Nelson Chenault/USA TODAY

NFL Scouting Combine Research: Outside Linebackers, Part 1

Who is used to being overlooked, despite leading the nation in tackles? Which star linebacker considers himself a safety? Those answers and more as we get to know the Scouting Combine's outside linebackers.

Devante Bond, Oklahoma (6-1, 238): Underclassman. After a monster season in junior college (17 sacks, 27 tackles for losses), Bond started eight games in two seasons at Oklahoma. In 2015, he had 43 tackles (28 solos), three sacks, seven tackles for losses, one forced fumble, two passes defensed and one blocked field goal. He played in nine games (five starts), missing four games with a high-ankle sprain. It was a long road to big-time football for Bond. In 2013, he was set to go to Miami but was one short class of qualifying, so he sat out the entire season. He didn’t play football full-time until his senior year of high school. “Sitting out that season was really rough, because you’re working out on your own. It’s hard to keep up with everything, your school work. It was mainly working out and keeping myself in shape. I knew I had to keep my bar high.”

Kentrell Brothers, Missouri (6-1, 249): Brothers led the nation with 152 tackles to earn first-team all-SEC honors. He had 10-plus tackles in each of his final seven games and fell short of 10 just once, when he played on a sprained ankle. Brothers added 12.0 tackles for losses, 2.5 sacks, a team-high two interceptions, one forced fumble and a national-best three blocked kicks. Brothers paced the Tigers with 122 tackles and three forced fumbles and was second-team all-SEC as a junior and had 70 tackles and three interceptions as a sophomore. Brothers is used to being underrated, including not being recruited by home-state schools Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. After the second-team honors in 2014, he was a third-team preseason selection in 2015 — despite being the SEC’s leading returning tackler. “I always had a lot of questions about how does it feel to not get recognition, how does it feel to not have people talk about you. At first, it’s kind of, ‘Who cares? I’m doing my job, the team’s winning.’ I guess as time went on, it started to build up inside me. Like, ‘Man, I really don’t get that much respect. I just need to let it out.’”

Beniquez Brown, Mississippi State (6-1, 238): Underclassman. Brown started his final two seasons. In 2015, he finished second on the team with 99 tackles (48 solos) while chipping in four sacks, 11 tackles for losses and one interception. He blocked two kicks, including one that saved a 51-50 win over Arkansas. He’s usually a safety on the field-goal block unit. “I wanted the game to be on my shoulders when it got late. I feel like that’s a part of being a leader. I actually wasn’t supposed to go on that play. I just took it upon myself to go.” In three seasons, he finished with 200 tackles. His roommate was his cousin, starting defensive back Kivon Coman. “He watches too much film,” Coman said. “He’s always watching film.

De'Vondre Campbell, Minnesota (6-4, 234): Campbell, a junior-college transfer, started for two of his three seasons with the Gophers. As a senior, he had 92 tackles, including 6.5 for losses and a team-high four sacks, plus three pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble to earn honorable mention on the all-Big Ten team. Campbell had 75 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 6.5 TFLs, with one interception and three fumble recoveries as a junior, when he was Academic all-Big Ten. Campbell, who graduated in May and spent this past season working on his master’s in human resource development, chose Minnesota because of its abundance of Fortune 500 companies. Before that, he went to Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College because it was his only offer coming out of high school. He sat out his first season there because of a concussion. He packed on the pounds after paying his dues at Hutchinson. "The good thing is, he's not any shorter, and he still has all the length," defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said, "so the extra 25-30 pounds has really helped that kid become a really good football player. Any time you get a frame like his, you think you can put a little bit on it. But I give him a lot of credit, because he's done a lot of that work to get where he's at."

Su'a Cravens, USC (6-1, 225): Underclassman. Cravens starred as an undersized linebacker, learning well under the tutelage of former NFL linebacker Chris Claiborne. “I still don't consider myself a linebacker. I consider myself a safety playing linebacker." Cravens led the Trojans in just about every key statistic in 2015, when he was first-team all-Pac-12 and a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. He had team-leading figures of 86 tackles (46 solos), 5.5 sacks, 15 tackles for losses and two forced fumbles. His two interceptions were one off the team lead and he was third with eight passes defensed. Cravens timed his announcement of entering the draft with his father’s 50th birthday. Cravens wasted no time in making an impact. He graduated from high school a semester early and started at safety as a true freshman, earning Freshman All-America honors with four interceptions. As a sophomore, he played a hybrid safety/outside linebacker and registered team highs of 17 tackles for losses and three interceptions. For his efforts, he was first-team all-conference, third-team All-America and USC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Cravens, who was USA Today’s high school player of the year and the Gatorade Player of the Year for California, finished his USC career with 199 tackles, 34 TFLs, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and four forced fumbles. "There are so many things he does that are uncanny," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "No matter who's blocking him, he can get off of it…. He's fast enough to catch up to anybody.… He's one of those guys you have to take notice of on every play, and you have to be careful with the ball because he'll take it away from you." Cravens loved football at an early age. As a toddler, he’d watch it while sitting on his lap. He’d cry if the channel was changed. “Something’s wrong with this kid,” Kevin Cravens would joke to his wife. Nothing has changed. “Even when I’m not playing football, I’m still playing football in my head,” Cravens said. “When I’m in class, I’ll daydream about plays that I made and plays that I missed. I still think about the interception I dropped against Stanford.”

