Sports in Kansas: 25 Linebackers to Watch for 2019

Storm Slupianek & Garron Champoux are ready for a huge senior year for Marysville. (submitted photo)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 27, 2019

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Several linebackers return after having big seasons in 2018. Check out who to watch in 2019. 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, CEO/Founder of Sports in Kansas, evaluates players every year based on performance from prior year, our all-state lists from last year and events (camps/combines) he sees players across the state with input from several coaches and media members. 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, Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement and Kansas Turf. Be on the lookout for our postseason honors after the 2019 season on who will be the Top 100 seniors in Kansas and who will make the Sports in Kansas All Non-Senior Team. While its impossible for us to check out every player in the state, we have a pretty good track record at going into detail like no other outlet in the state. If you ever have a player that you think we should take a look at be sure to DM @sportsinkansas or sportsinkansas@gmail.com as tips coming in can always help out on who we should check out! If you are interested in a player evaluation contact Chet Kuplen by TEXT at 620-719-0283 or email sportsinkansas@gmail.com. Several player evaluations landed major offers over the last eight football seasons. 

25 Linebackers To Watch for 2019

(LIST IS NOT RANKED) 

Mason Thrash, McPherson, 6-2 210 Sr.

Thrash had just 70 tackles last season but keep in mind he only played in halves of seven games due to blowouts. He has the physicality and smarts to be one of the best playmakers in the state this season. Mac is a major contender to get to the title game in 4A this season.

Tony Lunson, Olathe South, 5-10 190 Sr.

Lunson was a first team All-6A pick last season as a junior for the Falcons after racking up nearly 40 tackles.

Jared Casey, Plainville, 6-0 220 Sr.

Casey is one of the states top small school multiple sport athletes and returns after making over 90 tackles as a junior last fall. He is all state in basketball, football and track.  Casey returns with senior Jordan Finnessy to make Plainville a serious contender in 1A for 2019. The MCL is always loaded with talent and he certainly fits that mold.

Wyatt Pedigo, Hoisington, 6-1 225 Sr.

Likely the top returning two-way football player in the state and pound for pound one of the toughest players in Kansas. Already a two time state champion in wrestling, he is the 2018 Sports in Kansas Co-DPOY as a Non-Senior. He also earned 2A offensive player of the year after rushing for over 2,000 yards as a junior last fall. He has committed to play Division I football at the University of North Dakota at the FCS level.

Jashon Taylor, Dodge City, 5-9 185 Sr.; Gavin Meyers, Hays, 6-2 195 Soph.

The WAC will have some playmakers in 2019. Taylor will be one of the top linebackers in the WAC for 2019 after registering nearly 100 tackles last season as a junior. Meyers started six games a freshman last fall and racked up over 50 tackles. Coach Tony Crough thinks Meyers has a shot to be a very special athlete for Hays High as he took fourth in state wrestling and third in javelin as a freshman last fall.

Cade Lautt, St. James Academy, 5-10 220 Sr.

Lautt is one of the most physical players in the state and passes the eye test. The returning SIK Non-Senior Co-POY along with Wyatt Pedigo of Hoisington is primed for a huge senior season. He has committed to wretle at the University of North Carolina where his older brother Clay is currently on the team.

Dhimani Butler, Goddard, 5-11 225 Sr., Carter Morrow, Goddard, 6-3 210 Sr., Kaeden Hofer, Goddard, Sr.

Butler registered over 100 tackles in leading Goddard to the 4A state championship game last year where they took runner-up. He will be depended upon heavily to try to get the Lions back into the title game for the second year in a row. Morros is a hybrid type that can play most spots on offense or defense.  He features a 36.5-inch vertical. Kaeden Hofer also returns after registering 76 tackles last season and will be a force on either side of the ball.

Mac Brand, Andale, 5-9 190 Sr., Caden Parmether, Andale, Sr.

Andale has quite the group of players back this year defensive at all three levels and these two add to that. Brand also doubles as a breakout player on the offense but had a huge year last season in earning league MVP honors. Parmether will be a nice compliment next to him. The Indians should be a major contender in 3A.

Malik Berry, Free State, 6-3 220 Sr.

Where exactly he will play is yet to be determined as he could play just about any spot outside of lineman on the football field. He is being recruited as an outside backer at the next level at the FBS level but could also shine at a safety spot and is a quarterback. There’s not much Berry cant do.

Garron Champoux, Marysville, 5-11 190 Sr., Storm Slupianek, Marysville, Sr.

