Top Returning ACC Linebackers For 2017

    The ACC linebacker cupboard will be well stocked, with a dozen or more defenders vying to be the best at the position in 2017.

    March 13, 2017

    The ACC linebacker cupboard will be well stocked, with a dozen or more defenders vying to be the best at the position in 2017.


    There will be no shortage of outstanding linebackers out of the ACC this season. Seemingly every one of the 14 league members has at least one athlete at the second level capable of wreaking havoc from sideline-to-sideline. And it’s not uncommon for programs to house two such stalwarts. UVA’s Micah Kiser is the standard-bearer and a lock to amass more than 100 tackles for a third straight year. But if he plateaus in his development, the list of players capable of surpassing him is long and growing.

    Top Returning ACC Linebackers

    5. Stacy Thomas, Louisville

    Maybe this is the year Thomas starts receiving the attention commensurate with his diverse skill set. Regardless, he’s going to produce, much the way he has the past couple of seasons for the Cardinals. Thomas is coming off his best season at Louisville, finishing with 85 tackles, 7.5 stops for loss and a couple of fumble recoveries. He plays with terrific range, including as an underrated cover guy, and his role is about to increase now that Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields have graduated.

    4. Matthew Thomas, Florida State

    With Thomas, it’s all about the trajectory at this stage of his career. He’s a former Seminole gem who struggled to maintain healthy shoulders in the early going, hindering his ability to thump. But he was healthy enough to go the distance in 2016, leading the team with 77 stops, including 11 behind the line. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Thomas closed the campaign with a career-best 15 tackles versus Michigan in the Orange Bowl, a hopeful harbinger of things to come in his senior year.

    3. Shaq Quarterman, Miami

    While Mark Richt knew he had a cornerstone player in Quarterman, no one knew for certain he’d be so good right out of the chute. He seized control of the opening in the middle and never looked back in a Freshman All-American campaign with the Canes. The 6-foot-1 and 240-pound Quarterman is the hard-hitting and heady rock of Manny Diaz’s emerging D, notching 84 tackles, 10 stops for loss, 3.5 sacks and eight quarterback hurries in a statement collegiate debut.

    2. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech

    Edwards grabs attention with his measurables. He keeps it with his footage. At 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, with scary closing speed, the Hokies can use him in myriad different ways, from rushing the passer to dropping back into to coverage to neutralize the tight end. In just his first season in the lineup, Edwards elevated to the All-ACC Second Team with 106 stops, 18.5 tackles for minus yards and 4.5 sacks. With even a little fine-tuning, he could be up for national honors as a junior.

    1. Micah Kiser, Virginia

    Kiser is the kind of sure-tackling linebacker watches can be set to. The flashiest linebacker in America this season? Nah, that’s not his game, and maybe it costs him at the 2018 NFL Combine. For today, though, few linebackers can match his ability to read the flow of the play, diagnosis and then fly to the ball. The heady Kiser has been unflinchingly consistent through his Cavalier career, racking up an ACC-high 134 tackles in 2016, including 10 stops for loss, 6.5 sacks, seven pass breakups and five forced fumbles.

    MORE: Top Returning Linebackers In College Football For 2017

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