Oregon’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best linebackers

By René Ferrán, Mike Wilson, Bob Lundeberg, Paul Valencia and Rockne Andrew Roll

Over the next week, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school football. Our seventh list focuses on the linebackers.

There are hundreds of standout football players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive! Use the comments section to discuss the other linebackers worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

Find our team-by-team previews for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

Kaleb Moxley (Southridge) photo by Taylor Balkom

Aaron Smith, Jr., Lyle/Wishram/Klickitat

The Cougars, a co-op of three small Washington schools in the Columbia Gorge, have moved from the WIAA to the OSAA. Smith led the team with 133 tackles and five forced fumbles last season. “The kid always does his talking with his actions while doing it with the same facial expression,” coach Antoine Montoya said. “If you can get Aaron to smile, you are doing something right. He stands 5-6 and 150 pounds, but with the heart of a 6-5 giant.”

Andrew Collins, Jr., Barlow

Collins is the Bruins’ leading returning tackler and last season directed the defense that allowed the fewest points in the Mt. Hood Conference (20 per game). He tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries and earned all-Mt. Hood honorable mention at linebacker.

Andrew Teubner, Sr., Seaside

Teubner was all-league on both sides of the ball last season, and he received honorable mention all-state as an outside linebacker. “He probably weighs about 170, but he plays a lot bigger than that. A great tackler,” Seagulls coach Aaron Tanabe said. “Just a tough kid.”

Blake Lewis, Jr., Cascade

Lewis was a first-team all-Oregon West selection last season, making 52 tackles (three for loss) and a sack. As a linebacker, his natural instincts are “insane,” Cougars coach Brandon Bennett said. “You look really good as a coach when that kid is on the field.”  

Brennick Beck, Sr., Grant

Last season, as the Generals won their first outright PIL title since 2014, Beck led the team in tackles. The 5-foot-11, 220-pounder was a unanimous first-team all-league pick and earned honorable mention all-state, leading to his signing with Western Oregon this month. Grant coach John Beck said Brennick, his son, has transformed himself during the pandemic. “He’s a lot faster, leaner,” the coach said. “He’s really worked super hard to get himself in the best shape he possibly can.”  

Brennick Beck (Grant) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

Brody Crowley, Jr., La Salle Prep

“He’s played every meaningful down of defense since his freshman year,” Falcons coach Aaron Hazel said about Crowley, a first-team linebacker on the all-NWOC East team last season. “How he goes is how our defense is going to go.” Crowley also is projected to get considerably more carries at running back this season than he had as a sophomore.  

Bryan Cuthbertson, Sr., Sherwood

Cuthbertson was the 2019 Pacific Conference defensive player of the year and a first-team all-state middle linebacker who led the state in tackles with 158. He had 22 tackles for loss, four sacks and two blocked punts. He also was a first-team all-conference guard, but defense is his calling card, earning him an offer from Portland State. “He is the best linebacker I’ve seen in my 30 years at Sherwood,” Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said. “He’s big for a linebacker at 240 pounds, but he doesn’t play at 240. He’s everywhere on the field. It’s fun to watch him because he makes cringing hits. His mentality is that he’s going to make you pay for even touching the ball.”

Bryce Indell, Jr., Willamette

Indell has been making an impact for Willamette since his freshman year. He’s always been a defensive stalwart, and he earned second-team all-MWL North honors last season. “He gets the game; he loves to compete,” Wolverines coach Josh Wolfram said. “He’s one of our more physical players.” Indell isn’t just a brute — he posted a 4.7-seconds time in the 40-yard dash during fall workouts. Look for him wherever the ball is — and in conversations about the league’s most dominant players.

