Sports in Kansas: 25 Linebackers to Watch for 2018

Alex Totta of Blue Valley returns after a huge season in 2017. (Photo: BV Touchdown Club)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 2, 2018

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Several linebackers return after having big seasons in 2017. Check out who to watch in 2018. This lists main purpose is to represent the entire state from nearly every class. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we will do this position by position. Chet Kuplen, Managing Partner of Sports in Kansas, and Ben Mitchum, Sports in Kansas contributor, compile lists and evaluate players (last years all state selections from Sports in Kansas, HUDL, camps/combines, input from other media/coaches) every year for every position which help compile this finalized list. This is not a recruiting list or prospect list and players are not ranked or in any special order.This list is powered by Rack Performance and Nex-Tech Wireless. Be on the lookout for our postseason honors after the 2018 season on who will be the Top 100 seniors in Kansas and who will make the Sports in Kansas All Non-Senior Team. If you ever have a player that you think we should take a look at be sure to DM @sportsinkansas or email at sportsinkansas@gmail.com

25 Linebackers to Watch (In alphabetical order, not ranked)

Brock Blessing, Great Bend Sr. LB & Blake Penka, Great Bend Sr. LB

Blessing and Penka both return for the Panthers after registering 162 combined tackles in 2017. Interesting enough they both had 81 tackles a piece. Along with Dalton Miller who returns in the defensive backfield, Great Bend has a lot of key pieces back for its defense in 2018. Should be two of the better linebackers back in the WAC.

Jerek Butcher, Pittsburg 6-0 225 Sr. LB & Dylan Jordan, Pittsburg 6-3 210 Sr. OLB

Butcher was a second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior last season at inside backer for the Dragons. He’s an athletic linebacker that is a three-sport starter for the Dragons, receiving honors in all three sports last year. Jordan may be the prospect you don’t know about and could emerge as a recruit this year with his size and speed. He is the 200-meter league champion in the SEK and loves to hit. These two will be one of the better linebacking duos in 4A this season.

Dhimani Butler, Goddard 5-11 190 Jr. LB & Kam’Ron Gonzalez, Goddard 5-10 220 Sr. LB

Gonzalez had 84 tackles and seven sacks last year for a loaded Goddard defensive unit as a junior. Butler had a breakout sophomore campaign in which he racked up 78 tackles with 3.5 sacks. These should be two linebackers worth checking out in the Wichita metro for 2018.

Dewade Black, Wichita East, 5-11 175 Sr. LB

Black was one of the few juniors to make GWAL honors in the city last year for the Blue Aces. He’s a very athletic linebacker with nice speed at 4.6 range 40 and a 36 inch vertical.

Josh Carter, Wichita Northwest 5-10 205 Sr. LB

Carter is pound for pound one of the strongest players in Kansas. He features a squat right around 600 pounds. He won’t pass the eye test for recruiters but he has been proving people wrong his whole life and racked up 143 tackles last year in leading Northwest to the 6A semifinals. He will be in contention with a few others to be the states top defensive player this season. Wichita Northwest defense has elevated itself to catch up with its offense and Carter is a huge reason why. Northwest moves down to 5A this season and will be a team to definitely keep an eye on. Add in Percelle Finch and Darius Cooper and you have a pretty solid cast of linebackers to go along with Oklahoma commit Marcus Hicks at defensive end.

Jared Casey, Plainville, 6-0 220 Jr. LB

Casey is one of the top small school junior athletes in the entire state of Kansas. He can also play just about any position needed. He can be a lineman if needed, can play running back, but his best position may be linebacker. He earned non-senior honors a year ago and was also one of the states top sophomore shot put throwers going 54 feet last spring. He was also an All-2A pick in basketball. Look for a huge year for the junior to be in the MCL.

Trey Charbonneau, Wichita Collegiate, 6-0 215 Sr. LB

Charbonneau was one of the top lienbackers in the loaded AVCTL-IV last season as a junior. He registered 91 tackles to go along with an interception. Look for him to have another big season in 2018. He features a 305 bench and a 28 inch vertical.

Nick Davenport, Ell-Saline 6-1 210 Sr. LB

Davenport gets it done on both sides of the football and has really looked good in the off-season. Although we think he may project as a linebacker at the next level, he did open our eye with how he can throw the deep ball this off-season. He’s also an outstanding wrestler and should be one of the top small school linebackers once again in 2018 after earning Non-Senior honors from Sports in Kansas on defense in 2018.

Jax Dineen, Free State, 5-11 235 Sr. LB & Malik Berry, Free State, 6-3 215 Jr. ATH/LB

More known as a running back/full back, he could easily be one of the states top linebackers if they decide to use him that way. Dineen, is a hard-nosed player that is one of the toughest and strongest in Kansas. He has several offers at the FBS or FCS level and should be utilized on both sides of the football for a loaded Free State squad in 2018. He was a first team Non-Senior pick from Sports in Kansas last fall as a junior. Both of his older brothers, Joe & Jay, are on the KU roster, where Joe is an All Big 12 linebacker. Malik Berry, who is a transfer quarterback to watch for out of the 2020 class, is another guy that could figure into some reps on defense at linebacker or strong safety if needed and is a guy we see generating an FBS offer this season as an ATH.

Dylan Downing, Bishop Miege, 6-1 225 Sr. LB

Downing was the Sports in Kansas Non-Senior Defensive Player of the Year for the Stags last year as he tallied 142 tackles. He has been playing since he has been a freshman and could emerge with an FBS offer this season. The underrated linebacker has been one of the best defensive players in the entire state the last two seasons as Miege goes for its fifth consecutive state title.

Gabe Garber, Sabetha, 5-10 175 Jr. LB

He doesn’t have flashy size for a linebacker but Garber is all over the field with 123 tackles in 2017. He was an all 3A pick last year as a sophomore and picked off the pass to win the state title for the Bluejays in 2017. He was also the Sports in Kansas 3A Baseball Player of the Year last spring as he helped his team to the 2018 3A state title. He will be one of the top small school multiple sport athletes along with his teammate, Elliott Strahm, the 2017 3A Sports in Kansas Defensive Player of the Year, in 2018-2019. Cauy Rokey will also be an All-3A caliber linebacker returning this season for the Bluejays after registering nearly 100 stops last year.

Dagen Goodner, Humboldt, 6-0 210 Sr. LB

Goodner had 105 tackles last fall for the Cubs, including 10 tackles for loss in just 10 games. He also doubles as an all-state baseball player for Humboldt. The Cubs will play in 2A this fall and arguably have the top overall sports facilities in Kansas when you consider football, baseball and softball.

Kaleb Hagans, Thomas More Prep, Sr. LB & Palmer Hutchison, Hays, 6-1 200 Sr. LB

The city of Hays gets a combo pick here. Hagans had a huge junior campaign in which he led his team with 148 tackles and ranked near the top across the state in tackles. Expect another big year for the 2019 linebacker out of Hays. Hutchison was a first team All-Western Athletic Conference linebacker for the Indians in 2017. Also, a baseball player, he should be one of the top returning linebackers in Western Kansas this fall.

Quinton Hicks, Campus, 6-3 230 Sr. LB

Hicks, who has committed to South Dakota State, was a Sports in Kansas Non-Senior pick at linebacker last fall. He was part of a group that has help revive Campus football. Several of those key pieces are back again for 2018. Although committed at the FCS level, would not be surprised one bit if an FBS offer generates for Hicks early in the season with a big start.

Cade Lautt, St. James Academy, 5-9 205 Jr. LB

Lautt led the Thunder in tackles a sophomore last fall. He is also a two-time all-state wrestler. He is one of the strongest guys on this page as he squatted 505 pounds this week, a new school record in his weight class. His brother, Clay, is a starting wrestler for the UNC Tarheels and won three state titles for SJA. He will also double as a fullback.

Cade Lindsey, Derby, Sr. LB & Jacob Ormsby, Derby, Sr. LB

Lindsay was a second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior last season as well as an all league pick for the Panthers who took second in 6A. He is an athletic linebacker that is a bit undersized on the outside but makes up for it with his toughness. Lindsey is also a state wrestling champion. Ormsby, also a state qualifier in wrestler, doubles as a solid linebacker for the Panthers. He was a second team all league pick last season for the Panthers. Both of these guys returning is big time for the Panthers in 2018.

Bo Messenheimer, Aquinas, Sr. LB

Messenheimer was a big part of the 5A state runner-up defense as a junior last fall. He will be depended upon heavily in 2018 on a defensive unit that features a lot of returning talent, especially on the line. He was a second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior last fall for the Saints.

