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NFL Combine Recap: Linebackers

Posted Mar 7, 2014

Combine Recap is a positional review of defensive players ranked as top prospects by NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock in order of his post-combine lists.

2014 NFL Combine Recaps: Offensive Tackles | Guards | Centers | Tight Ends | Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Wide Receivers | Defensive Tackles | Defensive Ends | Linebackers | Cornerbacks | Safeties

Khalil Mack, Buffalo, Sr.

In college: Mack was named first-team All-MAC 2011-13 who started all 48 games of his career. He was second-team All-American in 2013 after recording 100 tackles (56 solo), 19 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, three interceptions and five forced fumbles. He returned two of those for touchdowns, including one against Ohio State when he also had nine tackles and 2.5 sacks. Mack posted 94 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. He had 65 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2011. Mack had 68 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks as a freshman in 2010 after redshirting in 2009.

On his jersey number matching the initial player rating he received in an NCAA video game: “The first one that came out I was only rated a 46 overall with a 37 rating for speed, and it was a slap in the face man. Because, I knew deep down in my heart I was better than a 46. And, it just so happened, I was already No. 46 and I kept the number.” And on his rating last year?: “80-something.”

On keeping his competitive fire now that he’s getting attention: “I want to be the best. I don’t know who all you guys talk to, but in anything - my dad always taught me, man — he told me you want to be the best at anything and everything that you do. And, I strive to be the best at anything I do — whether it was raking the leaves growing up, or whether it was playing tic tac-toe with my brothers, whether it was kicking the ball in the dirt with a can on the ground and you had to kick the can - we did stupid things but we wanted to be the best at it, and that’s the reason I am so competitive.”


C.J. Mosley, Alabama, Sr.

In college: Mosley was named first-team All-America (2012-13). He won the Butkus Award (top LB) and was a finalist for the Bednarik Award (top defensive player) in 2013 after recording 108 tackles and nine tackles for loss. As a junior in 2012, Mosley recorded 107 tackles (66 solo), eight tackles for loss, four sacks and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, was a finalist for the Butkus Award and semifinalist for the Bednarik Award. He had eight tackles, including one for loss, in the BCS National Championship against Notre Dame. Mosley played in 11 games and started six in 2011, missing three games because of a dislocated elbow. He had 37 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and had an interception in the BCS National Championship against LSU. Mosley played in all 13 games and made three starts as a freshman in 2010 when he finished third on the team with 67 tackles.

Mosley, in a recent interview with USA TODAY told Jim Corbett: “I’m a little outside my comfort zone talking about myself. My game film speaks for me.”

Nick Saban, his former coach at Alabama, told USA TODAY’s Corbett: “If people evaluate C.J. as a football player — how fast you play; how athletic you are; how instinctive you are and how many plays you make — I would challenge anybody to show me 10 better players.”


Anthony Barr, UCLA, Sr.

In college: Barr played two seasons at running back before switching to outside linebacker for 2012-13. He was first-team All-America in 2013 after recording 65 tackles (42 solo), 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Barr’s first season on defense included 83 tackles (60 solo), 21.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. He was second-team All-America and first-team All-Pac 12. Barr had nine rush attempts for 25 yards and a touchdown and played special teams as a sophomore in 2011. He had six rushes for 29 yards and nine receptions for 66 yards in 2010.

On his transition from offense to defense: “The transition was pretty smooth, honestly. Difficult at first. I think moving backwards, going back in coverage, was something that was new to me. But now I feel comfortable with that. Just sort of getting used to the position. It’s still sort of new to me in a sense. It’s exciting. If I continue to work, the sky’s the limit.”

On if defense better fits his personality: “I’m a pretty aggressive person, especially when it comes to competing. I think (defense) gives me a little outlet.” And on what he wants to improve: “Shedding blocks, defending the run, using my hands. I think those things are still new to me, things I’m still work on. If I continue to work on it, I think I’ll be able to perfect those.”


Chris Borland, Wisconsin, Sr.

In college: Borland was selected first-team All-Big Ten 2011-13 and became Wisconsin’s career leader with 15 forced fumbles. Borland was second-team All-America in 2013 after recording 112 tackles (73 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. He had 104 tackles (56 solo), 10 for loss and 4.5 sacks in 2012. Borland posted 143 tackles (64 solo), 19 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions as a sophomore in 2011 after receiving a medical redshirt in 2010 because of a shoulder injury. Borland was Big Ten Freshman of the Year and honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2009 when he had 54 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and returned seven kickoffs 106 yards.

On being 5-foot-11 and drawing inspiration from “short” LBs: “There’s a lot of guys that have gotten it done at a high level being under 6 feet. You mentioned London Fletcher, he’s a guy I watched. Zach Thomas, Chris Spielman is about 6 feet. A lot of guys have played very well at that size and they kind of paved the way for guys like me.”

On his intensity: “Football’s extremely important to me, it’s my passion. I put everything into it, and I think that’s more valuable than a half inch or an inch (of height).”


Ryan Shazier, Ohio State, Jr.

In college: Shazier was named first-team All-Big Ten 2012-13. He was first-team All-American and a Butkus Award finalist in 2013 after recording 143 tackles (101 solo), 22.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles during his junior season. He posted 115 tackles (70 solo), 17 tackles for loss, five sacks and returned an interception for a TD in 2012. Shazier had 58 tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks in 13 games and three starts as a freshman in 2011.

On declaring for the draft after his junior: “I talked it over with the coaches and my parents. I weighed the pros and cons and decided this was the best time to come out. I don’t have any serious injuries. I feel I had a successful season. I feel that if I want to become a great player and play with the best, I have to play against the best.

On the advice he received from his father, who is team chaplain of the Miami Dolphins: “He just said always work hard, treat people the way you want to be treated and always be disciplined enough to try to make yourself better because if you can’t beat yourself you can’t beat the person across from you.”

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