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Inside track: Top 10 linebackers for 2018 Arizona high school football

No. 9 Rashion Hodge, Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 225, Jr.

Inside track: Top 10 linebackers for 2018 Arizona high school football

, Arizona RepublicPublished 12:33 p.m. MT July 16, 2018 | Updated 5:57 p.m. MT July 16, 2018

This the second layer of defense, guys asked to fill gaps, stuff the run and occasionally blitz.

Here are the top 10 inside linebackers for the 2018 Arizona high school football season.

No. 1 Ryan Puskas, Liberty, 6-3, 220, Sr.

He has basically grown out of the strong safety position to become a fierce linebacker. Committed to California. He was All-Arizona last season at safety, but he is expected to make a big impact in this move closer to the ball. Puskas is so good is so many ways, even on special teams where he is a threat to block kicks.

No. 2 Connor Soelle, Saguaro, 6-1, 195, Sr.

A hybrid safety/linebacker, Soelle’s versatility allows the Sabercats to do so many things on defense. He can move around, but his speed, quickness and instincts make him an ideal inside linebacker in Saguaro’s scheme. Arizona State noticed and offered him a scholarship, where he could be cut in the mold of a Pat Tillman once he becomes a Sun Devil.

No. 3 Zach Bowers, Chandler, 6-0, 215, Sr.

Bowers missed some of last season with an injury but when he played his plays jumped off the film. He had a monster game against the top team in the country, IMG Academy of Florida, in August. He was an impactful game changer in the playoffs in the Wolves’ run to the 6A title. Committed to Hawaii.

No. 4 Andrew Blitzke, Cesar Chavez, 6-1, 210, Sr.

Just a great athlete and leader, Blitzke will do anything to help his team win. He has the instincts to be a dominate inside backer but he can also impact the game on offense at running back. He never gets tired and never wants to leave the game. He is carving his path as perhaps the greatest football player Chavez has ever had.

No. 5 Clay Randall, Saguaro, 6-2, 215, Sr.

Saguaro is so talented on defense that teams won’t know who to key on. That could open up plays for Randall to make. He is a tackling machine for the five-time defending state champions, who will play off of Soelle to make it tough for offenses to get going with the run game.

No. 6 Milton Rodgers, Desert Edge, 6-0, 210, Sr.

An under-valued playmaker who might be the Scorpions’ best player. He will plug the middle of the defense with his speed and skills. He’s not afraid to lay a big hit and he can move laterally as well as anybody.

No. 7 Tate Romney, Chandler, 6-2, 200, Jr.

His brother Gunner was an All-Arizona wide receiver at Chandler last season. Tate is a totally different player. He loves the defensive side of the ball. Continues to make physical gains to go with a fierce drive that will take him to big places in football.

No. 8 Jack Littleton, Casteel, 6-1, 205, Jr.

Consistent, hard-working, technically sound, Littleton had 128 tackles on Casteel’s 14-0 2017 season in 3A. He’ll find out quickly in 5A how much he has improved his game when Casteel opens at home against defending state champion Peoria Centennial and all of its speed.

No. 9 Rashion Hodge, Mountain Pointe, 6-2, 225, Jr.

Athletic and strong, Hodge will deliver a hit that opposing backs won’t forget. His speed and quickness make it tough to get a good block on him. He’ll be a force on what could be one of the best defenses in the state in 6A.

No. 10 Zach Kriens, Skyline, 6-2, 225, Jr.

A middle linebacker, he had nearly 100 tackles on varsity as a sophomore. He has added about 20 pounds since then and and has  gotten faster and more athletic. He is a natural leader who will key a strong Coyotes defense.

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