Draft preview: Linebackers

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Carolina picked Dan Connor in the third round of last year's draft, making him the sixth linebacker drafted by the Panthers since 2005. (PHOTO: ANDREW MASON / PANTHERS.COM)


LINEBACKERS FROM THE CAROLINAS:

Stanley Arnoux, Wake ForestHeight: 6-feet - Weight: 232 poundsNFL.com bio | Wake ForestSports.com bio

Wake Forest's middle linebacker finished his senior season with 89 total tackles. 5.5 stops for losses, 1.5 sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery ... Became full-time starter as a sophomore, helping Wake Forest to an ACC championship and Orange Bowl appearance ... Had the second-fastest 40-yard dash time among linebackers at the Combine (4.61 seconds); only former Demon Deacons teammate Aaron Curry was faster ... Logged 19 bench-press repetitions ... Had a vertical jump of 10 feet, one inch; that was third-best among linebackers.

Jasper Brinkley, South CarolinaHeight: 6-foot-2 - Weight: 252 poundsNFL.com bio | GamecocksOnline.com bio

Twin brother of Panthers defensive end ... Recovered from a torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered in 2007 to earn first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors last fall after amassing 107 tackles ... Clocked in at 4.72 seconds at the Scouting Combine, placing him sixth among linebackers ... Also had the seventh-best tally on the bench press (26 repetitions) and the fourth-best vertical jump (35.5 inches) at his position.

Aaron Curry, Wake ForestHeight: 6-foot-2 - Weight: 254 poundsNFL.com bio | WakeForestSports.com bio

Last year's Butkus Award winner ... A four-year starter for the Deacons ... Had 105 total tackles, 16 tackles for losses, three fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and an interception as a senior ... Helped Wake Forest earn three consecutive bowl trips for the first time in school history ... Posted the fastest 40-yard dash of any linebacker at the Combine (4.56 seconds) ... Also had the best vertical jump (37 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, four inches) among Combine linebackers ... Was eighth at his position in bench-press repetitions (25) ...

Dannell Ellerbe, GeorgiaHeight: 6-foot-1 - Weight: 236 poundsNFL.com bio | GeorgiaDogs.com bio

Had his senior season truncated by a knee injury, which sidelined him for games against Tennessee, Vanderbilt and LSU ... Had 33 total tackles, six stops for losses and two sacks as a senior ... Played in all 13 of the Bulldogs' games as a junior and had career highs in tackles (93), tackles for losses (12) and sacks (4.5) ... A product of Richmond County (N.C.) High School.


INSIDE LINEBACKERS FROM AROUND THE NATION:

Darry Beckwith, LSUHeight: 6-feet - Weight: 242 poundsNFL.com bio | LSUSports.net bio

Two-time second-team All-SEC selection ... Was limited to 10 games as a senior because of a knee injury ... Became a starter in his sophomore season, lining up at weakside linebacker before moving to the middle midway through the season ... Had 65 tackles as a sophomore, 65 as a junior and 51 as a senior ... At the Combine, ran the 40-yard dash at 4.79 seconds.

Brian Cushing, Southern CaliforniaHeight: 6-foot-3 - Weight: 243 poundsNFL.com bio | USCTrojans.com bio

First-team All-Pacific 10 and second-team All-American last year ... Finished his senior season with 73 tackles -- 10.5 of which were for losses -- three sacks, six pass deflections, a forced fumble and an interception ... A strongside linebacker for all but one season at USC; he spent his sophomore campaign as a stand-up defensive end; that year he posted a career-high 13.5 tackles for losses ... Led all linebackers at the Combine in the bench press (30 repetitions) and the three-cone drill (6.84 seconds).

James Laurinaitis, Ohio StateHeight: 6-foot-2 - Weight: 244 poundsNFL.com bio | OhioStateBuckeyes.com bio

Three-time first-team All-American ... Won the Butkus Award in 2007 ... Averaged 10.0 tackles per game as a senior and logged 366 stops over his career in Columbus ... Started the last three seasons for the Buckeyes ... Clocked at 4.88 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine ... Logged 22 repetitions on the bench press.

Rey Maualuga, Southern CaliforniaHeight: 6-foot-2 - Weight: 249 poundsNFL.com bio | USCTrojans.com bio

First-team All-American, Bednarik Award winner and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year last year after making 79 tackles, four pass deflections and two interceptions ... Two-time All-Pac 10 selection ... Became USC's starting middle linebacker as a sophomore (2006) ... Had 78 stops as a sophomore and 79 in each of his last two seasons ... Had three double-digit tackle games as a senior and two more as a senior ... Had his Combine workout end with a leg injury suffered while running the 40-yard dash.

OTHER INSIDE LINEBACKERS TO WATCH:

Anthony Felder, California
Scott McKillop, Pittsburgh
Jason Phillips, Texas Christian
Morris Wooten, Arizona State


OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS FROM AROUND THE NATION:

Marcus Freeman, Ohio StateHeight: 6-feet - Weight: 239 poundsNFL.com bio | OhioStateBuckeyes.com bio

Two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection ... Amassed 105 tackles the last two seasons ... ... First became Ohio State's starting strongside linebacker in 2006, his redshirt sophomore season ... Took a redshirt in 2005 after injuring his knee in the season opener after playing as a true freshman in 2004 ... Posted a 4.74-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, seventh-best among linebackers ... Led all at his position in the bench press (30 repetitions; tied with two others).

Clay Matthews, Southern CaliforniaHeight: 6-foot-3 - Weight: 240 poundsNFL.com bio | USCTrojans.com bio

In 2004, he walked on to the USC program as a redshirt freshman. In 2006, he earned a scholarship. In 2008, he became a starter at defensive end while also lining up at linebacker, finishing the year as a second-team All-PAC 10 choice and Senior Bowl invitee ... Finished the year with 56 tackles -- including nine for losses -- and 4.5 sacks with two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal ... Was the team's Co-Special Teams Player of the Year twice (2006 and 2007) ... Had the second-best times among linebackers in the short shuttle (4.18 seconds) and the three-cone drill (6.90 seconds), the third-best broad jump (10 feet, one inch) and the fourth-best 40-yard dash time (4.67 seconds) and vertical jump (35.5 inches) ... Second-generation USC product whose father (Clay) and uncle (Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce) played for the Trojans; an older brother also played for them earlier this decade.

Tyrone McKenzie, South FloridaHeight: 6-foot-2 - Weight: 243 poundsNFL.com bio | GoUSFBulls.com bio

First-team All-Big East selection as a senior ... Led the Bulls in tackles in each of his two seasons with them (121 stops in 2007 and 116 in 2008); he transferred to USF from Iowa State in order to be near his mother, who was struggling with health issues. The NCAA granted him a hardship waiver, meaning he did not have to sit out a season in the process of transferring ... Nearly doubled his tackles-for-loss tally in 2008, increasing it from 7.5 to 14.5 ... His 27 bench-press repetitions were fifth-best among Combine linebackers ... Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds.

Clint Sintim, VirginiaHeight: 6-foot-3 - Weight: 256 poundsNFL.com bio | VirginiaSports.com bio

Led the nation's linebackers with 11 sacks as a senior, which followed a nine-sack campaign in 2007 ... Started all four of his seasons with the Cavaliers ... Had 43 tackles for losses and was credited with 27 sacks during his career ... Did not finally earn any all-conference recognition until his senior year, when he was a second-team All-ACC selection ... Ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds at the Combine.

OTHER OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS TO WATCH:

Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin
Moise Fokou, Maryland
Zack Follett, California
Mortty Ivy, West Virginia
DeAndre Levy, Wisconsin
Kaluka Maiava, Southern California
Josh Mauga, Nevada
Gerald McRath, Southern Mississippi
Lee Robinson, Alcorn State
Worrell Williams, California


PANTHERS DRAFT HISTORY:

Carolina's draft investment in linebackers has increased the last four years, with the team selecting six linebackers since 2005 -- an average of 1.5 per year. Two of those selections were first-round picks, both of whom are now first-teamers: Thomas Davis (a 2005 pick who was also listed as a safety when he was drafted) and 2007 selection Jon Beason. The two third-rounders selected by the Panthers in that span are still with the team: James Anderson (2006), who signed his restricted free agent tender on April 20, and Dan Connor, who spent the final 13 regular-season games beginning his recovery and rehabilitation from a torn knee ligament.

The Panthers have selected linebackers nearly twice as frequently since 2005 as they did in their first 10 drafts; they picked eight linebackers then -- an average of 0.8 per season. But the Panthers have bypassed linebackers entirely just once in the last 12 years: in 2003.

**CAROLINA PANTHERS ALL-TIME DRAFTEES: LINEBACKERS**
YEARROUNDPICK NO.PLAYERCOLLEGE
1997387Kinnon TatumNotre Dame
19974122Tarek SalehWisconsin
19985136Jerry JensonWashington
19994100Hannibal NaviesColorado
20007221Lester TownsWashington
2001111Dan MorganMiami (Fla.)
2002373Will WitherspoonGeorgia
20046196Sean TuftsColorado
2005114Thomas DavisGeorgia
20055149Adam SewardUNLV
2006388James AndersonVirginia Tech
2007125Jon BeasonMiami (Fla.)
20075164Tim ShawPenn State
2008374Dan ConnorPenn State

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