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National Columnist Mike Farrell is here with the top LB's landed in the portal, reasons why Virginia is the sleeper to watch in the ACC Coastal, and his overall Top 10 in the NFL Draft regardless of team need or position.
Let’s continue the look at the top players committed from the Transfer Portal by position with the linebackers.
1. Jackson Sirmon (Cal)
Washington's leading tackler in the past two seasons, Sirmon heads to Cal where he fits the prototype for what Justin Wilcox values in middle linebackers. Don't be surprised when he's leading the Pac 12 in tackles and in the mix for national awards.
2. Branden Jennings (Kansas State)
The jewel of Maryland's 2021 recruiting class, Jennings is heading to the Little Apple where he should start immediately. He's a gifted athlete who should thrive at the will position for the Wildcats.
3. Troy Brown (Ole Miss)
A three-year starter at Central Michigan, Brown will be tasked with taking care of the middle of the field in the Rebels' 4-2-5 alignment. And he does that really well - he ranked 6th in the country in PFF's linebacker grades last season.
4. Mohamoud Diabate (Utah)
With Devin Lloyd off to the pros, Kyle Whittingham grabbed the perfect guy to fill his playmaking and range in Diaboute. The former top-100 recruit has great athleticism and should fit right in.
5. Drew Sanders (Arkansas)
A huge addition for Arkansas via the portal, Sanders was a big-time recruit for Alabama in the 2020 class. Sanders was obviously buried at Alabama, but he'll have a chance to shine. He's expected to replace Grant Morgan in the middle.
And I continue the look at the sleepers in each Power Five division with the Virginia Cavaliers in the ACC Coastal and five reasons to watch them.
1. Brennan Armstrong
Armstrong is one of my favorite dark horse Heisman candidates in 2022. His numbers last year were simply staggering - over 4,400 yards passing and 40 total touchdowns in only 11 games. He's a solid athlete and can extend the play and he’s pretty accurate.
2. Transfer Fits
I have Virginia's portal class as one of the best in the conference and the reasons are numerous. Devin Chandler is a guy who will put up great numbers from the slot, as he's a threat with the ball in his hands. Kameron Butler was one of the best pass rushers in the MAC the past couple of seasons, and they got two solid pieces on their offensive line in FCS transfers Mac Hollensteiner and John Paul Flores.
3. New Coaching Staff
Last season not withstanding, Tony Elliott guided Clemson's offense to new heights during his tenure as OC. People tend to forget how efficiently ruthless they were. He has enough talent at UVA to get this group up to speed quickly.
The Cavaliers got a phenomenal draw this season. They get the top three other contenders in the Coastal (Miami, Pitt, and UNC) all at home. Their crossover games are with a Syracuse team that is on its last gasp with Dino Babers and Louisville at home.
5. Returners on Offense
Virginia's top three receivers from last season, Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson, and Billy Kemp, are all back, and that continuity will really help when adapting to Tony Elliott's scheme. They also bring back linemen Bobby Haskins and Rywan Swoboda, both of whom graded out above-average by PFF for last season. There's a lot to like with the Cavaliers.
And finally as we get closer to the NFL Draft I’ll drop my overall Top 10 players regardless of team draft positions and needs. And a quarterback isn’t even close.
- OT Evan Neal, Alabama
- EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia
- EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
- OT Ickey Ekwonu, NC State
- WR Chris Olave, Ohio State
- CB Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati
- CB Derrick Stingley Jr., LSU
- DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
- LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
- S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame