Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas takes a look at top returning players in the state position by position. Keep in mind, our lists aren’t just prospect based as we cover the high school seasons of football by every class, not just potential or recruiting.
This list is not ranked by player or a recruiting list. Research is compiled from our all-state teams last year, stats from last year, all-league selections, off-season combines and input from other media members/coaches. Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas conducts premium player evaluations of players every year that are looking to play at the next level. If you’re interested in this premium service, please contact [email protected] as we have helped hundreds of athletes across the state over the last 11 years.
Michael Boganowski, Junction City
While Boganowski plays defensive back (FS/SS/OLB) in high school his potential at the next level is being recruited as a linebacker and if you turn on his film you can see why he’s all over the place. We will call him an ATH as he will make multiple lists as the senior has several power five offers and is likely the best defensive recruit in the state. He is likely the hardest hitter in the state and has one of the best films we have seen in the offseason.
Ashton Moore, Louisburg
Moore was a first team non-senior pick from Sports in Kansas as a sophomore last fall. We expect him to be one of the best players in 4A this season. His brother, Austin, a former walk-on, is the starting LB at Kansas State.
Casten Wirth, Lyndon & Jalen Massey, Lyndon
While a lot of the well deserved talk is on Massey and Heckel, you should also be talking about Werth as he is absolutely one of the best defenders in 8-man football. The 6’3” 190 pound LB/TE was an all-state pick 8M-I last season. Wirth had 130 tackles in 2022. Jalen Massey will also double as one of the best 8M-I two-way players and had 96 tackles from his LB/SS position.
Colin Matile, BV Northwest & Logan Holthaus, BV Northwest
Matile was a second team non-senior pick from SIK last fall. He will look to be one of the leaders for BVNW defense this fall. Several pieces come back for BVNW that could make them a contender once again in 6A. Holthaus also earned second team all league and registered over 90 tackles last season along with Matile.
Karson Butts, Andale & Cooper Marx, Andale
Butts was an all-state pick in 3A last season for Andale and will look to be one of the better linebackers in the state again this season. While many know of Butts as a returning all-state player you will also become familiar with is Cooper Marx. We feel he has the ability to be one of the best LB/FBs in the state over the next two football seasons. If the name sound familiar it should, his brother Riley, was last seasons SIK 3A POY and Top 11 pick. Cooper is already an all-state thrower in multiple events and could see some major success on the football field with continued success. He’s also a faster version of Riley (sorry Riley) according to coach Schmidt on radio earlier this week. Marx cleans 315, squats 420 and benches 295 entering his junior season at 6’0” and 205 pounds. These two will form one one of the best linebacking corps and defenses in 3A along with several other defenders this season.
Colter Oldham, Lakin
Oldham is one of the best multiple sport athletes in the small classes of Kansas and also one of the best throwers in the entire state of Kansas. A few years ago he had the #1 discus throw in the US for an 8th grader. Oldham is an explosive two-way LB/RB that will look to contend for all-state honors in his class this year after a second team All-Non senior pick last year.
Linkon Cure, Goodland ATH/OLB/DE
Cure is an ATH that can play in multiple spots although he very well could have his hand in the ground on defense this fall as well. We felt his best spot to list him on defensively would be as an OLB although he’s also getting looks at DE and maybe his best spot is TE with the ability to also play receiver. He is the state champion in the 110 high hurdles in 3A as a sophomore and is one of the best prospects in the state in 2025 with multiple FBS offers. Cure is 6’6” and 215 pounds. Cure comes from a highly athletic family that has had multiple siblings honored by SIK including his sister who was the SIK DPOY in basketball last season.
Teegan Haines, McPherson
Haines is a emerging prospect in the state that is flying a little under the radar. He earned first team All-Non senior honors one year ago from Sports in Kansas. He has 112 tackles in 2022. We expect Haines to be one of the best in any class.
Adam Hageman, SM Northwest
Hageman was amongst the states leaders in tackles one season ago for 6A SMNW. He will be one of the top junior linebackers in the state of Kansas this season. He had 115 tackles as a sophomore in nine games.
Jude Konrade, Hayden
Konrade had 170 plus tackles last year for Hayden as he racked up second team all-non senior honors from Sports in Kansas. He will look to lead the Wildcats and head coach Bill Arnold in 2023.
Gannon Couture, Wamego, Wyatt Burgess, Wamego
Couture was the top junior defensive player for Wamego last year as they took runner-up in 4A. He was a second team All-Non senior pick from Sports in Kansas. Although Burgess also was listed on defensive line as he plays the EDGE he is also a LB. Great siaze at 6’2” and 205 pounds as he racked up 65 tackles, 7 sacks (9TFL, 3 FF, 2 FR) last season. Coach Moody also has high expectations for Aidan Hefley.
