Every year the Butkus Award is given to the best overall linebacker in major college football. Last year the award was given to Notre Dame's Manti Te'o. This year's preseason watch list includes a litany of talented players. While neither outside nor inside linebacker seems like a position of need as of now, there could be some intriguing pass rushers peaking interest next draft season.
The Butkus Award is, of course, named for the legendary Hall of Famer Dick Butkus. Butkus was a two-time consensus All-American (1963-64) at Illinois. Butkus was the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. The 49ers passed on him that year as they selected fullback Ken Williard second overall.
Here is your 2013 Butkus Award watch list:
There are a few names that jump of the page and could be early round selections as pass rush linebackers. Some guys I'll be keeping an eye include:
- OLB Anthony Barr, UCLA: Until 2012, Barr was a running back at UCLA. Coaches finally convinced him to play defense and all the 6-4, 235lb former running back did was record 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss. Natural athleticism but extremely raw. Should generate a lot of buzz.
- OLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU: Van Noy posted 13 sacks as a junior. That's more than double former teammate and recent No. 5 overall pick, Ezekiel Ansah. Van Noy will climb the draft boards next offseason.
- OLB Morgan Breslin, USC: Breslen is entering his senior year facing a position change. After lining up at defensive end last year, Breslin will move to linebacker in 2013. He had a great junior campaign tallying 13 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. If the transition works, there may not be a more versatile pass rusher in this class.