Caden Lasater, Jr., Crater

Lasater might not look like inside linebacker material: He’s 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds. Looks can be deceiving. Lasater earned first-team all-MWL South honors playing alongside two all-state seniors last season. “I’ll take Caden over anyone in the state,” first-year Comets head coach Berk Brown said. “He gets us lined up, he echoes the call, he knows what all 11 guys are doing. He gets the juice going, he gets guys excited. And then he is an absolute ball-hawk. Wherever the ball is, you’re going to find No. 14.” As a sophomore, Lasater started every game of Crater’s run to the 2019 final, and Brown thinks he’s poised for a breakthrough junior season. 

Caden Smith, Sr., Silverton

Smith, an inside linebacker, received all-MWC honorable mention on defense as a junior. “Caden really enjoys football; he’s just into the game of football,” Foxes coach Josh Craig said. “He’s also a strong kid who has gained a lot of muscle.”

Camp Lacouture, Jr., Siuslaw

Lacouture was the only Vikings player to receive all-league recognition on both sides of the ball during their renaissance season that saw them go from zero wins to six and their first playoff berth since 2014. He was a first-team all-league linebacker (three interceptions). “Camp is the epitome of a Siuslaw football player,” coach Sammy Johnson said. “He is the toughest guy on the field and finds a way to impact the game on both sides of the ball every game.”

Chad Overholt, Sr., Wilsonville

Overholt was first-team all-NWOC West and honorable mention all-state last season. A third-year starter, Overholt was among the team leaders in tackles with 62 (three for loss).

Chad Overholt (Wilsonville) photo by Leon Neuschwander

Chance Hendrickson, Sr., West Albany

Hendrickson received second-team all-Mid-Willamette Conference honors on defense as a junior with 43 tackles (five for loss) and an interception. He can play up at the line of scrimmage or farther back in the box. “Hendrickson just loves football,” Bulldogs coach Brian Mehl said. “He’s physical, has the size you want, and he runs pretty well.” 

Cole Boen, Sr., Kennedy

A two-way all-state selection for the Trojans, Boen made the first team on defense in helping Kennedy return to the 2A state championship game.

Cole Peters, Sr., West Linn

A second-team all-state outside linebacker who recorded 130 tackles (95 solo, 17 for loss), 4½ sacks, four forced fumbles and nine hurries last season, Peters will play at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. “A natural leader and a special player,” Lions coach Chris Miller said. “A tough, tough kid.”

Cole Peters (West Linn) photo by Taylor Balkom

Colt Musgrave, Sr., Bend

Musgrave, the nephew of former Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave, started at quarterback for most of last season before suffering a broken finger. The 2019 Oregon School Ski Association champion in the slalom and giant slalom, he gave up the sport to focus on football, and the Idaho signee will be moving to inside linebacker this season. “He has put on a tremendous amount of good weight and I don’t think he’s missed anything (during the pandemic),” Lava Bears coach Matt Craven said. “He is a hard-working kid from a very athletic family.”

Conner Croskrey, Sr., Newberg

Croskrey has started the past two seasons at middle linebacker and was named to the all-league first team as a junior after leading the Tigers with 95 tackles (eight for loss) and five sacks. Newberg coach Kevin Hastin praised Croskrey’s ability to drop back in pass coverage, as evidenced by his three interceptions. He’s getting looks from several Division III schools. “He’s one of the better linebackers that I’ve ever coached,” Hastin said. “He’s a dynamic player who can run sideline to sideline with great speed. He’s got a great nose for the ball and anticipates the play really well.”

Connor Stevens, Sr., Sunset

Stevens earned all-Metro honors on both sides of the ball as a junior — including first team at linebacker, where he made a team-high 66 tackles (26 solo, three for loss). “He added some weight to his long frame and looks sturdier than before,” Apollos coach Damien Merrick said. “He can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball and would add a ton of flexibility to both the offense and defense.”

Dante Haven, Sr., Grants Pass

Another two-way standout, Haven was first-team all-Southwest Conference at linebacker a season ago, finishing second on the team in tackles with 68. “Dante will be one of the leaders on our aggressive but disciplined defense,” Cavemen coach John Musser said. 

