HS football position by position breakdown: Scouting the linebackers
As high school offenses become more complex, linebackers face added responsibilities.
In last year’s state finals, Pine-Richland’s linebacker tandem of Tyler King and Anthony Cerminara did a little of everything. Then juniors, the two combined for 27 tackles, two forced fumbles and recovered a fumble, an effort that helped the Rams defeat St. Joseph’s Prep, 41-21, in the PIAA Class 6A final.
King was a first-team all-conference selection at inside linebacker, and Cerminara earned second-team honors. The two return this season to anchor Pine-Richland’s defense, one reason why the Rams are WPIAL preseason favorites.
Overall, linebacker is a deep position around the WPIAL.
Also earning first-team honors last season were Mt. Lebanon’s Michael Palmer, Bethel Park’s Tiger Burkes, Upper St. Clair’s Colin McLinden, Kiski Area’s Drew DiNunzio-Biss, New Castle’s Matt Senchak, South Fayette’s Joe Mowod, Shady Side Academy’s Alex Bellinotti, Seton LaSalle’s Jamar Shegog, Derry’s Dom Deluca, CWNC’s Nikhai Hill-Green, Freedom’s Cody Ross, Steel Valley’s Todd Hill, Carlynton’s Dallas Paolino, Union’s Ed Stoddard, West Greene’s Ben Jackson and Fort Cherry’s Zachary Vincenti.
1. Tyler King
Pine-Richland, sr., 6-1, 225
King made a team-high 150 tackles (69 solo) in 16 games last season when the Rams won WPIAL and PIAA Class 6A titles. He had 19 tackles for a loss, four sacks and forced two fumbles. He committed to Navy over offers from Army, Akron, Buffalo and others.
2. Todd Hill
Steel Valley, sr., 5-10, 205
The inside linebacker is a four-year starter and leading tackler on an Ironmen defense that won a state title in 2016 and was WPIAL runner-up last season. He committed to Howard over FCS offers from Duquesne, Robert Morris and St. Francis, Pa.
3. Nikhai Hill-Green
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, jr., 6-2, 205
Coaches made Hill-Green a unanimous first-team all-conference pick at linebacker as a sophomore in Class 2A. He made 52 solo tackles. Akron, Boston College, Howard, Toledo and Temple have offered him a scholarship.
4. Derrick Davis
Gateway, so., 6-0, 175
Davis emerged as a freshman star, making 97 tackles for the PIAA Class 5A finalists. His offers include Pitt, Penn State and WVU, along with Michigan, Ohio State and others. He may play safety in college, but Gateway has used him at outside linebacker.
5. Gianni Rizzo
Norwin, sr., 6-2, 195
Rizzo used his sprinter’s speed to earn second-team all-conference honors in 6A. The Youngstown State recruit had five sacks and an interception last season. He also ran the anchor leg of Norwin’s 1,600-meter relay team that won PIAA gold in 2017.
One to watch
North Allegheny, sr., 6-0, 215
Hoke had 48 tackles and seven sacks as a sophomore, but a torn ACL in camp cost him his entire junior season. Now healthy again, he’ll reclaim his spot in the middle of NA’s defense. He’s the son of former Steelers defensive lineman Chris Hoke.