Thursday, April 2, 2009

Linebacker U: How Do You Define It?

There has been some debate recently on what university should be rightfully deemed "Linebacker U". Though I am a huge Penn State fan I'll try to be as objective as I can.

First up is defining what makes a fanbase claim superiority at a position. And that really where everyone is getting lost in translation. Is it the university who has the best linebackers competing at the college level, earning individual accolades and being tops in the NCAA? Or is it the ones who may have the most upside and biggest impact on the big NFL stage? Can't two schools be "Linebacker U"? Based on the two different definitions I have to say yes.

Jack Ham is considered one of the best LBs in Penn State history.

While I wanted to quickly defend Penn State and decry Todd McShay for his latest piece, I instead left the keyboard alone. I let this statement that USC (or Miami) is really"Linebacker U" settle in. I reread McShay's article a few times and realized that it was in the absolute meaning of "Linebacker U" that we have a discrepancy. It's not hidden in the article; the point is made quite clear.
So, who currently owns the title "Linebacker U" in NFL scouting circles?
McShay is writing from the viewpoint of NFL scouts. They want to maximize a players potential and see who fits best for the NFL. As we have seen numerous times, great collegiate athletes aren't always the best professionals. Considering who the best LBs in the league are now - none of who played at Penn State - I'd have to say McShay is right. From an NFL standpoint, Penn State does not deserve the accolade of "Linebacker U".

Two time First Team All-American and Bednarik award winner.
But, in reality, Penn State became "Linebacker U" for the play of their LBs in college, not for their service as a professional. It remains difficult to argue that Penn State isn't "Linebacker U" based on their historically accurate dominance in the NCAA. Just look at this list. Two College Football Hall of Fame LBs, 13 different LBs have been First Team All-Americans (four of which were named to the team twice), and three straight Bednarik Award winners (2005-2007). Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman are adding to the legacy as we speak.

This "Linebacker U" argument (or any argument claiming positional superiority) has multiple sides. Best pros? Best college careers? For the latter its Penn State, bar none. A Nittany Lion sweep? Not so much.

The next big thing.

Letting my bias show a me the collegiate accolade means more. We are watching them play in college; we see them dominate. Who cares what they do in some NFL teams colors? Who cares what scouts think? If you are more of an NFL fan you may care less about college careers. However, die hard college football fans take this one to heart. I enjoy their three or four season in the blue and white. That's why Penn State is "Linebacker U", in my opinion. Go ahead and try to claim the title all you want, but history shows who's the best. In college, Penn State linebackers are second to none.

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