Demerio Jamison, Sr., Jefferson

Jamison, an outside linebacker, was first-team all-PIL as a utility defensive player last season, feasting on outmatched blockers to finish with 37½ tackles for loss and 8½ sacks among his 88 total tackles. He and teammate Jason Davis make up one of the state’s top linebacking duos.

Dyami Rios, Sr., McNary

A top contender for Mountain Valley defensive player of the year, Rios has started at linebacker since his sophomore year and earned second-team all-conference honors last season. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Rios is committed to Princeton and rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.  

EJ Broussard, Sr., Mountainside

Broussard was one of the top two-way players in the Metro League last season, earning second-team honors at linebacker with 25 tackles and four sacks. He has received offers from Linfield and Southern Oregon. “He’s a real workhorse for us, just a super-talented football player,” Mavericks coach John Mannion said. “He’s capable of making big plays on both offense and defense.”

EJ Broussard (Mountainside) photo by Taylor Balkom

Emar’rion Winston, Jr., Central Catholic

Rams coach Steve Pyne expects the 6-3, 220-pound Winston to be a handful for offenses from a defensive end or outside linebacker spot — he had 25 tackles and four pass breakups for last season’s 6A state champions. The state’s No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2022 according to 247Sports has committed to Oregon. “He is quick, strong and has good instincts,” Pyne said.  

Eric Wise, Sr., Corvallis

Wise was a first-team all-Mid-Willamette pick at linebacker last season, making a team-high 85 tackles (5.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks. “He’s very motivated and he’s a little bigger this year and plays with that same energy at linebacker,” Spartans coach Chris McGowan said. “He can play in a lot of different places, but his biggest impact will be on defense.”

Ezra Waterman, Jr., Marshfield

Waterman started at middle linebacker in 2019, and he was talented enough to be the only sophomore named to the all-state first team. He led the Pirates with 82 tackles (17 for loss) and 10 hurries.

Emar’rion Winston (Central Catholic) photo by Taylor Balkom

Gannon Jeter, Sr., Ridgeview

Jeter led the team in tackles as a junior even though he missed three games, and he was a regular contributor to the Ravens’ running game. Ridgeview coach Patrick Pileggi projects Jeter to start on both sides of the ball this season. “He’s a physical and smart player,” Pileggi said.  

Gavin Fitzhugh, Sr., Beaverton

Fitzhugh started at middle linebacker last season and put his rugby background with the Beaverton Barbarians to good use, making 43 tackles (29 solo) as a junior. He spent the fall 7on7 passing league working on his pass drops and gaining a better understanding of what opponents want to do, impressing Beavers coach Bob Boyer with his improved play. “He’s smart and knows our defense,” Boyer said.

Jack Brown, Sr., Central Catholic

Brown started every game in 2019 at outside linebacker and amassed 62 tackles (a team-high 10 for loss), four sacks, four hurries and two interceptions in what Rams coach Steve Pyne called a very consistent season. “He has great athleticism and playmaking ability,” Pyne said. Brown had an interception in the 2019 Class 6A championship game — one of only two that runner-up Lake Oswego threw in its five postseason games. 

Jack Brown (Central Catholic) photo by Taylor Balkom

Jack Causey, Sr., Sherwood

Causey plays the monster position, a linebacker-safety hybrid that roams the field as a playmaker. He earned second-team all-conference honors as a junior, making 47 tackles (seven for loss). He slid between fullback and wingback on offense as one of the team’s best blockers. “He’s fast enough to cover on the outside but can put on a hit. He’s a great tackler,” Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said.

Jack Walker, Sr., Banks

A two-way starter last season at receiver and linebacker, Walker finished among the team leaders in tackles (67) and tackles for loss (13), shared the team lead with four interceptions, broke up three passes and recovered three fumbles. “He gets after it,” Braves coach Cole Linehan said. “Tough, tough kid. We got a chance to work out a little bit in this pandemic. He got stronger and faster.” 

Jackson Lehman, Sr., Heppner

Lehman was a second-team all-state linebacker with 42 tackles (nine for loss) for last season’s 2A state champion. Somewhat of a legacy at Heppner, his uncle played for Mustangs coach Greg Grant 30 years ago, and he’ll join older brother Mason in the fall at Eastern Oregon. “I can line him up just about anywhere defensively — defensive end, linebacker, cover-2 safety,” Grant said. “He’s just a really good athlete and versatile kid who I can move around the field.”

Jack Causey (Sherwood) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

Jacob Williams, Sr., Sherwood

Williams last season finished third on the team in tackles with 55 and shared the team lead with five sacks in earning second-team all-Pacific honors at outside linebacker. “I hope he has a breakout season and proves just how good he really is,” Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said.

Jamison Price, Sr., Grant

A returning unanimous first-team all-PIL linebacker, Price also can play all over the field on offense and stands out on special teams. “He is maybe our overall most athletic player,” Generals coach John Beck said. 

Jason Davis, Sr., Jefferson

Davis was the Democrats’ leading tackler last season from his middle linebacker position with 137 (18 for loss, four sacks), earning first-team all-PIL recognition. The 6-3, 215-pound Davis is No. 21 in 247Sports’ Oregon class of 2021 rankings, and Arizona State is among the schools to have made an offer. Jefferson coach Houston Lillard calls Davis the heart and soul of the defense. “He’s the one who kind of runs the show as far as the whole program,” Lillard said. 

Jayden Moses, So., Grant

Moses made second-team all-PIL at linebacker as a 6-foot, 220-pound freshman. In addition to defensive duties, he’ll be used in various positions on offense this season. Moses was class of 2023 co-offensive MVP at a National Preps Collegiate Showcase. 

Jayden Moses (Grant) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

JJ Neece, Sr., Mapleton

Neece earned all-state honorable mention on defense last season, making 84 tackles, six sacks and three pass breakups for the Sailors, and he signed with Western Oregon this month. “He can hit. He’s aggressive, and he has a high ceiling with a lot of potential,” Mapleton coach Jeff Greene said. “His running ability, his instincts for the game, how quickly he catches on to things — being a standout kid has paid off.”

Joe Brauckmiller, Jr., Canby

The 6-4, 195-pound Brauckmiller was Canby’s third-leading tackler last season with 60 (three for loss) and made two fumble recoveries, earning all-Three Rivers honorable mention at outside linebacker. “This year, he’s a guy who will factor on both sides of the ball,” Cougars coach Jimmy Joyce said.  

Jude Ashpole, Sr., Gladstone

Ashpole made second-team all-state last season as a linebacker, and, according to Gladiators coach JJ Jedrykowski, the postseason accolades could have been even better. “We underutilized him as a tight end last year,” Jedrykowski said. “If we had done a better job scheming, he would have been all-state both ways.” Ashpole is 6-4 with “an even longer wingspan,” the coach said, and he’s quick and agile. “One of our best athletes on the field at any given time.”

Justin Girod, Sr., Central

Girod is a true do-everything player for the Panthers. On defense, he was a second-team all-MWC pick at linebacker last season, leading the team with 58 tackles (eight for loss). “Justin is one of the top tacklers on defense and will get a lot of touches on offense,” Central coach Joel Everett said. 

Jamison Price (Grant) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

Kaleb Moxley, Sr., Southridge

Moxley was one of the most dominant linebackers in the Metro League last season, finishing with a team-high 142 tackles (23 for loss), 13 sacks and 16 hurries. He is one of many players statewide who would benefit from having senior film to provide prospective college coaches. “Just a flat-out stud football player,” Skyhawks coach Kevin Bickler said. “He never wants to come out of the game. He will be a top player on the team and a great leader, dominant on both sides of the ball.”