Kyler Fackrell, Utah State (6-5, 244): After missing almost all of the 2014 season with a torn ACL, Fackrell had 82 tackles (37 solos), four sacks, 15 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and a national-best five fumble recoveries as a senior playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. His 12 quarterback hurries were a school record, bolstered by six vs. Colorado State. Fackrell had a 99-yard pick-six in 2013. Essentially playing only three seasons because of the injury, he tallied 12 sacks and 36 TFLs among his 253 tackles. He was all-conference in each of those seasons, with first-team all-Mountain West as a senior and first-team all-WAC as a freshman. Utah State was his only FBS scholarship offer. “I don’t think that I necessarily thought coming here that I was NFL bound. I did have kind of a fire to prove myself and to work hard and to really maximize my potential, whatever that meant.” He is married and has a daughter.

Travis Feeney, Washington (6-4, 225): Feeney was second-team all-Pac-12 as a senior with his eight sacks, 17.5 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles ranking in the top three in the league. The team captain added 56 tackles (40 solos). As a freshman in 2012, Feeney moved from safety to linebacker during fall camp and earned honorable mention on the all-Pac-12 team. In four seasons, Feeney started 32 times and tallied 247 tackles (168 solos) with 15.5 sacks, 33 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Also on the ledger: four shoulder surgeries (two torn laburms), three positions and three defensive coordinators. “Yeah, I’m an old geezer. But, I’m feeling good. I’m feeling really good.” For Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, he had a footlong pink ribbon dyed onto the back of his head to honor his mom’s best friend, who succumbed to the disease. “A lot of family and friends who have lost their loved ones have definitely hit me or text me or messaged me and said thank you. That’s something that really hits me. I didn’t think people would be touched by it as much as they were.” The question is, is he big enough to rush the passer? Or fast enough to move back to defensive back? “I don’t care how I get there, but once I get there, I’m going to convince people that I belong on the team, I belong on the 53-man roster and I belong on the field where I can be productive. Everybody says I’m a hybrid guy. That I can play multiple positions. I think that helps me. I like to cover tight ends one-on-one. I like to get after the quarterback. Wherever they need me, I’ll do it.”

Leonard Floyd, Georgia (6-3, 232): Underclassman. Floyd was a finalist for the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and was second-team all-SEC in 2015. Floyd tallied 74 tackles (37 solos) with 4.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses, three passes broken up and 15 quarterback pressures. The firing of longtime coach Mark Richt solidified his decision to leave Georgia. In three seasons, Floyd won postseason honors three times (honorable mention all-SEC as a sophomore and Freshman All-America). He started 32 games and was in on 184 tackles (92 solos), 17 sacks, 28.5 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and 54 pressures. Floyd is beyond compare. "I don’t think any football player compares to him, so that’s why I went with Lebron (James),” linebacker David Bellamy said. “If you see him at that 6-foot-6 frame running all over the field, doing the things he could do.” Floyd, who went through two shoulder surgeries at Georgia, lined up here, there and everywhere, including at inside linebacker this season. Floyd got on Georgia’s recruiting radar as a freshman at Dodge County (Ga.) High School. “It’s more than a game for me. I know I’m playing it for more than just myself. I’m playing it for my mom, my family and all them back home. They want me to go hard every day at practice. I look at it that way, that I’m playing for more than just myself.”

Kris Frost, Auburn (6-2, 240): Frost posted a career-high 96 tackles as a senior, though many of those (60) were of the assisted variety. He added three tackles for losses, one forced fumble and two interceptions to earn third-team all-SEC. His best season came as a junior, when he had 87 tackles (59 solos) with 3.5 sacks, 10 TFLs, three forced fumbles and one interception. He finished his career with 247 tackles. Frost majored in professional flight management and flies whenever he can. "Aviation is like football. It's fun playing, but there are a lot of behind-the-scene things like how much multitasking you have to do when you're making a radio call and checking your elevation and landing and taking off. You try to make it all muscle memory. It's similar to football because it's fun, but, at the same time, there's so much going on you stay busy."

ALSO IN THIS SERIES

Outside linebackers, Part 1
Outside linebackers, Part 2
Outside linebackers, Part 3 (FREE)
Inside linebackers, Part 1
Inside linebackers, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive ends, Part 1
Defensive ends, Part 2
Defensive tackles, Part 1 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 2 (FREE)
Defensive tackles, Part 3 (FREE)
Offensive tackles, Part 1
Offensive tackles, Part 2
Offensive guards, Part 1 (FREE)
Offensive guards, Part 2 (FREE)
Centers (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 1 (FREE)
Tight ends, Part 2 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 1 (FREE)
Wide receivers, Part 2
Wide receivers, Part 3
Wide receivers, Part 4 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 1 (FREE)
Running backs, Part 2
Running backs, Part 3
Fullbacks (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 1 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 2 (FREE)
Quarterbacks, Part 3 (FREE)


Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.




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