While what happens on the field and how things finish at the end of the season is what really matters, preseason rankings give fans an idea of what teams and players they should keep an eye on. In this summer series, we’ll take the Top 25 approach and rank the best returning players at every position.
Next up are the linebackers.
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Best Returning LBs
Honorable Mention: Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Monroe Beard III, Campbell’s Justice Galloway-Velazquez, Gardner-Webb’s William McRainey, Fordham’s James Conway, Houston Baptist’s Rodney Dansby, Lafayette’s Marco Olivas, McNeese’s Kordell Williams, North Carolina A&T’s Jacob Roberts, North Dakota’s Devon Krzanowski, Southeast Missouri State’s Bryce Norman, Stephen F. Austin’s Brevin Randle, UAlbany’s Jackson Ambush, UT Martin’s John Ford II
25. Trevor Williams, Sam Houston
24. James Kaczor, North Dakota State
23. Marcus Welnel, Montana
22. Da’Quan Grimes, Monmouth
21. Foday Jalloh, Eastern Illinois (Transfer from CCSU)
20. B.J. Davis, South Carolina State
19. Johnny Buchanan, Delaware
18. Isaac Dowling, Mercer
17. Tyler King, Stony Brook
16. Liam Anderson, Holy Cross
15. Bryce Flater, Northern Iowa
14. Kelechi Anyalebechi, UIW
13. Brock Mogensen, South Dakota
12. Callahan O’Reilly, Montana State
11. Ty Boeck, Chattanooga
10. Spencer Cuvelier, Northern Iowa
9. Matthew Jackson, Eastern Kentucky
8. Tristan Wheeler, Richmond
7. David Hoage, Northern Colorado
6. Aubrey Miller, Jackson State
RELATED: Position Rankings Home Page
The Top 5
5. Stone Snyder, VMI
Snyder became an elite linebacker in 2021 during the spring and fall seasons. Named the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back campaigns, he totaled 88 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, and eight sacks in eight games in the spring. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder continued to make plays all over the field last season. Snyder racked up 120 tackles, 11 TFLs, and four sacks in 11 games. The 10.9 tackles per game ranked No. 6 in the FCS. Snyder gathered several All-American honors, including Phil Steele, AFCA, Athlon, Stats Perform, and HERO Sports. He finished 13th in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award.
4. Jacob Dobbs, Holy Cross
Dobbs has been a standout player since his freshman year in 2019. A HERO Sports Freshman All-American, he tallied 93 tackles, seven sacks, and 12 tackles for loss. As a Sophomore All-American in the spring, Dobbs put up 41 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, and one sack in four games. The 6-foot, 232-pound physical linebacker was at it again last season. Dobbs finished with 137 tackles (75 solo), 17.5 TFLs, 9.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries, and three pass breakups in 13 games. His 137 tackles were the fourth most in the FCS. He earned All-American honors from Phil Steele, AFCA, Stats Perform, and HERO Sports. Dobbs finished 10th in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award.
3. Ryan Greenhagen, Fordham
Greenhagen has been a tackling machine for years. He was named a 2018 HERO Sports Freshman All-American (65 tackles, 15 TFLs, and eight sacks) and a 2019 Sophomore All-American (123 tackles, 18.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks). The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder was then named the spring season’s Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year when he totaled 22 tackles in two games. Greenhagen was dominant again to start last fall until a season-ending injury. In just five games, he still finished with 102 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, three sacks, and one interception. In the season-opener against Nebraska, Greenhagen broke the NCAA record with 31 total tackles.
2. Adam Bock, South Dakota State
Bock is next in line of great SDSU linebackers. Along with being named a 2021 spring HERO Sports Freshman All-American and a fall Sophomore All-American, he also earned All-FCS All-American accolades from HERO Sports and Stats Perform last season. In the spring, Bock had 74 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, and two sacks in 10 games. Last season, the 6-foot-1 and 215-pounder became a bigger leader on SDSU’s defense, racking up 125 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and eight passes defended in 15 games. Bock finished 11th in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award.
1. Patrick O’Connell, Montana
O’Connell became one of the very best defensive players in the FCS last year with his relentless and aggressive style of play. O’Connell totaled 105 tackles, 22 TFLs, 14 sacks, six quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, and one defensive touchdown in 13 games. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder racked up several All-American accolades: HERO Sports First Team, Stats Perform First Team, Phil Steele First Team, Associated Press Second Team, and AFCA Second Team. He finished third in the Buck Buchanan Award voting and was recently named the Big Sky’s Preseason Defensive MVP.