Austin Moore, Louisburg, 6-0 215 Sr. LB & Brendan Ohlmeier, Paola, 5-11 180 Sr. LB

The Frontier is one of the best 4A leagues in the state over the years and we go with a combo pick of its top two returning linebackers in the league. Moore is a player worth checking out on both sides of the football this year. He has 4.7 speed, 32-inch vertical and also did 18 reps on 225-bench at the Sharp Performance Combine last March. He also had over 100 tackles last year for the Wildcats. Expect a big year from Moore in the Frontier League this season. Ohlmeier was a first team Frontier league pick last season along with Moore and registered over 90 tackles last fall for the Panthers. He is a bit undersized but he’s always around the football and an intense linebacker who returns for a big senior season in 2018.

Reece Morss, Garden City, 6-1 230 Sr. LB

Morss was one of the most talented and athletic linebackers we saw last year. He really stood out for the Holcomb Longhorns in the 4A-II state championship game. He has since transferred to Garden City to play his senior season. We didn’t hear much on him from the camp circuit this summer, but had he camped its likely an offer would have generated. He’s a big talent and should really help out Garden City in 2018 after having 107 tackles in just 11 games last fall.

CKL Linebackers. Wyatt Pedigo, Hoisington, 6-0 185 Jr. LB, Hunter Jones, Nickerson, 6-3 180 Sr. LB, Kadence Riner, Pratt, 5-10 165 Sr., John Molitor, Kingman, Sr. LB, Parker Roth, Hesston, 5-11 205 Sr. LB, Kaden Kraus, Halstead Soph. LB

Running back and linebacker always seem to be loaded in this league. Pedigo is an undersized linebacker that should be one of the top small school linebackers in Western Kansas for 2018. He was the 2018 3-2-1A state wrestling champion at 182 lbs this past March. Expect a big year for the 2020 linebacker out of Hoisington. Jones was a first team All-CKL pick last season as Nickerson saw some success in the loaded league. Molitor was a second team All-CKL pick last season for Kingman along with Kadence Riner of Pratt. Travis Theis could be a linebacker as well but more of a SS/DB pick. Parker Roth is known for offense but also returns after earning all-league at linebacker. Kraus had over 130 tackles last year for the Halstead Dragons and will be one of the top linebackers in the CKL after learning all league honors in 2018.

Darin Robertson, Gardner Edgerton, 6-0 200 Sr. LB

Robertson was at Blue Valley North in the fall, Labette County in the spring and now at Gardner Edgerton. His mothers job had him in multiple places but he’s ultimately back in the KC market and will play for Gardner Edgerton 1st year HC Ben Cornelsen and his former trainer, Mark Simoneau, an assistant and strength coach at Gardner. Robertson was an All-EKL pick for the 6A champion BV North Mustangs last fall and also Sports in Kansas Non-Senior honors. He is a very good weight room kid and may be undersized to D1 recruiters, but the kid can play football. Also has 4.5-4.6 range 40 with a vertical jump of 37 inches.

Sam Payne, Topeka Seaman, Sr. LB

Payne was a first team All-Centennial pick last season for the Vikings and should be the top returning linebacker in the Topeka area for 2018. He also earned honorable mention all-state in 5A.

Sage Siperda, Mill Valley, 6-1 215 Jr. LB & Chase Shyrock, Mill Valley, 6-1 190 Sr. LB

Siperda was a tackle machine last season for the Jaguars, earning All-EKL honors and second team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior honors. He had a team-leading 128 stops in 2017. Shyrock also had a huge year in which he tallied 99 stops from his middle linebacker position.

Tyler Stottle, SM East, 6-1 180 Sr. LB

Another kid that isn’t going to pass the recruiting eye test because of size at linebacker but he can flat out play, earning first team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior honors as a junior in 2017. He was also an All Sunflower League pick. He returns to lead a defense along with DE P.J. Spencer and DB Isaiah Wright. He could ultimately project as a strong safety at the next level. He’s also grown about an inch and a half and added 15 pounds from last season. Stottle is very athletic and features a 35.5” vertical.

Alex Taylor, SM North, 6-1 200 Sr. OLB

Taylor has flown under the radar due to his team not having a lot of success but we expect him to be the leader of a defense under first year head coach Zach Rampy. Taylor is always around the football, loves to hit and is strong for his size. Taylor is not going to miss many tackles and has an eye for where the play is. Expect a big year with a lot of tackles in the SFL for the SM North 2019 outside backer.

Sam Thomas, Andover Central 6-2 210 Sr. LB

Thomas had a huge junior season in which he racked up 112 tackles and four TFLs in 2017. He is an under the radar linebacker that could be one of the top linebackers in the Wichita area for 2018.

