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Sports in Kansas: 25 Linebackers to Watch for 2020

Gavin Meyers is one of the top recruits in the state for the Class of 2022 for Hays.
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Aug 11, 2020

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Several linebackers return after having big seasons in 2019. Check out who to watch in 2020 from the most complete list in Kansas by the most trusted source in sports information in Kansas. This lists main purpose is to represent the entire state from 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 Sign Brothers, Nex-Tech Wireless, American Implement and Mammoth Sports Consturction. Be on the lookout for our postseason honors after the 2020 season on who will be the Top 100 seniors in Kansas and who will make the Sports in Kansas All Non-Senior Team, Player of the Year honors etc. 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 and don't rank players just to sell a subsription to an online service that cost, WE ARE FREE and a trusted source. 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 nine football seasons. 

25 Linebackers to Watch from Sports in Kansas


Jack Hileman, Derby Sr. LB, Coleson Syring, Derby, Sr. LB, Luke Stewart, Sr. LB

Hileman isn’t the biggest guy on the field at 5-foot-7 and 185-pounds but he is one of the best linebackers in the state as he earned Non-Senior All-State honors from Sports in Kansas last fall. Syring returns for his second year as a starter next to Hileman and will be one of the top returnees in 6A. Stewart rounds out the trio that all earned either all-league or all-state honorable mention honors last season

Brandon Bowles, Maize South, Sr. LB

Bowles is looking for another big year for the Mavericks as he returns as one of the best players in 5A football for 2020.

Branden Martin, KC Piper, Sr. LB, Darius McNeal, KC Piper, Sr. LB, Anthony Ferguson, Sr. LB, Cael Lynch, Eudora, LB

The league did lost some very solid seniors from last year but back are some very solid play makers. Martin, who is the top returning defender in the conference, could approach 500 tackles this year and has led the state in tackles the last two seasons. He is also an all-state wrestler. Although McNeal may not be Martin in the spotlight he is very under the radar and could have a big season after racking up 106 tackles last season. Ferguson rounds out the trio as he had 92 tackles last year and a is a state wrestling champion. Lynch had over 90 tackles last season in earning all-state honorable mention honors for Eudora.

Jacob Younkman, Wichita Northwest, Sr. LB

Featured on Faces in Kansas a few hours before he picked up his first FCS offers, he is still one of the more under the radar players in Kansas. He returns for his third year as a starter for the back-to-back 5A state runner-up Grizzlies. Northwest is loaded as we go through every position group you'll see many different names. 

Gavin Meyers, Hays, Jr. LB

Meyers has multiple FBS offers and is one of three Hays players with them entering the season. He enters year three as a starter and is just a junior. He has the ability to be a three-sport all-state athlete this school year, being a high-level wrestler and javelin thrower in addition to all-state linebacker. Jaren Kanak, who has KU and KSU offers, could figure into a linebacker or safety spot this season as well in addition to being a top receiver. Gaven Haselhorst, who has committed to KSU, returns at defensive end but could be looked at both DE and LB in college by the Cats. We have several Hays HS players to highlight as we go through position by position. 

Pene Saili, Jefferson West, Sr. LB

Saili can play linebacker or on the defensive line. He is one of the most physical players in the state after earning 3A Sports in Kansas Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. Look for him to be one of the best linebackers in all-classes this season.

Kolten Jegen, Mill Valley, Sr. LB

Jegen earned second team non-senior honors last season as a junior for the 5A state champion Jaguars. The younger brother of former Gatorade POY, Christian Jegen, made a name for himself last season with a breakout season.

Cole Mondi, Lawrence, Sr. LB

Mondi enters his third year as a starter and will be one of the top returning playmakers in the Sunflower League this season. While there has been a lot of attention on the LHS offense, Mondi will look to lead the defense this season.

Hayden Robb, Perry Lecompton, Sr. LB, Ryley Besler, Perry Lecompton, Sr. LB

Robb, who just squatted over 500 lbs this past week, is one of the top returning small school linebackers in Kansas. He is also looking to get to the 500 career tackle mark this season with a big year, a very rare feat for a HS linebacker. Besler is looking for a big year after having 122 stops as a junior last fall. Thad Metcalfe, on our 25 RBs to watch, is also a solid defender and had 118 tackles last season.

Doug Grider, Halstead, Sr. LB

Grider returns after earning Non-Senior all-state honors from Sports in Kansas last season in which he registered over 100 tackles in 2019. He also doubles as an all-state caliber offensive lineman for his father and head coach Jason Grider. Grider is 6-foot-3 and 235-pounds with a 355 clean, 335 bench and led his team in tackles last season

Jack Kinkaid, Bishop Miege, Sr. LB

Kinkaid returns to lead the Miege defense after earning second team SIK Non-Senior honors last season. While the team lost several key pieces on both sides of the ball Kincaid is certainly one of the top returnees in 4A football.

Ashton Ngo, Andover, Sr. LB

Ngo enters year three as a starter and is looking to be one of the best backers in the Wichita area. Ngo, who also doubles as a long snapper, earned second team all-state non-senior honors from Sports in Kansas last fall at linebacker.

Anthony Hays, Garden Plain, Sr. LB

Hays earned CPL MVP on defense last season and was a two-way unanimous pick to the all-league team at OL and LB. He was also a Non-Senior pick from Sports in Kansas last fall.

Will Devader, Hayden, Sr. LB

DeVader earned second team All-Non senior honors last season from Sports in Kansas. He returns with several key players to make Hayden a team to watch in 3A this season.

Kendall Norrod, Maize, Sr. LB, Jack Hawver, Hutchinson, Sr. LB

Norrod was a first team all-league selection in the AVTCL-I last season and is expected to be a breakout player in 5A football. Maize also returns Kyle Haas up front on the defensive line that is one of the best playmakers in the state and one of the nations top wrestlers. Haas, who will be listed with defensive lineman, can play DT, DE or LB if needed. Hawver is  an underrated backer that is very strong with a 335 clean, 275 bench and 405 squat. He also earned all-league last year and will be one of the top 6A backers to watch out of this league.

Brycen Labertew, McPherson, Sr. LB

Labertew was a first team All-AVCTL-III pick last season and earned Non-Senior honors at linebacker. Gone is Mason Thrash and Cody Stufflebean from last year but look for Labertew to be the playmaker on the Pup defense.

Koy Kenny, Ulysses, Sr. LB

Kenny had 118 tackles last year along with two interceptions. He was a Non-Senior pick as a sophomore in 2018 from Sports in Kansas. He has great size at 6-foot-1 and 215-pounds.

Gabe Martin, Columbus, Jr. LB, Kannon Keller, St. Mary’s Colgan, Sr. LB

Martin had over 90 tackles last season and is a third-year starter as a junior. He also benches over 300 pounds and should be one of the top players in 3A defensively this season. Keller has great size at 6-foot-2 and 220-pounds as the position. He also doubles as an all-state baseball player. He should be one of the top linebackers in 2A football this season.

Caden Parthemer, Andale, Sr. LB

A couple of athletes with the same name will lead the Andale D in 2020. Caden Parthemer at linebacker and Cayden Winter at defensive tackle. Gone is Scotti Easter and Mac Brand so look for big production out of Parthemer at the linebacker position this season after learning first team all-league last season. Jake Engelbrecht is also expected to have a big year this season. 

Tate Seabolt, Cimarron, Sr. LB

Seabolt was an all-state linebacker last season and will be one of the top backers in Western Kansas for 2020. He is also one of the top running backs to watch in 2A. Hunter Renick, on our fullbacks list, also returns and can play multiple spots on defense if needed. 

Carter Brown, Inman, Sr. LB, Konnor Pfeifer, Ellis, Sr. LB, Ben Hansen, Plainville, Jr., Jake Sasse, Smith Center, Soph., Gavin Sproul, Norton, Sr. LB, Jonah Smith, Plainville, Sr.

Here are a few small school backers we expect to have big seasons. Brown is back after earning first team HOA honors last season. He was the lone junior linebacker on the squad and will be one of the smaller school linebackers in 2020. Pfeifer had 150 tackles last season in just nine games and earned all-state honors. Hansen had a huge sophomore year as he looks for a bigger role after the graduation of Casey and Finnessy. He had 108 tackles last season. Sasse had a breakout freshman season at middle linebacker last season as he had 87 tackles for the Redmen who took second in 1A. Sproul had 79 tackles last season, 21 in which went for a loss. Expect him to be a big-time player maker in the MCL this season. Smith earned first team all-league last season as a junior and returns with Hansen to form a heck of a linebacking crew.

Drew Schmelzle, Sabetha, Sr. LB

Schmezle has great size at 6-foot-4 and 205-pounds at the linebacker position. He’s very versatile and can play multiple spots on offense or defense. He has two FBS offers from Tulane and Akron. We expect him to be one of the best players in 3A football this season.

Alden Knedler, Dodge City, Sr. LB

Last seasons WAC DPOY is back for his senior season. He also features great size at 6-foot-2 and 210-pounds. He is starting to heat up at the FCS level where he has an offer from. Expect a big year for Knedler. WAC is no joke on defense this year with major talent.

