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Vote: Who was the top linebacker in Texas high school football in 2023?

From Johnson's Walker DiHarce to South Oak Cliff's Brandon Jones, we narrowed down 25 linebackers that rose above crowd

With the 2023 Texas high school football season in the rear view, we're taking a look at the most impactful players across the Lone Star State last fall.

After unveiling our All-East Texas, All-West Texas, All-South Texas, All-North Texas, All-Southeast Texas and All-Central Texas teams and awards, we released our All-Texas high school football team, honoring the best of the best.

Now, we're taking a look at who rose above the rest at each position. After examining some of the best individual seasons at the quarterbackrunning back and defensive backs. Up next? Linebackers.

Who was the top linebacker in Texas this fall?

We want to hear from you.

Scroll down and read up on 24 names to consider and cast your vote in the poll below. The poll is closes on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 11:59 p.m. central time.


South Oak Cliff linebacker Brandon Jones (0) attempts a sack during a playoff win over Melissa.

South Oak Cliff linebacker Brandon Jones (0) attempts a sack during a playoff win over Melissa.

Cody Adkinson, Center, soph.

Another standout 10th-grader, Atkinson made 182 tackles (123 solo, 59 assists) to help the Roughriders to a 7-4 finish that included a bi-district match-up with eventual state champion Gilmer. He is a First-Team All-8-4A Division II pick.

Bryce Braden, Stratford, jr.

Braden was another key to Stratford’s success on the defensive side of the ball this season. In 15 games, he made 184 tackles (35 solo, 149 assists), including 20 for loss with 11 sacks to lead the 14-1 Elks in both categories. He was fourth in Texas at any level in total tackles.

Hudson Butchee, Stephenville, soph.

Another outstanding sophomore, Butchee was all over the place for the Yellow Jacket defense. He made 166 tackles (86 solo, 80 assists), including 12 for loss with 3.5 sacks. Stephenville finished 11-3 with playoff wins over Fort Worth Western Hills, Dallas Carter and Celina. Butchee is the District 5-4A Division I Defensive Newcomer of the Year.

Lamarcus Cullum, Corpus Christi Miller, jr.

Cullum followed up a breakout sophomore season with an even more dominant junior year, averaging upping his tackles per game numbers from 9.3 to 10.4. The Buccaneers’ outside linebacker used his blazing 4.7 speed to rack up career highs in tackles (146), tackles for loss (23) and sacks (9.5). His outstanding season earned him a share District 14-5A DI’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Walker DiHarce, San Antonio Johnson,  sr.

The senior defensive leader helped lead the Jaguars to a 10-2 overall record and was named as the Class 6A District 28 Defensive MVP. The defensive signal caller finished with 158 tackles along with 17 tackles for a loss. He averaged 13 tackles per game and has received multiple offers to continue at the next level. 

Brandon Jones, Dallas South Oak Cliff, sr.

The only returning starter from a state championship defense last year, he was still a monster in the middle for the Golden Bears. The Louisiana-Monroe pledge had 82 tackles, 14 TFL and 5 sacks. 

Davhon Keys, Aledo, sr.

A four-star recruit who is headed to LSU, he won three titles at Aledo. He had 169 tackles with 23 1/2 TFL, 5 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries.

Cooper Massey, Brock, sr.

A first-team Class 3A all-state pick last year, he finished with 238 tackles, 40 TFL and 5 sacks for the Eagles.

CJ Miller, Anna, sr.

The defensive MVP of the Class 4A Division I finals, he was also the District 8-4A defensive MVP. The Lamar signee had 204 tackles, 23 TFL and 8 sacks.

Boone Morris, Mount Vernon, sr.

Morris was a tackling machine for the Tigers. He finished second among tacklers at any level in Texas with an astounding 205 tackles (162 solo, 43 assists), including nine for loss with a pair of sacks. He was 33 tackles behind Brock’s Cooper Massey, but he played 15 games. Morris, a three-star recruit, is a Kansas State commit.

