end role on the next level.

Programs such as Texas, Oklahoma State and Alabama among others are taking a long look a prospect that could project to a number of positions at the next level.

Tevin Jackson

Garland High enjoyed another deep playoff run in 2008 and junior linebacker Tevin Jackson was one of the reasons. The 6-1, 198-pounder was tabbed 10-5A 1st team all-district in early December and the recruiting attention has followed. All of the regional programs are evaluating the long armed junior with offers likely to follow. LSU and Texas A&M have shown the most interest early on. Jackson, who is blessed with speed in the 4.6 range, is still somewhat of an unknown on the recruiting front, but was a productive player in 2008. He has family ties to the Texas A&M program.

Earl Hines

Hines showed a lot of promise in the spring before his sophomore season at Port Arthur Memorial. At 6-1, 190 pounds, Hines was a downhill, aggressive linebacker as a sophomore for the Titans. In his first career game, Hines had several big time hits against Beaumont Ozen.

Fast forward to the 2008 season and Hines is 6-1 and close to 200 pounds. Hines is still the aggressive, downhill backer as the season before, but hasn't taken his game to the level of others in his class.

Recently selected 21-5A 2nd team all-district, the hard hitter put together a productive season. Hines is receiving plenty of recruiting attention as his body fills out and he gains speed to go with his quickness.

Kansas State has extended an offer with programs such as LSU, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas, Houston and Alabama evaluating.

Dominique Patterson

The Dallas Skyline junior is often overshadowed by teammate Corey Nelson, but is a very good prospect in his own right. At 6-0, 215 pounds with 4.6 speed, Patterson is an impressive prospect physically. A former running back, Patterson made the switch to full time defense in 2008 and made the most of his opportunity with a productive season.

Patterson, who has an offer from Texas A&M, brings speed, aggressiveness, terrific hands and quick change of direction to the Skyline defense.

Along with Texas A&M, Patterson is being recruited by all of the Big 12 programs plus Iowa, Oregon and Notre Dame nationally.

Darius Dotson

The Hitchcock junior is one of top prospects physically in the state in 2010. Blessed with a body type that mirrors Dunbar's Rashad Favors, Dotson has the ability to be a highly recruited linebacker prospect.

Dotson is blessed with as much as explosive power as any prospect in the 2010 class, but has to learn how to use it more consistently. When the ball is in the air, he just out leaps, out-toughs and is quicker to the ball than anyone he goes up against. At running back, he flashes the ability to run through with defenders on the 2A level with bullish power, but also the speed to outrun angles.

At 6-0 and nearing 215 pounds with 4.6 speed or less, Dotson is a small school prospect with big time upside potential.

Anthony Beard

Anthony Beard has been the key cog in the Lumberton Raiders back-to-back playoff teams, which are the first in school history. Beard doubles as a running back, but is an instinctive linebacker with a game gear and closing speed to the football faster than any 40-time would indicate.

Beard, 6-0, 206 pounds, diagnoses plays well and is knock back tackler when he plays with low pads. He drops into coverage and makes plays on the ball with instinctive reactions.

One can see the instincts for the game when Beard returns punts as well. He has the understanding of where his blockers will be and how to set up defenders.

Beard, who is being recruited regionally, recorded 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and two sacks as a sophomore and backed it up with another terrific season in 2008. Beard was recently selected the 20-4A defensive MVP.

Joining the aforementioned linebackers that will be heavily recruited are Xzavious Harrison (6-2, 200, 4.7) of New Waverly, Stephen Maeweather (6-3, 205, 4.7) of Houston Sharpstown, and Kurt Killens (6-2, 205, 4.6) of Round Rock McNeil.


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