ESPN is riding the prediction train hard this offseason, and the preseason projections continued on Thursday with guessing the SEC’s best middle linebacker in 2016.
With a solid crop to choose from, Florida’s Jarrad Davis and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham came out victorious.
Davis had the 14th-most tackles (98) in the SEC last season, while also collecting 11 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks.
ESPN’s Edward Aschoff explained his decision:
“With Antonio Morrison gone, Davis will be able to do even more damage in the middle. And with the Gators still trying to figure out its pass-rushing situation, chances are defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will use Davis to get to the quarterback more this fall as well. Davis is one of the country’s most versatile and well-rounded linebackers, and he’ll close his college career as the SEC’s best interior linebacker.”
I bet you didn’t expect to see a Vanderbilt played on the list, but Cunningham is plenty deserving of the praise. He accumulated 103 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and four forced fumbles last season.
Cunningham was Greg Ostendorf’s selection:
“Relatively unknown when he first got to Vanderbilt, Cunningham is now all over NFL draft boards for 2017. He’s good against the run. He can cover. And he can get to the quarterback. It’s hard to find a linebacker who can do all three, especially one who has the size, athleticism and physicality that the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Cunningham brings.”
More predictions from ESPN: