Top Returning Pac-12 Linebackers For 2017

    There are plenty of quality contenders from both divisions vying to be the premier Pac-12 linebacker in 2017.

    March 13, 2017

    There are plenty of quality contenders from both divisions vying to be the premier Pac-12 linebacker in 2017.

    Washington and USC are the super early favorites to meet in the 2017 Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara. On a much more granular level, they’ll go toe-to-toe to determine who has the best linebacker corps as well. Plenty of league members have individual playmakers. The Huskies and the Trojans, though, harbor both depth and talent. The latter boasts Cameron Smith, Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu, while the former will counter with its own dynamite trio of Azeem Victor, Keishawn Bierria and D.J. Beavers.

    Top Returning Pac-12 Linebackers

    5. Porter Gustin, USC

    With Gustin on the outside and Cameron Smith on the outside, the Trojans are in fantastic shape at linebacker entering the 2017 season. Gustin is a hybrid of a linebacker and a defensive end, meaning he has the 6-foot-5, 260-pound size and the range to be effective moving north or south. He’s also a high-energy performer, which helps amplify his diverse skill set. Gustin set the table in 2016 with 68 tackles, a Trojan-high 13 stops for loss and five sacks to pick up honorable mention All-Pac-12.

    4. Koron Crump, Arizona State

    In Tempe in 2016, Crump was the ideal ‘Devil,’ a position designed to attack the backfield with one of the best athletes on the roster. He’s basically a strong safety at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, with the explosive first step and closing speed to jet past lumbering offensive tackles. In his debut season out of Fort Scott (Kans.) Community College, Crump was an improbable Second Team All-Pac-12 selection after leading ASU with nine sacks, three fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

    3. Troy Dye, Oregon

    There was a lot to dislike about the Duck defense in 2016. Dye, though, was a notable silver lining in his first season removed from Norco (Calif.) High School. He quickly became one of Oregon’s most consistent defensive performers, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 along with the team’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Dye checks out in terms of measurables, a long 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete with outstanding range, quickness and instincts. He missed a game, yet still led the Ducks with 91 stops, 13 tackles for minus yards and 6.5 sacks.

    2. Cameron Smith, USC

    Smith is the prototype of an inside linebacker, particularly in Clancy Pendergast’s 3-4 system. He’s smart, very physical at the point of attack and terrific against the run. And after bouncing back from a knee injury that cut short a promising rookie season in 2015, Smith is liable to operate at an All-American level in his junior year. The Second Team All-Pac-12 performer tallied a team-high 83 tackles in 2016, including seven behind the line of scrimmage.

    1. Azeem Victor, Washington

    If Victor isn’t the best linebacker in college football this season, he’ll certainly be in the preseason discussion. He’ll be looking to bounce back from a leg fracture that prematurely ended his junior year last Nov. 12. At the time of the injury, he was leading the Huskies with 67 tackles. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Victor is built to punish opposing players, and he plays with a certain intensity and determination that resonates throughout the program. U-Dub cannot wait to get a healthy No. 36 back in 2017.

    MORE: Top Returning Linebackers In College Football For 2017


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