KC Kimble, Sr., Marist Catholic

Kimble struggled as a sophomore starter before putting that experience to good use last season, finishing with 57 tackles (five for loss), tied for second on the team. He and classmate Will Blansett should form a formidable duo as the inside linebackers in Marist Catholic’s 3-4 defense. “Any driven kid hates failure,” Spartans coach Frank Geske said of Kimble’s sophomore year. “He didn’t like how he played, and he transformed himself.” 

Kyle Liscom, Jr., Pendleton

Liscom was a first-team all-NWOC East selection on defense last season, when he was near the top of the 5A leaderboard in tackles with 107 — as a sophomore. If he shows the natural development expected with a year-plus of growth and maturity, he should be one of the top weapons not only at Pendleton but in all of 5A football. “He’s an all-around top-end player,” Buckaroos coach Erik Davis said. 

Lamar Washington, Jr., Jefferson

After being named to the all-PIL second team at linebacker last season (42 tackles, 11½ for loss), Washington is No. 4 in 247Sports’ rankings for Oregon’s Class of 2022 and has colleges interested in him as a basketball player, too. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Washington is a four-star recruit who is No. 20 nationally among outside linebackers, with offers from nine FBS schools.

Landon Sherman, Sr., Mountainside

Sherman, who will play at Puget Sound next season, earned third-team all-league honors at linebacker as a junior, finishing with 60 tackles and two sacks while becoming one of coach John Mannion’s most trusted players. “He’s grown as our program has grown and had a bigger role each year,” Mannion said. “He’s somebody who’s a real smart, heady, physical player.”

Landon Sherman (Mountainside) photo by Taylor Balkom

Logan Holler, Sr., Brookings-Harbor

Holler was a 3A all-state honorable mention selection on defense last season with 80 tackles and three forced fumbles. He is a four-year starter on defense who made the all-league team his first three seasons. “He just has a knack for the ball,” Bruins coach Shaun Bavaro said. “The sky’s the limit for him.”

Luke Pugliano, Sr., North Medford

Pugliano was first-team all-Southwest Conference at linebacker as a junior and is slated to play some wide receiver this season, Black Tornado coach Steven Turner said. “We are fiddling around with him at some different positions,” Turner explained. “He is one of the smarter kids on our team and understands our defense, so we may use him in several spots.”

Manny Ruiz, Sr., Mountainside

Ruiz started at outside linebacker last season and ranked among the team leaders in tackles (52, sixth) and sacks (seven, third). “He’s one of our strongest players,” Mavericks coach John Mannion said. “He’s been in the program and developed each year. He did more things for us as a junior.”

Manny Ruiz (Mountainside) photo by Taylor Balkom

Miles Wilson, Sr., Reynolds

Wilson is another two-year all-Mt. Hood honoree. He was second-team at linebacker for the second consecutive season. Wilson earned the accolades despite missing three games in the middle of last season with an injury. “He is a beast running the football,” Raiders coach Ryan Aldred said, “but I believe he is better on the defensive side. He is a naturally instinctive player at linebacker and does things that cannot be taught.” 

Miquel Niemi, Sr., Tillamook

“Miquel could probably be in the defensive player of the year category,” Cheesemakers coach Kye Johnson said about Niemi, who as a junior had six sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. “One of the best blitzing linebackers I’ve seen in years.” Niemi also is smart, a coach on the field, the guy who organizes others during pre-snap. “He’s very in tune with what we’re doing from a scheme standpoint,” Johnson said.

Owen Magill, Sr., Silverton

An all-state honorable mention selection at linebacker last season, Magill is an impact two-way player who received first-team all-MWC accolades on offense and defense as a junior. “He’s just your old-school, blue-collar, gritty kid,” Foxes coach Josh Craig said. “If you ask the kids who the toughest guy on the team is, almost all of them will probably say Owen.”

