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2018 Pac-12 preseason linebacker unit rankings: Washington and USC home to the best backers

Ranking the Pac-12’s linebacker units going into the 2018 season.

NCAA Football: Fresno State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
  1. Washington (Ben Burr-Kirven Sr. Tevis Bartlett Sr. Ryan Bowman So. D.J. Beavers Jr.) The Huskies are deep and experienced at linebacker. Burr-Kirven and Bartlett are seniors and All-Pac-12 players. Bowman is emerging young standout and the depth after that is strong.
  2. USC (Cameron Smith Sr. John Houston Jr. Jr. Oluwole Betiku Jr. So. Jordan Iosefa Jr.) Smith is the conference’s best linebacker and the rest of the group is naturally blue chip talent. Betiku is one of the best veteran linebackers in the conference.
  3. Stanford (Bobby Okereke Sr. Mustafa Branch Sr. Joey Alfieri Sr. Casey Toohill Sr. Curtis Robinson Jr.) Okereke is a playmaker and the leader hear, but Alfieri is right there as well as a standout big hitter with great size. As the usual, the Stanford LB unit has great size and physicality.
  4. Oregon (Troy Dye Jr. Justin Hollins Sr. La’Mar Winston Jr. Jr. Bryson Young Jr.) Dye is a first round pick waiting to happen and the conference’s best linebacker at making plays in the backfield. Hollins is another good pass rusher himself and a great athlete on the edge.
  5. Colorado (Drew Lewis Sr. Rick Gamboa Sr. Nate Landman So. Akil Jones So.) This is an underrated group led by veterans Lewis and Gamboa who are All-Pac-12-level players. The group is great after that, but there’s a major lack of depth in every Pac-12 LB unit this year after Stanford.
  6. Arizona (Tony Fields So. Colin Schooler So. Anthony Pandy So. Jacob Colacion So.) This is a young group that really started to come together in 2017. Fields and Schooler are two of the best young backers in the conference and play behind an improving Arizona defensive line.
  7. Utah (Chase Hansen Sr. Donavan Thomas Jr. Cody Barton Sr. Chris Hart Jr.) Hansen was an All-Pac-12 safety and is now a really good linebacker. The rest of the group is experienced and physical.
  8. Washington State (Peyton Pelleur Sr. Jahad Woods So. Chima Onyeukwu Sr. Justus Rogers So.) Getting Pelleur back for a medical redshirt was huge as he’ll be one of the conference’s best veteran linebackers. Woods, Onyeukwu and Rogers and experienced and solid.
  9. Arizona State (Koron Crump Sr. Khaylan Thomas Jr. Tyler Whiley Sr. Jay Jay Wilson Sr.) Former All-Pac-12 players Crump is back for an extra year with a medical redshirt and gives this unit a huge bump. The rest of the unit isn’t as experienced of some of the others in the conference, but has great athleticism and potential.
  10. UCLA (Josh Woods Sr. Mique Juarez So. Lokeni Toailoa So. Krys Barnes Jr.) Like most UCLA units, a ton of talent here, but not a lot of proven great play. Juarez has the potential to become an All-American if he can put it together.
  11. Cal (Jordan Kunasyzk Sr. Malik Psalms Jr. Alex Funches Sr. Gerran Brown Jr.) Kunasyzk is a borderline All-Pac-12 player and Wilcox will get the most out of this unit, even if there are no household names in it.
  12. Oregon State (Andrzej Hughes-Murray Jr. Jonathan Willis Sr. Shermar Smith Jr. Doug Taumoelau So.) This is a great group to be ranked here. The conference is just strong in the bottom and middle at LB. AHM and Willis could easily make All-Pac-12.