Champoux was a first team all state pick in 3A last season after registering 144 tackles as a junior. Slupianek led the team in tackles as a sophomore and had just over 100 last season. The two should form one of the best linebacking crews in the small school ranks of Kansas. Both also shine in multiple sports as the two took second individually in state wrestling for the 4A state champion Bulldogs. Slupianek is also an all-state baseball player while Champoux all-state in track and field.

Ashton Ngo, Andover, Jr., Chandler Goodnight, Soph.; Jack Wiens, Andover Central; Trey Degarmo, Andover Central

The city of Andover has some solid backers back in 2019. Ngo racked up over 80 tackles last season in earning SIK second team Non-Senior honors as a sophomore last fall for the Trojans. He returns with a solid cast of defenders this season that include sophomore Chandler Goodnight who earned all-state honorable mention last season as a freshman. Wiens had over 130 tackles last season while DeGarmo had nearly 100 stops.

Manowa Ngenzirabona, Schlagle, Sr.

He was his conferences defensive player of the year last season and features great speed in the 4.5-4.6 range at his position. He also gets it done in the class room with a 3.5 GPA. He had 144 tackles last season

Isaac Hilt, Wellington, 5-11 200 Sr.

The Wellington junior was a first team All-4A selection last year. On paper, Wellington looks to have one of the best defense in the 4A West this season with the defensive lineman and linebackers they return. They’ll also return Zane Cornejo for 2019.

Mikey Welsh, Miege, 6-0 200 Sr.; Tim Foster, BV North, 6-2 210 Sr., Nick Hafford, BV North, Sr.; Elias Carson, Aquinas, Jr.

While Cade Lautt, listed earlier in this list, may be the top returning linebacker in all of Kansas and the EKL, the league will have to have some players step up in 2019 as it was hammered by graduation with players like Dylan Downing (Miege), Chase SHyrock  (Mill Valley), Sage Siperda (Mill Valley), Alex Totta (Blue Valley), Bo Messeheiemer (Aquinas) and Zach Goodeyon (Aquinas) all gone. Now it’s time for some new names to shine. Mikey Welsh of Miege was an honorable mention all-league pick last season and could be looking for a big senior year. Tim Foster was also a non-senior from SIK and could have another big season. Nick Hafford had an honorable mention season a year ago for BV North along with Foster as they led their team to a 6A runner-up finish. Carson can play outside backer or defensive back and will look to step up after STA was hit heavy by graduation.

Garrett Dalinghaus, Frankfort, 6-0 180 Sr., Easton Dent, St. Paul, 6-2 205 Sr.; Eli Salmans, Hodgeman County, 6-2 205 Sr.

8-man has some talent back at linebacker once again in 2019. Dailinghaus will be one of the top two-way players in 8-man football for 2019 after earning non-senior honors on defense from SIK last season. Look for a big year for the senior. Easton Dent should be one of the better linebackers in 8M-II for 2019 as the class has been hit heavy by graduation. St. Paul should also be a team worth looking for with the return of Adam Albertini who had 60 touchdowns last season. Salmans will be one of the best two-way players in 8-man this season as he returns after an all-state year on the offense but will be asked to do big things defensively along with his younger brother Isaac, a 6’3”, 215-pound, quarterback and defensive end for Hodgeman County.

Brandon Martin, KC Piper, 6-0 190 Jr. ; Evan Peuser, Paola, Sr.; Conner Searcy, Tonganoxie, Sr.

Martin led the state of Kansas in tackles last season with 159 tackles. The junior is primed for a big year again in 2019 after earning 4A all-state honors as a sophomore last fall. Peuser is back after earning All-Frontier League first team honors in a loaded league as Paola returns several key pieces. Searcy who has battled injuries should be a breakout player this season on offense as a tight end and defense as a linebacker with his 6’2” 230-pound size.

Hunter Boone, Prairie View, Sr.; Abe Siebenmorgen, Maur Hill-MA, Sr., Iverson Bello, Chaparral, Sr.; Carson Cox, Beloit, Sr.; Cale Goodman, Scott City, Sr.; Mason Perez, Larned, Sr.; Will Devader, Hayden, Jr.; Colby Hoelting, Olpe, Sr.

