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2022 Class Preview: Outside Linebacker

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Early returns have been positive in regards to this staff’s ability to recruit elite edge talent.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a closer look at some of the top early targets for the Tigers in the 2022 class.

I am still unsure on how Derek Mason plans to structure his defense on the Plains. Historically, he’s been a traditional 3-4 guy but that has shifted in recent seasons given the proliferation of high powered spread attacks. Most defenses nowadays base out of Nickel which is usually a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5 look depending on personnel preference.

Bryan Harsin has tended to prefer the term STUD for the weakside edge player who is asked to do everything from rush the passer, to set the edge against the run, to even dropping into coverage. This was the BUCK under Kevin Steele though not as versatile as some of what Harsin has done in the past. However, Bert Watt’s title is outside linebackers coach so that’s what I am using for now.

With that unnecessary intro out of the way, here’s a look at five OLB/STUD/BUCK prospects to know in the 2022 class.


5-star Jeremiah Alexander | 6’2” | 235 lbs | Alabaster, AL

Recruitment

The Yellowhammer State’s #1 ranked player initially committed to Alabama in March last spring. However, he elected to reopen his recruitment in late October though the Tide are still considered the team to beat. Georgia is likely their top competition as I am not quite sure how realistic a shot the Tigers have right now. Let’s see if this new staff can make some noise in the coming months.

Scouting Report

Alexander is a dominant force on the edge. I saw him play for the first time when tuning in to watch former Auburn commit Armoni Goodwin’s Hewitt-Trussville team take on Thompson. They had no one who could block Alexander and he consistently wrecked their offense. He can move all over the field but is at his best coming off the edge as a pass rusher. His combination of explosiveness, strength, and athleticism is rare which is why he’s such a highly regarded prospect.


4-star DJ Wesolak | 6’6” | 230 lbs | Booneville, MO

Recruitment

Auburn offered Wesolak last Friday. As such, it’s a little difficult to gauge how much a factor the Tigers might be moving forward. Notre Dame appears to be the favorite at the moment though Clemson also recently offered and appear to be making a move. Arizona State, Michigan, Oregon, and Texas are all involved as well.

Scouting Report

Wesolak just looks like an elite edge rush prospect should. He’s got great length paired with impressive explosiveness. An elite athlete who rushed for almost 200 yards last fall while catching 20 passes for 256 yards on top of compiling 19 TFL and 8 sacks, Wesolak is someone who can play all over the field. He’ll likely need a year to build a better base to hold up in the run game against SEC competition but he has the skillset to eventually develop into a 1st round NFL type of pass rusher.


4-star Robby Snelling | 6’3” | 215 lbs | Reno, NV

Recruitment

One of the first offers Bryan Harsin sent out after being hired was to Nevada’s Robby Snelling. Snelling is currently committed to play baseball at Stanford but seems open to the idea of playing both football and baseball elsewhere. Auburn, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ole Miss are all major factors in this race.

Scouting Report

I probably should have Snelling listed with the inside linebackers but I just love his skillset as a pass rusher. His junior season will start this month as Nevada postponed high school football last fall due to the pandemic, but his sophomore tape gives you a great idea of his skillset. He reminds me a lot of 2021 Auburn signee Joko Willis in that he’s someone you can stand up on the edge to rush the passer or slide inside to play the run or put out in space as a hybrid safety. A violent striker with the versatility to play all over the defense, Snelling has a chance to be an early impact player at the next level.


4-star Tyreese Fearbry | 6’5” | 210 lbs | Pittsburgh, PA

Recruitment

The Pittsburgh native has been considered a strong lean to his home city school for a couple of months but could SEC interest shake things up? Auburn offered over the weekend following South Carolina who did the same last week. Penn State is also coming on strong in recent weeks. This is a recruitment I think is just beginning to take off.

Scouting Report

Fearbry has one of the quickest first steps I’ve seen in this 2022 class. He’s got a long frame that will easily put on good weight at the next level. Will need some refinement but the tools are all there for an eventual big time edge player in the SEC after a couple of years.


3-star Ikenna Ezeogu | 6’6” | 215 lbs | Blue Springs, MO

Recruitment

Ezeogu has not yet been offered by Auburn but he’s someone I am tracking. There isn’t a ton of information out there on his recruitment though it appears a number of Big 12 and Big 10 programs are taking an interest such as Kansas State, Iowa State, Michigan State, and Nebraska. He was recently followed by Auburn coaches Bert Watts and Nick Eason on Twitter.

Scouting Report

Ezeogu is a 2 sport athlete who dominates not only on the football field but on the hardwood as well. He possesses elite length and knows how to use it given the amount of batted passes. Also flashes ability to win with his hands though lacks some of the explosiveness you like to see in edge prospects. Developmental player with good upside.

War Eagle!