Football preview: The area’s best tacklers

Jake Coon
Senior • Barrington
The 6-foot, 220-pound Coon is the Broncos’ primary read-option linebacker. Coon has the strength to shed pulling guards along with the speed necessary to run down ball carriers.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
N/A — N/A — 125 — 8 — 2

Chris Hawthorne
Senior • Fenwick
Hawthorne is a wrestler doing double duty as a standout tackler. The 6-0, 245-pound defensive end joins Connecticut-bound cornerback Aaron Garland as the top two returnees on the Friars’ defense.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
22 — 12 — 34 — N/A — 3

Decxavier Kelly-Martin
Senior • Nazareth
The stock continues to rise for Kelly-Martin, who has offers from Illinois State, North Dakota and Western Michigan. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound linebacker draws success from his wrestling background.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
17 — 41 — 63 — 4 — 1

Vinny Labus
Senior • Maine South
At 6-1 and 220 pounds, Labus has the physical attributes to intimidate opponents from his middle linebacker position. Labus also plays wide receiver and is the Hawks’ long snapper.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
N/A — N/A — 31 — N/A — N/A

Brian O’Brien
Senior • Loyola
Ramblers coach John Holecek, a former NFL linebacker, called O’Brien the “best all-around middle linebacker I’ve ever coached.” The 6-0, 220-pound O’Brien started last year.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
66 — 55 — 121 — 3 — 3

Benji Smajlovic
Senior • Leyden
Leyden’s best defensive unit is its linebacking corps. Smajlovic, a 6-1, 215-pound middle linebacker, is its tackling leader and complements senior OLB Alex Rose, who is a threat to blitz. Smajlovic is listed at 4.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
N/A — N/A — N/A — N/A — N/A

Jack Traynor
Senior • Lake Forest
Traynor will play inside linebacker in 2014. He will command more attention from blockers this fall because no Scouts defender is better at closing on the ball than Traynor.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
26 — 83 — 109 — 4 — 2

Jason Vavrick
Senior • Stevenson
In 2013, Vavrick was forced to play center due to an injury. He still managed to finish second on the team in tackles. This year, the 6-2, 225-pounder will focus on linebacker duties.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
62 — 31 — 93 — 7 — N/A

Ben Weinstein
Senior • Glenbrook North
Spartans defensive stalwart Brady Nagel was a senior last year, but Weinstein, a linebacker, could offset the loss. “Ben has worked really hard in the weight room to make himself a better tackler and to get off blocks easier,” coach Bob Pieper said.
Solo — Ast — TotalTackles — TFL — FF
17 — 3 — 20 — 4 — 3

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