Kevin Wilson, Hutchinson & Carter Morgan, Hutchinson
Wilson was a second team all-non senipr pick last season from Sports in Kansas. Wilson, a junior, was also first team all-league as a sophomore. Morgan was second team all-league as a sophomore. Hutchinson made a lot of improvements last season and went 8-3. Are they a potential team to make a team run in 2023?
Cooper Simmons, Colgan
Simmons is likely the top two-way player in 1A football along with his teammate Tucker Harrell (DB/QB). Simmons was an all-state selection last season at LB from Sports in Kansas along with second team All-Non senior in all-classes. He was also the 2-1A baseball player of the year from Sports in Kansas in 2023 as the Panthers claimed the 2-1A state title.
Isaiah Holthaus, Tonganoxie
Holthaus is an OLB/WR and is likely the fastest player on this list with a sub 4.5 hand held 40. Holthaus can also play DE/EDGE. We expect a big year for him in 4A as a senior.
Wyatt Potter, Aquinas
Potter was a second team all-non senior pick last season from Sports in Kansas. He’s also one of the best in all of 4A as he was an all-state pick in the class as a junior last season. He will be part of a loaded group for STA in 2023.
Cannon McCormack, Circle
McCormack has been a big part of the Circle turnaround and expects to be one of the best in any class in Kansas this season. He was an All-Non senior pick from SIK as well as All-4A SIK last season. He had 126 tackles in 2022.
Carter Morris, Bishop Carroll
Morris is looking for a big year after logging 64 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles as a junior last year.
Maguire Richman, Blue Valley
Richman was a second team All-Non senior pick last season as a sophomore for Blue Valley. He’s looking to be one of the top juniors in the EKL this season at linebacker. Richman had 127 tackles last year which was among the top among all sophomores in Kansas for 2022.
Brayden Kunz, Conway Springs
Kunz is arguably the best two way player in the state along with Holden Bass of Nemaha Central. You may question 1A but if you know anything about Conway Springs and how many kids they have produed over the last 25 years, that question is out the window. Kunz is a rising prospect that dominates on both sides of the field. Conway is a heavy contender on the 1A West. He may have shined more on offense last season but he still won the 1A SIK DPOY honor after being edged out on offense by Keller Hurla of state champion St. Mary’s.
Nate Campbell, Wichita Heights
Campbell was an all-league selection for Heights in 2022. He registered 100 tackles last season for the Falcons.
Jack Voth, Cheney
While he is known as one of the best recievers in the state he also doubles as one of the best linebackers in 3A with 125 tackles last season. Look for Voth to potentially be the best two-way player in Class 3A this season. He has committed to New Mexico State as a WR. His older brother, Harrison, was the 2021 SIK 3A OPOY at QB from Sports in Kansas.
Cole Pladson, Clay Center
Clay Center had a nice turnaround a season ago and a big reason why was their defense. Pladson was a first team all-league pick as a sophomore last fall with 75 tackles. He returns with Brody Hayes (SS/DB) who will be on the defensive backs lists had 105 tackles for Clay Center.
Cole Webber, Ellsworth & Loden West, Ellsworth
Webber (6’4” 210) is more known as a TE after earning first team all league honors at the position last fall but will also be one of the better linebackers in 2A along with his teammate Loden West who was a first team all-league pick last season. Ellsworth had a nice turnaround season in 2022 and have several pieces back in 2023.
Christian McAfee, Sabetha
While McAfee can play in multiple spots if needed OLB/LB/DE, he was an all-state selection at lienbacker last season for Sabetha. Sabetha is loaded in 2A and should have a great year with what they have coming back on paper. Big 7 football is always tough.
Justyce Betts, Miege
Betts was a first team all-state pick for Jon Holmes and the Stags last season as they captured the 4A state title over Wamego. Expect him to lead a loaded defense in 2023 as they look to repeat.
Jesus Rodriguez, Garden City
Rodriguez had 80 tackles last year along with seven tackles for loss and two sacks. He’s an explosive player at 6’0″ and 195 pounds.
J.C. Heim, Washburn Rural, Jaren Heim, Washburn Rural
J.C. and Jaren Heim will be names to remember this season, especially with the graduation of 6A SIK DPOY Ty Weber. The Heim’s join several other talented players that have WaRu a contender in 6A. There are three Heim brothers on the team and all could make a serious impact this fall. JC and Jaren combined for over 140 tackles last fall.