Here are a few small school players 3A and below that we expect to have big years. Boone was one of the top 3A linebackers last fall for the Buffaloes. The hard-nosed senior is looking for another all-state caliber season in 2019. Siebenmorgen had over 130 tackles last year for Maur Hill-MA and looks for a solid year this season in Class 2A. He had 19.5 tackles for loss. Bello had 115 stops last season for the Roadrunners and will look to lead the defense after all-state defensive back Jake Burke graduated. Cox should be one of the better small school linebackers for 2019. He registered over 90 tackles last season as a junior and will be a three-year starter for the Trojan program. Goodman registered over 100 tackles last season on his way to earning first team All-GWAC honors. Perez could be one of the most underrated players in the smaller ranks of Kansas and could have a big year for Larned. He enters his third year as a starter and is a talented multiple sport athlete. Although Hayden, located in the city of Topeka, isn’t really considered a small school as it plays in a big time league with 6A/5A, it is still class 3A by enrollment Will Devader led Hayden in tackles a year ago as a sophomore and will be depended upon heavily in 2019 as they look to make some noise in 3A. Hoelting had 106 tackles last year for the 1A Eagles as he also shined at the quarterback spot with over 1,000 yards.

Koy Kenny, Ulysses, 6-1 195 Jr.

Kenny was one of the top sophomores in Western Kansas last fall as he earned second team non-senior honors from Sports in Kansas.

Norman Massey, Wichita East, Sr.; Jeremiah Brown, Wichita West, Sr., Jacob Younkman, Wichita Nortwhest, Jr.; Darrius Cooper, Wichita Northwest, Jr.

Massey was a second team all league selection last year and has nice size and speed at the position at 6’2” and 205 pounds. Brown was a first team all league selection last year for the Pioneers. Younkman had a breakout sophomore season last year as did Cooper with a solid sophomore campaign in earning all-league second team and honorable mention honors as the Grizzlies took second in 5A. With Josh Carter gone from Wichita Northwest, the league is looking for a premier linebacker in 2019. It could come from this short list of players.

Gabe Garber, Sabetha, 5-10 175 Sr.; Drew Schmelze, Sabetha, 6-4 195 Jr.

Garber will be a four-year starter for the back-to-back state champion Bluejays. He has also been a two-time all-state selection at linebacker. In addition to being the Sabetha quarterback, Garber will also lead the Sabetha defense in 2019. He is also a two-time all-state pick in baseball for the back-to-back state champion baseball team. You could also see a very solid year out of Drew Schmelze who should step up after a multiple sport all league year last year as a sophomore and has great size at 6-foot-4. He doubles as a tight end. With Cauy Rokey gone expect both of their numbers to go up. Sabetha will also have to replace Top 11 selection Elliott Strahm who is now at Kansas State as a defensive tackle 

Brock Hofer, Basehor Linwood, 6-1 200 Sr., Luke Barger, De Soto, 6-2 220 Sr.

A couple of United Kansas picks here. Hofer had a breakout junior year last year for the Bobcats and will be depended upon heavily to be an all-state caliber of player in 2019. Barger earned first team all conference honors as a junior last fall in leading the Wildcats in tackles in 2019. De Soto has some very solid pieces back defensively that include Barger and strong safety Shane Watts. He has great size at 6-foot-2 and close to 220-pounds.

Uciph McDaniel, Topeka, Sr.; J.P. Deeter, Topeka Soph

Could be one of the top linebacker duos in 6A this season. McDaniel is being recruited at the FCS level where he has offers while Deeter is a sophomore looking to put himself on the map after starting as a freshman. McDaniel is 6’1.5” and 235 pounds while Deeter is 6’3.5” and 235 pounds.There’s a ton of hype on Topeka High coming into the year, will this be the year they can get by a program like Derby on the West?

Cole Mondi, Lawrence, Jr.

Mondi has been playing since his freshman year and could be a breakout player this season in the Sunflower League for head coach Steve Rampy. He can be a defensive back or linebacker after earning all-league honorable mention as a sophomore last fall.

Albert Caba, Junction City, Sr.; Kazerick Smith, Junction City, Sr.

This pair of small backers from the same school in the Centennial League earned second team all-conference honors one season ago. Expect them to be two of the better backers in a league that is always loaded full of talented defenders. Caba is just 160 pounds while Smith is 180 pounds and both stand in the 5’7” range.

Hybrids. Nate Matlack, Olathe East, Sr., Penne Saili, Jefferson West, Jr., Beau Baumgardner, Emporia, Sr.; Beau Palmer, Blue Valley, Sr., Sam Roark, Pittsburg, Sr.