Shadryon Blanka, St. Francis, Sr. LB

Blanka had over 100 tackles last season in addition to rushing for nearly 1,700 yards on offense. He has great size at 6-foot-2 and 205-pounds. Blanka is one of the top players regardless of classification and features great size and speed.

Andrew Schwinn, Maur Hill, Sr. LB

He had over 100 tackles last season and will be one of the best linebackers in the small classes of Kansas this year. He has a 4.0 GPA along with a 27 ACT. Although undersized at the linebacker position to many colleges he could make the move to safety if he continues to improve upon his speed. He graded out with a 4.12 pro agility at Sharp Performance as well as a 4.65 (HH) 40 along with a ridiculous 20 reps on 225-bench. He measured in at 5-foot-10 and 190-pounds. If he was three inches taller he would have multiple offers, he’s definitely a kid under the radar. Schwinn was a second team all-league pick last season on both sides of the ball.

Ian Haverkamp, Centralia, Sr. LB, Devon Feldkamp, Centralia, Sr. LB, Austin Holthaus – Centralia, Jake Yungeberg, Valley Heights, Sr. LB, Evan Haines, Valley Heights, Sr. LB

All were all-league picks in the Twin Valley last season and both teams are likely top five teams to look at heading into the season. Gone is the star of the league in Kamble Haverkamp but theres a ton of talent returning in 1A football for this league in 2020.

Jacob Rees, Andover Central, Sr. LB

Rees is one of the top returning backers in the Wichita area for 2020. He earned all-state honorable mention last season as well as all-league honors on the way to helping his team to a 4A state runner-up finish. He had 78 tackles last season, 10 of which went for loss.

Trevor Zarybnicky, Wheatland-Grinnell, Sr. LB

IF any linebacker passes the eye test its 8-man standout Zarybnicky at 6-foot-3 and 242-pounds. He can fit into multiple spots at the next level whether that’s fullback, tight end, linebacker or defensive end. Expect a huge season for the W-G senior. HE’s a very physical and strong backer that is a man amongst boys in the 8-man ranks.

Caden Crawford, Lansing, Jr. LB, Dylan Ward, Lansing, Sr. LB, Aidan Ingram, Basehor Linwood, Jr. LB

UKC has some solid players and a big name you’ll recognize for 2020. Crawford has multiple FBS offers and towers offer opponents at 6-foot-4 and a half along with 235 pounds. He has a 4.7 handheld 40 along with a 330 bench, 505 squat and 305 clean. He doubles as the Lions QB. Whether he figures at in college is up to the college but he can play a variety of spots whether its LB, TE, FB, DE with his size and strength. Although Crawford gets all the headlines, Ward is the only junior to receive first team all-league at LB in the UKC last season from any school. Ingram earned second team all-conference last season for the Bobcats as a sophomore and has great size at 6-foot-3 and 215-pounds. He led Basehor in tackles last season.

Brayden Collins, Canton-Galva, Sr. LB, Brandon Huff, Canton Galva, Sr. LB

Collins tests off the charts at 6-foot-1 and a half and 215 pounds with a 315 clean, 455 squat and 315 bench along with 4.5 handheld speed. While a lot of the fame has been on Landon Everett last year and Tyson Struber this year, this could be a diamond in the rough find for a MIAA program in Kansas as he brings size, speed and strength to the table at the position. Huff earned all-state honors last season and is back for his senior season. Both players helped C-G to their first ever state title last season by capturing the 8M-I state title.

Riley Eveland, Wamego, Sr. LB, Chas Carlgren, Concordia, Sr. LB, Hunter Schroeder, Sr. LB

NCKL always has solid talent at position and it’s the same this year. Eveland had over 90 tackles last season on his way to earning honorable mention all-state honors. Wamego jumps up to 4A from 3A this season but Eveland should be one of the top returnees for 4A defenders for 2020. Carlgren enters year three as a starter and doubles as one of the top small school two-way players. Zach Ferris, Storm Slupianek and Garren Champoux are gone so expect these three to have big-time seasons in the league and their classification.

Abram Phillips, Olathe North, Sr. LB, Adama Callahan, Gardner Edgerton, Sr. LB, Davonte Prichard, Gardner Edgerton, Sr. OLB/SS

Phillips had a breakout junior year in which he had 80 tackles for the 6A state runner-up in 2019. He also had six tackles for loss and a sack. Callahan was one of two players that earned first team all-league as a junior at linebacker. He returns along with Davonte Pritchard (DB/LB) to lead the Trailblazer defense. Prichard is a KSU commit with great size at 6-foot-1 and a half and 205-pounds. He is a hybrid outside linebacker/safety.

More 8-Man Players. Blake Goodman – A&A, Adam Blanchatt – A&A, Jacob Klipp – Hanover, Isaac Salmans – Hodgeman County, Drew Stutesman – Madison, Isaac Miser – Madison.

In addition to some of the top players listed we expect these tacklers to have big years with some big numbers defensively. Blanchett and Goodman get on here for stats alone as the two combined for 350 tackles last season. Klipp is expected to be an all-state caliber player for powerhouse Hanover. Salmans is expected to be one of the best two-way players in the 8-man ranks. Madison definitely has the defense to make a lot of damage this year with Stutesman and Miser back, that both earned all-league and honorable mention all-state last year, plus all-state defensive end Hunter Engle who will be one of 8-mans best players.

Other Top Linebackers to Watch in Kansas from Sports in Kansas

Fontain Dixon – Wichita Southeast, Quentin Saunders – Wichita West, Carter Kirby – Salina South, Dehann Nelson – Newton, Luke Stewart – Derby, Jacob Rees – Andover Central, Holt Williams – Augusta, Brody Hillman – Cheney, Jonathan Wright – Conway Springs, Kaleb Kruse – Pretty Prairie, Hayden Essex – Blue Valley, Abram Phillips – Olathe North, Doug Koch – Clifton Clyde, Jared Baxa – Republic Co., Nevyn Benyshek – Republic Co., Josh Sparks – Andover, Mason Murray – Goodland, Ryley Besler – Perry Lecompton, Landon Rinehart – Colby, Jake Engelbrecht – Andale, Thad Metcalfe – Perry Lecompton, Trenton Harper – Leaveneowth, Darius McNeal – Piper, Canon Karn – Holton, Tyler Good – Lincoln, Trent Smith – Columbus, Sylas Stone – Columbus, Brayden Sloyer – Burlington, Darius Cooper – Wichita East, Ian Sparks – Logan/Palco, Matt Rodriguez – SE Saline, Anthony Ferguson – Piper, Cael Lynch – Eudora, Riggs Martin – Hugoton, Jackson Bradley – Campus, Harper Kennedy – Maize South, Ethan Camp – Coffeyville, Bryan Hopper – Labette County, Konnor Pfeifer – Ellis, Mason Gottschalk – Ellis, Ted Skalsky – Olpe, Jason Bosley – Jackson Heights, Adam Blanchett – A&A, Graham Stephens – Little River, Jon Schlosser – Moundridge, Cyrus Green – Rawlins Co., Drew Dansel – Hodgeman Co., Mason Hilger – Rock Hills, George Volle – Axtell, Kael McQueen – Wetmore, Jacob Klipp – Hanover, Anthony Henke – St. Johns – Tipton, Damian Foster – Waverly, Adam Callahan – Gardner Edgerton, Jordan Rainer – Hayden, Drew Charbanneau – Collegiate, Kaiden Brown – Rossville, Brennan Lowe – Eureka, Avery Holle – Riley County, Phoenix Carpenter – Neodesha, Christian Koch – Oakley, Dylan Hynes – Solomon, Traden Tyler – Skyline, Jude Stow- Caldwell, Isaac Elliott – Oswego, Ian Sparks – Logan/Palco, Rojelio Loya – Golden Plains, Kolby Talbott -Axtell, Dylan Hynes – Solomon, Korben Clawson – Meade, Grant Schoenrock – Victoria, Peyton Rathburn – Plainville, Cody Hawks – Eisenhower, Tate Schurle – Valley Center, Jacob Kirchoff – Smith Center, Cooper Barriger – La Crosse, Trent Reamer – Silver Lake, Jake Laurie – BV Southwest, Jake Welsh – Bishop Miege, Nikko Taylor – BV North, Blaine Deppe – BV Northwest, Ian Keylon – BV Southwest, Jake Laurie – BV Southwest, Gage Callahan – Free State, Karson Green – Lawrence, Jaxon Avena – Oalthe East, Ryan Schier – Olathe East, Sam Butler – Olathe West, Andy Hupp – Louisburg, Jackson Earlywine – Paola, Deacon Henson – Galena, Brecken Troike – Girard, Andrew Jameson – Labette County, Nevyn Benyshek – Republic Co., Landon Rinehart – Colby, Jake Engelbrecht – Andale, Conner Neill – Maize South, Austin Dale – Hugoton, Sadiki Smith – Junction City, Tylan Alejos – Topeka, Alex Esparza – Liberal, Connor Richards – Rock Creek

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