Riley Keppel, Sr., Westview

Keppel is the only returning Wildcat who received all-Metro recognition last season, making the third team at linebacker after leading the team with 90 tackles (nine for loss) and six sacks. He has received offers from Eastern Oregon and George Fox. “He’s a very lengthy, athletic pass-rusher off the edge,” Westview coach Ryan Atkinson said. “He’s a passionate player with a chance to play at the next level.”

Royce Fasel, Jr., Glencoe

Fasel might be the best player to come through the Glencoe program in a generation. A Day 1 starter as a freshman, he made the all-Pacific first team at three positions (running back, linebacker and kick returner) last season, and by being the only sophomore voted onto an all-state team (honorable mention defense), he became the first Crimson Tide player to earn all-state recognition since 2010. He led the team with 72 tackles (10 for loss). “He has just an amazing work ethic,” Glencoe coach Ian Reynoso said. “He’s destroyed his COVID offseason lifting plan — he is the strongest player ever to come through our program. He’s a wrecking ball. He’s been working on reading, reacting, changing direction and his overall strength and durability.”

Royce Fasel (Glencoe) photo by Taylor Balkom

Ryan Mendiola, Sr., Beaverton

Mendiola has added about 15 pounds of solid muscle after a junior season in which he earned second-team all-Metro honors at linebacker with 48 tackles and three sacks, and Beavers coach Bob Boyer raved about his improved quickness in fall drills. “Just the confidence level that he approaches the game with now is so much higher than last year,” Boyer said. “It’s a night and day difference. I think he’s on his way toward that (Parker McKenna, now at Portland State) level.”

Rylan Wymer, Sr., Canby

Wymer shared the team lead in tackles last season with 64 (three for loss) and had two interceptions, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries in earning all-Three Rivers honorable mention. He draws praise from Cougars coach Jimmy Joyce for his leadership. “He has rediscovered his love for football,” Joyce said. “And that is something that’s really nice to see.”

Sebastian Peiffer, Sr., Gladstone

Peiffer has been a part of Gladstone’s youth program since the third grade. “He’s seen it all,” Gladiators coach JJ Jedrykowski said. He’s a tough, aggressive, old-school style of player. If he gets banged up, he just plays through it. He made the all-Tri-Valley second team last season. “He’ll be our defensive leader, and he’s probably our offensive leader,” the coach said. “The way he plays the game is the way it should be played.” 

Stanley Schoppe, Jr., Jesuit

This is the season for Schoppe, who backed up all-state linebackers Logan Horton and Lucas Christen and Cal signee Andy Alfieri, to make his mark on defense after becoming a trusted kicker (80 of 81 on PATs last season, made both field goal attempts).

Wyatt Epling, Jr., Burns

A member of Burns’ state champion wrestling team, Epling chipped in with a state title at 160 pounds. He proved invaluable in the Hilanders’ linebacking corps last season, earning second-team all-league recognition and making 82 tackles (seven for loss). “No one runs tougher than Wyatt,” Burns coach Terry Graham said. “He’s pretty fast to the ball and reads plays well.”

Zac Waible (Lakeridge) photo by Taylor Balkom

Zac Waible, Jr., Lakeridge

Waible, who earned all-Three Rivers honorable mention last season, is the team’s top returning tackler with 63 (24 solo) after taking nearly every snap at middle linebacker as a sophomore. He has been dead-lifting 430 pounds during offseason workouts. “He’s tough as nails, everything you’d want out of a middle linebacker at the high school level,” Pacers coach Spencer Phillips said. “He will be a wrecking ball out there and has tremendous upside.”

Zac Woods, Sr., Oregon City

The second-team all-league selection led the Three Rivers League with 115 tackles (66 solo) last season, and Pioneers coach Dustin Janz thinks he hasn’t come close to tapping his potential. “He is a ball magnet on defense,” Janz said. “He has the knack of getting to the ball and making plays.”

Find our team-by-team previews for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

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