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Who are the best high school linebackers in the country? Here's our Top 20

Here are 20 linebackers from 20 states who should have a 2022 season to remember
Troy Bowles photo by Annette Wilkerson

Troy Bowles photo by Annette Wilkerson

High school football is just about here again.

Several states kick off their fall season this month, so it's time to start highlighting some of the players who will attract national attention in 2022.

Over the next few weeks we'll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the best players in the country. We started with the top edge rushers in the nation, then shifted to running backs, and now we'll finish the week by featuring the top linebackers.

Here are 20 linebackers from 20 states whom we expect to have a season worthy of national recognition.

Alabama: Karmelo Overton, Carroll, sr.

Overton is an athletic middle linebacker who can cover tight ends, receivers and running backs and blitz the quarterback. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder also is an accomplished hurdler in track and field.

California: Dylan Williams, Long Beach Poly, jr.

Williams continued the long line of Long Beach Poly players to become Trojans when he committed to USC in April. Outside linebacker projects as his home in college, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound four-star prospect can play all over the field.

Colorado: Blake Purchase, Cherry Creek, sr.

Purchase, the top-ranked senior in Colorado, had a solid junior season with 83 tackles, 12 sacks and two interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound outside linebacker/defensive end is thought to favor Iowa State, where his older brother Myles plays defensive back.

Florida: Troy Bowles, Tampa Jesuit, sr.

Bowles, the son of Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, racked up 103 tackles, six tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior. The five-star prospect who helped lead Jesuit to an undefeated season and the 6A state championship last year committed to Georgia last month.

Georgia: Sammy Brown, Jefferson, jr.

Brown played just seven games as a sophomore because of an October leg injury. But when he played, he was all over the field at linebacker, running back and even quarterback. The five-star prospect had 51 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks while running for 753 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

Hawaii: Liona Lefau, Kahuku, sr.

Lefau is a two-way star for Kahuku, excelling at linebacker and tight end, but defense will be his focus when he joins Arch Manning in Texas' freshman Class of 2023. Lefau had 28.5 tackles and three interceptions as a junior last year.

Indiana: Drayk Bowen, Andrean, sr.

Bowen is a 6-foot-2, 225-pound outside linebacker who's going to play football and baseball at Notre Dame, a la Jeff Samardzija. The supremely gifted athlete had 105 tackles (12 for loss) and three sacks as a junior, while also rushing for 965 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

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Louisiana: Tackett Curtis, Many, sr.

Curtis excels at middle linebacker and strong safety, but middle linebacker will be his home when the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder becomes a USC Trojan next year. As a junior, Curtis piled up 103 tackles (12.5 for loss) and had a sack and an interception. He chose USC over Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Maryland: Aaron Chiles, Our Lady of Good Counsel, jr.

Chiles is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker who's had a busy summer checking out Power Five schools all over the country. The top-ranked junior in Maryland is equally adept in coverage and getting into the backfield from his outside linebacker position.

Massachusetts: Preston Zinter, Lawrence Central Catholic, sr.

Zinter is one of the top-ranked linebackers and tight ends in the country, but he'll stick to defense when he's at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is a run-stuffing middle linebacker who also excels at lacrosse.

Mississippi: Suntarine Perkins, Raleigh, sr.

Perkins racked up 1,350 yards in 12 games with 13 touchdowns as a running back, plus caught 14 passes for 314 yards and five touchdowns. What's scary is that he may be an even better outside linebacker, which is where Ole Miss sees him playing next year.

Nebraska: Malachi Coleman, Lincoln East, sr.

Coleman is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds and as athletic as they come. He's a sprinter and triple jumper, plays basketball and excels on both sides of the ball in football. Coleman, who had 57 tackles, 7.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles as a junior, revealed his top seven college choices last week — Oklahoma, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, Nebraska, Georgia and USC.

New Jersey: James Heard, Camden, sr.

Heard has had a well-traveled high school career, transferring from Voorhees (N.J.) Eastern to Philadelphia St. Joseph's Prep and now back to New Jersey at Camden. Last season at St. Joseph's, the West Virginia commit had 37 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

North Carolina: Cayden Jones, Christ School, jr.

Jones had 77 tackles and three sacks in nine games as a sophomore, and we expect big strides from the 6-foot-4, 210-pound outside linebacker as a junior. His offers include Oklahoma, USC and Notre Dame, and more will come with another big year.

Ohio: Arvell Reese, Glenville, sr.

Reese transferred from Euclid this offseason and is relatively new to linebacker, having played just five games at the position last fall after moving from safety. But he's added 20 pounds since the end of his junior season and stands 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He committed last week to play linebacker for Ohio State.

Pennsylvania: Semaj Bridgeman, Imhotep Institute, sr.

Bridgeman played for Archbishop Wood last season and transferred to Imhotep, which played for the 5A state title last season. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound run stuffer will try to take Imhotep to the top this season before moving on to Michigan.

Tennessee: Edwin Spillman, Lipscomb Academy, jr.

Fresh off of a 2A state championship, this year's Trent Dilfer-led Lipscomb Academy squad enters the season as Tennessee's No. 1 team. Spillman is the top-ranked junior in the state, and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound linebacker should lead the Lipscomb defense while his older brother, receiver Nate Spillman, leads the offense.

Texas: Anthony Hill, Ryan, sr.

Hill, the nation's top-ranked senior linebacker, committed to Texas A&M a couple of weeks ago over Texas. As a junior, he was one of the most productive defenders in the country, racking up 131 tackles (18 for loss), eight sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Virginia: Tony Rojas, Fairfax, sr.

Fairfax leaned on Rojas in the ground game last year, as he ran for 1,568 yards and 24 touchdowns on 8.3 yards per carry as a junior. But his future at the next level is at middle linebacker for Penn State. He had 40 tackles and seven sacks last season, and his production should go way up on that side of the ball in his last year of high school football.

Washington: Isaiah Carlson, Ferndale, sr.

Carlson has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in his high school career, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is an even better linebacker. He had 19 tackles (two for loss) in a junior season cut short by a season-ending knee injury, and he should bounce back in a big way as a senior.