Scouting Combine Research: LB, Part 3

In the final segment on the linebackers, Kyle Van Noy, Shayne Skov and Jordan Zumwalt were three of the top defenders out West.

Ryan Shazier, Ohio State: Early entrant. Shazier (6-2, 230) has been one of the best players on a defense that helped the Buckeyes win 24 consecutive games over a span of two years. Shazier is a versatile player that is always around the ball. He finished his junior season with six sacks and 142 tackles. He recorded at least nine tackles in the Buckeyes' final five games. Shazier dealt with a lot of name calling early in his life, but won over coach Urban Meyer, who described Shazier as someone who had a "heart of gold."

Prince Shembo, Notre Dame: Shembo (6-1, 258) is a disruptive force from his outside linebacker position. He finished his final season at Notre Dame with 5.5 sacks, including three in a big win over Arizona State. Despite being so disruptive as a defender, he does not engage in trash talking and likes to focus on the technique of the professionals. "I'm not big on smack talk, honestly. I say what's up man every once in awhile." He continued, "I'm big on watching guys in the NFL and how they do things, Tamba Hali is a big technician. I try to look at guys my size, you got Tamba and Robert Mathis, so you know rushers like that."

Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov (6-3, 245) is one of the most physical players entering the draft, as he was one of the anchors on Stanford's punishing defense. Skov finished the season with 4.5 sacks and 108 tackles. Despite his mohawk and black face paint that you normally see on game days, Skov is described by his younger brother Patrick as a "nerd-meathead combo." Skov's story is one of the more complicated ones in college football. He has been kicked off one football team and suspended for an academic quarter due to a DUI. He has also been voted a head prefect and was one of the leaders on a national championship contender. Add in three knee surgeries, due to a gruesome injury where he suffered a torn ACL, MCL, and fractured tibia.

Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut: Early entrant. Smallwood (6-3, 236)was an All-American Athletic Conference first-team member. Smallwood recorded double- digit tackles in six of the team's 12 games and returned an interception for a touchdown in UConn's first win of the season against Temple. Smallwood was one of UConn's three captains, and faced a trying season in terms of leadership . UConn finished without qualifying for a bowl game for a third consecutive year. Smallwood told The Courant, "It's easy to motivate guys when you're winning games and stuff like that, but it's tough when you come away losing each week, but you've just got to keep guys as focused as you can."

Telvin Smith, Florida State: Smith (6-3, 218) is coming off a season where he was an honorable mention All-American, and a first-team all-ACC selection. Smith had two interceptions and returned both them for touchdowns longer than 60 yards. He led the team in tackles from his linebacker position, but his size does bring some questions as to whether he will be able to stay there when he goes to the pros. He wants to remain at linebacker so he is focused on gaining weight. "A normal day is waking up at 6:30, eating, workout, eating, speed training, eating, snack, eating, a lot of eating going on."

Tyler Starr, South Dakota: Starr (6-4, 249) became the first player from South Dakota to win the MVFC Defensive Player of the Year. By the end of the season he tied South Dakota's career record for sacks with 27. He led the MVFC in sacks with nine and tackles for losses with 15 in 2013. He originally came to South Dakota as a 214-pound safety, but had to grow up both physically and mentally. Starr told the Sioux City Journal, "I was one of those kids who got labeled, he isn't going to go anywhere. I think I got deemed a bad kid and I got sucked into that personality that everybody thought I was." Starr grew from a kid who never went to class and never had a plan for a future, to someone who is now just a few short steps away from achieving an NFL dream.

Jordie Tripp, Montana: Tripp (6-3, 237) is widely considered one of the best FCS prospects entering the draft along with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Tripp was a four-year starter at Montana. Tripp was the third player from his family to play at Montana His father played linebacker in 1989- 1990, and grandfather played in 1963-1964.

Uani' Unga, Brigham Young: Unga is a tackling machine. Of the nine games Unga played in 2013, he recorded double-digit tackles six times. He missed BYU's final four games due to a knee injury. Unga was a transfer student from Oregon State, because Unga had been married for three years, and had to balance being a student-athlete, husband and father. It is difficult for him, as he gets to spend little time with his family. "This is the least amount of time I've ever spent with my family. Usually I get home when it's time for them to go to sleep, and I am gone before they are awake."

Kyle Van Noy, Brigham Young: Van Noy (6-3, 245) was the FBS Independent Defensive Player of the Year. He finished the season with 55 tackles and four sacks to go with two interceptions. He was dominant as a junior with 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. For his career, he tallied 26 sacks, 62 tackles for losses, seven interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. BYU has a well-known honor code at the school, and standing up to that code is just as important to Van Noy as football is. An honor code that may seem odd, or outdated to some, but Van Noy takes it seriously. His coach Bronco Mendenhall told, "I think it is because he can relate to the choice and challenges they have."

Avery Williamson, Kentucky: Williamson (6-1, 238) made all-SEC teams in back to back seasons, despite being on a team that did not win consistently. Williamson is a former teammate of current Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. Trevathan taught Williamson to keep his eye on his goals, despite the lack of success the team may have. In October Williamson told, "To see that I will have the opportunity next year to go pro like he did does motivate me. It is a dream come true to see a guy that played next to me has been successful in the NFL right now."

Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: Zumwalt (6-4, 230) finished his final season at UCLA with 91 tackles to go with his two interceptions. Zumwalt recorded an interception to go with 10 tackles in UCLA's Sun Bowl win over Virginia Tech and earned Co-MVP honors for the game. Following the game Zumwalt's coach, Jim Mora Jr., told the Los Angeles Times, "I thought he played the best game I've ever seen him play." He knocked out Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas in that game, then was told to tone down his act at the Senior Bowl. Zumwalt lists Ray Lewis as his favorite athlete.

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