Lane Nelson, Goddard
Nelson was a unanimous first team all-league selection for the Lions last season. He will look to be one of the better linebackers in his classification this fall. Nelson registered 80 tackles (9 TFLS) in 2022.
Brayden Hoobler, Eudora & Errol Siemon, Eudora
Hoobler, a senior, was a first team Frontier League pick last season for Eudora. Eudora loses some talent from a season ago but do return standout players Adrion Seals (DB/WR) and Errol Siemon (LB sophomore) along with Hoobler who are expected to have big years. Siemon was a second team all-league LB.
Logan Warkentine, Andover
Warkentine was one of the better sophomore linebackers in the Wichita metro last season after earning second team all-league honors last year. Expect a big junior year for the Andover linebacker.
Aaron Henson, Piper
Henson was a first team all-league pick last season for Piper. As a junior, he registered 117 tackles for the Pirates. Expect him to be one of the best in 4A.
This gets a combo pick over any one individual as Hoisington returns three starters at the position in Gage Britt, Teron Kraft and Ian Smith. Hoisington is loaded on both sides in 2A. Expect a huge year for the Cardinals.
Ray Smith III, Olathe East
Smith is an underrated player that is starting to heat up in recruiting. A very explosive player with a 275 clean, 485 squat and has multiple FCS and D2 offers.
Cade Brown, Parsons
Brown, a senior, was looking to be one of the best linebackers in 3A last season but an injury sidelined him for three games and not 100% for majority of the entire season. We have those same expectations for him as a senior. If Parsons can stay healthy they will contend to win their district this fall in 3A. Brown is 6’1” and 220 pounds with a 305 bench and 33” vertical. He could see some MIAA offers with a solid season.
Jace Adler, Andover Central
Adler is a junior this year and logged 80 tackles as a sophomore last year and earned second team all-league honors. AC is a team to always keep an eye on 4A West.
Spencer Dohm, St. James
Dohm has been an all-non senior pick the last two seasons for the Thunder as one of the best linebackers in the EKL. The senior won a state title two years ago in 4A as a starting linebacker for SJA. Dohm had 99 tackles (8.5 TFL) and two interceptions last year. He was also a state runner-up in the 5A shot put this spring. His father, Stan, was a former all-classes all-state basketball player (Top 5) in the state of Kansas for Medicine Lodge.
Braden Young of Northeast Arma led 1A in tackles last season as a junior with 132 as he was all over the field on a much-improved Arma squad. He will look to be one of the better linebackers in 1A this fall. Also making the list is Tate Deever of Wabaunsee who made all-state last season and Kaison Bigham of Valley Heights, along with Brayden Kunz of Conway Springs listed above. All worthy of a mention amongst the small school players in the state of Kansas. Valley Heights also adds Carson Spoonts from Eureka (QB/LB) who is a player that will shine in 1A football this fall.
Zachary Martisko, Inman & Kellen Schrag, Inman & Heart of America Linebackers
Martisko and Schrag may have flown a little under the radar because of players like Eli Brunk, Dominic Neuse-Rasmussen, Harrison Brunk and Tanner Heckel in the past but these two are absolutely in the hunt for some of the best 1A linebackers have to offer. The two had 256 combined tackles last year. The league also returns Jack Lanning of Marion & Koen Wener of Sedgwick who make the list and were also first team all-conference player last season.
Josh Ferguson, Thunder Ridge
Ferguson was a first team 8M-II all-state pick last season for TR. Expect him to be one of the best in 8M-II football this fall.
Eli Broxterman, Axtell
Broxterman was a first team all-state pick in 8M-II last season for the two time defending state champion team in the class. Axtell is loaded once again with talent on both sides of the ball and will look to three-peat.
Camden Polifka, Quinter
Polifka is one of the top 8-man juniors in the state at DE/LB as he logged 96 tackles last year (10 sacks, 8 TFL, 2 FF, 1 FR) as a sophomore in 2022.
Three all-state players return at the position in 6-Man with Davin Hamby of Pawnee Heights, Kale Harris of Ashland and Ben Meehan of Waverly. We also expect Logan McCarty of Cheylin to be one of the best two way players in the class.
