There may not be the huge names like there have been in the past, but that doesn't mean there's any shortage of talent in this year's group of linebackers in the Big 12 Conference. If nothing else, the Big 12 returns a wealth of experience at the position which has seen its role altered arguably more than any other by the recent wave of pass-happy offenses. Today, Huskeronline.com ranks the Big 12's linebackers as we think they stand heading into fall camp.
There might not have been a better freshman at any position last season than Oklahoma's Travis Lewis. After redshirting in 2007, Lewis came onto the scene with a monster first season, racking up a school record 144 tackles (breaking Brian Bosworth's record) and earning first-team All-Big 12 and Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors. Against Texas, Lewis tied the OU record for the most tackles ever by an OU freshman with 19.
2. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri, 6-2, 245, Sr.
The face of Missouri's defense, Sean Weatherspoon has been one of the most consistent linebackers in the conference the past two seasons. After breaking out his sophomore year with 124 tackles in 2007, Weatherspoon got even better last year, racking up 149 stops, five sacks and three interceptions for the Tigers. At the rate he's been going, he could finish with one of the most productive individual defensive seasons in Big 12 history.
3. Joe Pawelek, Baylor, 6-2, 240, Sr.
Many are projecting Baylor's defense to be significantly better this season, and senior Joe Pawelek is one of the primary reasons why. A consensus first-team All-Big 12 selection, Pawelek is coming off one of the best seasons by a BU linebacker since Mike Singletary, as he put up 128 tackles (10.7 per game), six tackles for loss, six interceptions, seven breakups and five hurries. His six interceptions were the most by any linebacker in the country last year.
4. Roddrick Muckelroy, Texas, 6-2, 235, Sr.
With a name you can just hear Brent Musburger calling out after a big play, Texas's Roddrick Muckelroy fits right in in the long line of talented Longhorn linebackers. A second-team All-Big 12 selection last year, Muckelroy posted a team-high 112 tackles (71 solo) to go along with four TFL, six pressures, four pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown.
5. Keenan Clayton, Oklahoma, 6-1, 221, Sr.
Senior Keenan Clayton has steadily been climbing the ranks at Oklahoma the past four seasons, and this could be the year he finally breaks out. Clayton ranked third on the team last season with 84 tackles and his six forced fumbles on the year set a Sooner single-season record. Clayton also showed his versatility in pass coverage, as his nine pass breakups were the second most ever by an OU linebacker.