Tonight we're going to take an end-of-spring look, player-by-player, at the linebacker personnel.
Linebacker was staffed by a trio of three seniors last season, and that trio - Anthony Cannon
, Antonio Mason
- totalled 227 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. The downside of linebacker was that there
were no experienced backups. Junior Terrence Peterson
moved to linebacker from strong safety but played primarily
on special teams. The other linebackers were all true freshmen, with three eventually figuring into the game rotation. Two of that group - middle linebacker Jordan Ellis
and will linebacker James Dillard
- return for their sophomore seasons.
A third sophomore, Evan Lee
, returns after seeing considerable special teams action in 2005. Two other 2005
freshmen, David Kirksey
and James McMurchy
move into backup roles after redshirting last season.
Last season Ellis played in 7 games and made one start, producing 6 tackles, while Dillard played in 10 games and made 7 tackles.
Working mainly on special teams, Lee made 11 tackles and Peterson 6.
This year it stacks up like Peterson the starter at sam linebacker backed by Kirksey; Ellis the starter in the middle
backed by Lee; and Dillard the starter at the will position, backed by McMurchy.
Although there's room here for a freshman or two to move in and become a starter a la Anthony Cannon in 2002,
his position might not be as critical as it looks on paper.
Peterson had a good spring and seems locked into the sam linebacker position, although if another Cannon rears up in pre-season camp that could change fast.
Ellis and Lee make a solid tandem at middle linebacker, primarily a run defender position, while Dillard appears
capable at the will position.
Although this group does not have the skins on the wall that Cannon, Mason and Spincer had, the starters seem
capable. But again, as in 2005, it's the backups, stupid. Basically, all there is other than the inexperienced Lee
are the redshirts, McMurchy and Kirksey. This is where the freshmen come in. One or more of the six linebacker
types that Chris Scelfo signed on National Signing Day in February could move up onto the depth chart, as
Ellis and Dillard did last season.
The other linebackers were all true freshmen, with three eventually figuring into the game rotation. Two of that group - middle linebacker Jordan Ellis and will linebacker James Dillard - return for their sophomore seasons