Sports in Kansas Other Top Linebackers to Watch in Kansas for 2023 season:
Chris Dunnigan – Manhattan, Maliki Daniels – Junction City, Jacob King – Wichita Northwest, Luciano Riggi – Lansing, Peyton Ritter – Maize, Carter Morgan – Hutchinson, Gabe Kimzey – Pittsburg, Luke Hancock – St. Thomas Aquinas, Jack Baird – Miege, Cole Wageman – Winfield, Finn Dunshee – Hayden, Payton McCarn – Rock Creek, Anthony Pike – Girard, Porter Foltz – Anderson Co., Peyton McDonald – Frontenac, Korbin Niegsch – Frontenac, Teron Kraft – Hoisington, Parker Isbell – Beloit, Jackson Griffin – Caney Valley, Ty Smith – Larned, Chase Root – Silver Lake, Loden West- Ellworth, Aden Stuhlsatz – Garden Plain, , Byron Fry – Uniontown, Brody Grossnickle – Centralia, Braeden Nation – Jayhawk Linn, Ethan Noll – JC North, Howie Rezac – St. Marys, Trevor Schafers – Marion, Jason Burroughs – Blue Valley, Carter Cunningham – Medicine Lodge, Cade Howell – Conway Springs, Jenson Harness – Udall, Brock Griffin – Chase County, Ryder Dent – Ell Saline, Lakin Getz – Quinter, Creyo Koop – West Elk, Jeremiah Prince – Sedan, Alvin Richard – Independent, Braden Sinclair – Lincoln, Alex Smith – South Cumner, JD Tyson – Burlingame, Ervey Triana – Macksville, Braxton Dixon – Rawlins Co., Jon Mader – Hoxie, Barrett Modelmog – Moundrige, Dalton Morrison – Argonia/Attica, Skylar Rohr – Hill City, Brody Batchman – Sylvan Lucas, Drew Ellis – Bucklin, , Lane McMannis – Canton-Galva, Corey Reese – Lebo, Lane McMannis – Canton-Galva, Carson Lemuz – Kinsley, Gavin Uhl – South Central, Trae Vera – Ashland Mikol Cohn – Ingalls, Jimmy Gardner – Pawnee Heights, Noble Phillips – Burrton, Connor Padgett – Maize, Max Brown – Eisenhower, Will Hanen – Buhler, Brayden Gentry – Buhler, Chase Dieker – Mulvane, Nick Ahles – Circle , Ben McAdoo – Circle, Logan Pfeifer – Augusta, Jacob Chappell – Collegiate, Maliki Daniels – Junction City, Ian McNabb – Manhattan, Teron Kraft – Hoisington, Ian Smith – Hoisington, Collin Schreiner – Kingman, Jace Pichler – Douglass, Conner Chamberlain – Kinsley, Eli Hurley – Central Plains, Eston Juno – Otis Bison, Jason Burroughs – Blue Valley, Tyer Maslowski – BV North, Brady Whitman – BV North, Noah Anderton – Spring Hill, Wyatt Holland – Louisburg, Matt Magette – Eudora, Parker Guge – Oattawa, Keegan Riemer – Oattawa, Brady Welker – Scott City, Mencali En – Wichita West, Peyton Dean – Wichita Northwest, Johmichael Fountain – Wichita Northwest, Cale Milleson – Wichita Heights, Byrson Rathgeber – South Barber, Seth Keeten – Phillipsburg, Luke Franklin – Smith Center, Brock Bush – Rossville, Howie Rezac – St. Marys, Parker Isbell – Beloit, Chance Jermark – SJ-Tipton, Luke Greenfield – Santa Fe Trail, Karson Bangs – Burlington, Ben Kerr – Iola, Drayden Reiter – Iola, Jasper Allison – Fort Scott, Brayson Voss – Coffeyville, Brock Keith – Meade, Judah Jones – SM North, Anderson Wood – SM East, Carson Spoonts – Valley Heights, Colton Slater – Centralia, Alex Dittman – Shawnee Heights, Garrett Pierce – Basehor Linwood, Sean Gibson – De Soto, Remington Miller – Dodge City, Gavin Thalehim – Northern Valley, Issac Shafer – Highland Park, Dusten Fisher – Indy, Jackson Ready – BVSW, Layson Johnson – Olathe West, Cooper Parsons – Osage City, Cameron Cleveland – Sacred Heart, Eli McGinnis – Pleasanton, Jorge Cereceres – Lyons, Joey Goodenow – Aquinas, Parker Schwarz – Prairie View, Zane Farney – Sterling, Korbin Johnson – Holcomb, Carter Hajek – Nemaha Central, Aidan Hefley – Wamego, Carter Charvat – Hayden, Isaiah Suter Tan – Hutch Trinity, Gavin Wilson – Hutch Trinity, Britton Pascual – Derby, Peyton Neptune – Derby, John Gadwood – Derby, Jeff Nold – Sedgwick, Julius Casares – SM North, Wyatt Collins – Canton-Galva, Hayden Buttrey – Council Grove, Braylon Smith – Minneapolis, Evan Seifert – Mill Valley, Zander Haslett – Hillsboro