Alex Totta, Blue Valley 5-10 175 Sr. LB

Totta had 143 tackles last season for the Tigers and was a first team Sports in Kansas Non-Senior pick at linebacker. He could also double as a valuable member of the Tigers backfield in 2018. He was also a first team 6A selection in 2018.

Other Returnees to Watch:

Tucker Branum – Colby, Percelle Finch – Wichita Northwest, David Hernandez – Manhattan, Hunter Boone – PrairieView, , Carter Greenfield – Santa Fe Grail, Joseph Helton – Galena, Mycah Ritchie – Osage City, , Aaron Guerrero – Hutch Trinity, Scott Urban – Perry Lecompton, Jordan Schippers – Colby, Drake Whealy – Chaparral, Marshall Randall – Horton, Kade Miller – Osborne, Tanner Groene – Central Burden, Caden Bach – Northern Valley, Justin Basart – Stockton, Cade Cohorst – Hanover, Garrett Dalinghaus – Frankfort, Jack Hungerford – Blue Valley Northwest, Jake Lamfers – BV Southwest, Ben Coates – BV West, Grant Roush – Perry Lecompton, Joel Huftles – Wetmore, Hayden Robb-  Perry Lecompton, Luke Orender – Colgan, Cauy Rokey – Sabetha, Corbin Ingrim – Towanda Circle, Ronald Micel – Wichita County, , Kade Scott – Pawnee Heights, Dalton Harvey – Chapman, Brice Nittler – Arkansas City, David Cramer – Dighton, Grant Gwinner – Ellsworth, Ryan Jarmer – Garden City, Randall McKinnis – Neodesha, Angel Guzman – Ness City, Jonathan Hundley – Atchison, Brady Trimble – Valley Heights, Nick Stutsman – Northern Valley, Chandler Humble – Girard, Kasen Keeten – Phillipsburg, Jalen Basart – Stockton, Carter Bruna – Hanover, Hesston Maxwell – Smith Center, Anthony Delgado – Emporia, Storm Slupianek – Marysville, Isaac Salmans – Hodgeman County, Dwan Washington – Olathe East, Lane Warczakowski – Olathe East, Cole Manning – Olathe Northwest, Cort Elliott – Smoky Valley, Brandon Ammons – SM North, Mac Brand – Andale, Nolan Thimmesch – SM South, Treyvon Gilliard – SM West, Seth Drennan – Leavenworth, Caleb Mondi – Lawrence, Joey Suopiset – Great Bend, Peyton Wiggs – Olathe South, Carson Cox – Beloit, Jay Fisher – Derby, Dihmani Butler – Goddard, DeAndre Anderson – Topeka, Carson Klingerman – Topeka, Zach Goodeyon – Aquinas, Reece Hurla – St. Mary’s, Kaden Mckee – Pleasanton, Joseph Mohr – SM East, Devin Marx – Andale, Zane Colson – Rock Hills, Rylee Whelchel – Rock Hills, Nolan Ewing – Spring Hill, Jahbreel Rounds – Wichita Northwest, Malaki Karibo – Wichita South, Seth Golden – Eisenhower, Dominik Kethcum – Augusta, Honestee Whittaker – McPherson, Cole Manning – Olathe NW, Caleb Reichenberger – Wellington, Zachary Dressler – Douglass, Gage Clothier – Frontenac, Brady Myers – Sterling, Aaron Guererro – Hutch Trinity, Masen McDaniel – A&A, Garrett Burns – Central Christian, Alex Markus – Pretty Prairie, Neal Gugelmeyer – South Barber, David Hernandez – Manhattan, Tyce Brown – Shawnee Heights, Robert Houston – Manhattan, Tyler Lindquist – Emporia, Tyler Ladson – Washburn Rural, Nate Adler – Wichita Trinity, Blake Hinrichs – Olpe, Morgan Raines – Oakley, Kolby Stein – Spearville, Cade Cohorst – Hanover, Branden Ammons – SM South, Javon Wheeler – Wichita Northwest, Carter Neis – Eudora, Zach Flowers – Baldwin, Cy Hockey – Baldwin, Connor Searcy – Tonagnoxie, Cameron Bates – Turner, Nolan Ford – Basehor Linwood, Andrew Puckett – Bonner Springs, Luke Barger – De Soto, Lucas Nascimento – De Soto, Mason Thrash – McPherson, Tyson Villalpando – Minneapolis, Rudy Rodriguez – SE Saline, Grant Gwinner – Ellsworth, Conlon Bruggeman – Jackson Heights, Jared Thibault – Maur Hill-MA.