Juan Gomez, El Paso Parkland, sr.

Gomez was a tackling machine for the Matadors, tallying 182 (118 solo, 64 assists), including 20 for loss with six sacks. Parkland finished 6-5. The District 1-5A Division I Defensive Player of the Year, Gomez is uncommitted.

Brenden Guptill, Glen Rose, sr.

Guptill was another playmaker for the Tigers on defense, racking up 166 tackles (92 solo, 74 assists) to lead the team. He is one of five Glen Rose players with 100 or more tackles in the 2023 season, along with one more with 95 tackles. Impressive. Guptill is uncommitted.

Jaime Martinez, Brownsville Veterans, sr.

Wherever the ball was on Friday nights, it was almost certain Brownsville Veterans senior Jaime Martinez was around it. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound middle linebacker demonstrated high football IQ night after night, averaging a career-high 11.4 tackles per game in 15 appearances. Martinez finished the year with a team-high 171 total tackles, including 28 tackles during a 27-13 win over Port Isabel in Week 2. He added 10 tackles for loss and 2 sacks to cap the best season of his career.

Jude Hernandez, Calallen, jr.

Hernandez did a bit of everything from his inside linebacker position this season, stuffing the defensive stat sheet night after night. The third-year letter winner led the team in tackles this year, with 106 total in 10 games played. He also added 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked punt.

Michael Gonzales, PSJA North, sr.

Gonzales commanded arguably the top defense in South Texas this year, serving as the defense’s quarterback in many ways. The two-year starter was the vocal and physical leader of a PSJA North defense that allowed just 7.5 points and less than 200 yards per game. On the year, Gonzales recorded 106 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 4 forced turnovers in 14 games played.

Xavier Atkins, Humble Summer Creek, jr.

The No. 39-ranked linebacker in the country, he signed with LSU. He racked up 98 tackles, 18 TFL, 2 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries, picked off two passes, broke up five passes and forced three fumbles for the Class 6A Division II runners-up.

Dakyus Brinkley, Katy, sr.

The four-star recruit will head to Lawrence, Kansas, with the distinction of being the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by the Kansas Jayhawks. His dad, Jasper, played in the NFL for seven years.

Connor Gaines, Bellville, sr.

He was a tackling machine for the Brahmas, the Class 4A Division II runners-up. He recorded 180 stops — 11.2 per game — while adding three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Sam Mattingly, Magnolia West, sr.

The Stanford signee averaged nearly 14 tackles a game this year for the Mustangs. Of his 167 tackles, 95 were solo ones. He added 6 TFL, 2 interceptions, 3 pass breakups and recovered a fumble.

Elliot Schaper, Westlake, jr.

The junior linebacker was named District 26-6A Defensive MVP. He tallied 108 tackles (13 for loss), nine sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles.

Elijah Walton, San Antonio Harlan, sr.

The District 29-6A Defensive MVP helped the Hawks to a district championship with a 12-1 overall record. Walton racked up 106 tackles (18 for loss) with seven sacks, 15 QB hurries and a forced fumble. Walton is committed to play at Army next year.

Jaxson Maynard, Smithson Valley, sr.

Despite missing three games to injury, Maynard earned first team District 14-5A honors and the uncommitted senior racked up 13 tackles in the state championship game against Aledo.

Kaden Glass, San Antonio Pieper, sr.

Glass was the undisputed leader of the Warrior defense this year, helping Pieper to a regional final appearance and a 12-2 record with his 115 tackles (16 for loss), 12 sacks and six forced fumbles.

-- SBLive Texas staff.

Editor’s Note: Our reader poll features are intended to be fun and generate productive discussion. We do not set limits on how many times a fan can vote during the competition. However, we do not allow votes that are generated by script, macro or other automated means. Athletes that receive votes generated by script, macro or other automated means will be disqualified.