Although these guys will be listed on multiple lists they can fit into this position.  Matlack is listed on the defensive line list as an edge player, he could also double as a backer as he has played both defensive end and linebacker in his career. The Kansas State commit is a freak athlete that is a hybrid on the defensive side of the ball. Saili may be asked to play more of a linebacker role this season as the line up front could be handled by his older brother Kaul and younger brother Danny. Linebacker will likely be best fit for his size at the next level. Beau Baumgardner is more of a safety type but could fit into an outside backer role if needed as he was an all-conference pick for Emporia last season. Palmer is more of a defensive back but could project as a linebacker at the next level with his size at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He will look to lead a BV defense that returns several solid players whether he is playing safety or linebacker. Roark is a solid defender for the Purple Dragons that figures to either play a linebacker spot or strong safety, so he can play either level of defense. With the departure of players like Jerek Butcher (KU) and Dylan Jordan (TCU) he may be asked to be used to fill the void of linebacker. Ethan Weidert also returns and is pound for pound one of the stronger linebackers in the state as he is a state powerlifting champ.

 

Other Top Linebackers to Watch in Kansas from Sports in Kansas:

Israel Torrez – Salina Central, Ian Stubbs – Buhler, Carson Caldwell – Mill Valley, Bryce Krone – Bonner Springs, Doug Grider – Halstead, Will DeVader – Topeka Hayden, Iverson Bello – Chaparral, Abe Siebenmorgen – Maur Hill, Gerardo Rathburn – Belle Plaine, Chayde Snyder – South Central, Jonathan Wright – Conway Springs, Izak Castro – SW Heights, Brady Myers – Sterling, John Nowak – Garden Plain, Riley Watkins – Jackson Heights, Carson Liebst – Medicine Lodge, Dustin Tobler – Lyndon, Chance O’Hair – Elkhart, Cael Budke – Chase County, Brandon Huff – Canton-Galva, Jarred Bieberle – Central Plains, Shadryon Blanka – St. Francis, Austin Holthaus – Centralia, Tee Preisner – Northern Heights, Zane Cornejo – Wellington, Dawson Urwiller – Central Christian, Garrett Burns – Central Christian, Jesse Whitmer – Russell, Kaden Kraus – Halstead, Aric Propst – Halstead, Sam Roark – Pittsburg, Ethan Weidert – Pittsburg, Coleman Koehn – Maize South, Brandon Bowles – Maize South, Charlie Koontz – Lousburg, Buck Luedke – Rock Hills, Nick Hafford – BV North, Logan Henderson – Galena, Nick Sarwinski – Galena, Gabe Martin – Columbus, Hunter Schroeder – Concordia, Drew Bollinger – Frontenac, Andrew Bowman – Caney Valley, Eric Helms – Chaparral, Steele Morin – Winfield, Evan Peuser – Paola, Zach Ferris – Chapman, Tyler Good – Lincoln, Phoenix Carpenter – Neodesha, Derek VanBecelaere – Colgan, Nolan Streit – Clearwater, Denton Demel – Clearwater, Kai Wernli – El Dorado, Brycen Labertew – McPherson, Chance Price – Winfield, Ely Wilcox – Augusta, Trey Greer – Mulvane, Aidan Walsh – Collegiate, Seth Teague – Cheney, Joshua Koester – Conway Springs, Collin Koester – Conway Springs, , Luke Lanning – Marion, Cole Ross – Blue Valley, Jack Kincaid – Miege, Seth Nitzel – BV Southwest, Dylan Roach – BV West, Thomas Cook – BV West, Davonte Pritchard – Gardner Edgerton, Ben Miller – Free State, A.J. Patillo – Olathe North, Tom Bermudez – Dodge City, Joey Soupiset – Great Bend, Tyce Hoover – Manhattan, Michael McCartney – Washburn Rural, Brayden Vawter – Seaman, Andrew Wendling – Emporia, Drake McCall – Washburn Rural, Connor Hoyt – Emporia, Bevan Grading – Otis Bison, Hayden Robb – Perry Lecompton, Jaden Atwood – Smith Center, Demitrio Flores – Southwestern Heights, Brandon Vacura – Norton, Braden Sloyer – Burlington, Sam Butler – Olathe West, Joel Scott – Jefferson West, Joshua Ball – Hoisington, Darius McNeal – Piper, Michael Showalter – La Crosse, Joseph Ferguson – Thunder Ridge, Rylee Whelchel – Rock Hills, Jack Hawver – Hutchinson, Nick Schwarz – BV Northwest, Hunter Huber – Pratt, Bryce Winsor – Pratt, Drew Schmelze – Sabetha, Kayden Christiansen – Lakin, Andrew Bergmeier – Hutch Trinity, Zach Hare – Eureka, Bryce Uphaus – Nemaha Central, Gideon Remer – Silver Lake, Conner Ruff – Hodgeman County, Isaac Elliott – Oswego, Beau Batchman – Sylvan Lucas, Trevor Zarybnicky – Wheatland/Grinnell, Reece Struckhoff – Thunder Ridge, Isaiah Childs - Wamego