If the defensive line lost the most depth from the 2011 squad, the linebackers lost the best player. Outside linebacker DeMario Davis was a 3rd round draft pick of the New York Jets in the NFL draft this spring. The 2012 squad used a 4-3 base defense requiring 3 linebackers.
New defensive coordinator, John Thompson, will use a 4-2-5 base defense that will require only 2 linebackers. Because of this, it is my opinion, that the linebackers will be the best front line position on the Red Wolf defense this fall. Nathan Herrold, Nick Nelms, and Qushaun Lee are three of the best defenders from the 2011 defense and they are all linebackers, giving this position not only a solid first team but also some very good depth.
Nathan Herrold (6'3 235 RSR) was the 3rd leading tackler on the 2011 team with 66 tackles and will be the leading returning tackler this fall. Herrold was coming off a knee surgery going into the season last year and really surprised some with his speed and aggressiveness throughout the season.
He was an excellent compliment to Demario Davis and will be the Mike (middle) linebacker this fall in the 4-2-5. Herrold has the ability to make plays and could slide to the outside in sets that would require the defense to go big and attack the run.
Nick Nelms (5'11 225 SR) has been around for a long time backing up Demario Davis. Nelms has good athleticism and can play both the inside and outside linebacker.
Nelms finshed 2011 with 41 tackles will start out at the Stinger (outside) linebacker this fall. Nelms is athletic, has decent speed, and has proven to be a solid tackler. He has played in all but 2 games in his 3 years with the Red Wolves and has had several starts. Nelms could see some major competition for the starting job this fall when the newcomers join him in camp.
Qushuan Lee (5'11 225 RSO) was a headhunter as a redshirt freshman last fall. Lee had a number of bone crushing hits that had the RedWolfNation oohing and ahhing at times.
Lee is a Mike linebacker and will compete with Herrold for the starting job this fall. Lee finished with 49 tackles in 2011 and should provide solid depth at the Mike if he doesn't beat out Herrold for the starting role.
Eddie Porter (6'3 235 JR) is an ideal replacement for Demario Davis if he doesn't end up on the defensive line. Porter could come in and compete for the starting job at either of the two linebacker positions as well as the defensive end roles.
Regardless of where Porter ends up, if he can come in and be an immediate impact guy then he will help reduce the loss of so much on the defensive side of the ball.
Other Returners – LeAngelo Albright (5'11 215 RJR), Grant Gill (6'1 215 RSO) and Branton Hall (6'1 210 RSO) all provide depth for the 2012 Red Wolf linebackers corp. Albright has been a very solid special teams performer for a couple years and saw more time this spring competing for the Stinger LB job.
Albright has been undersized during his time at A-State but did a good enough job this spring to end up in the post spring two deep. Gill and Hall are both former safeties that have moved down to the LB position and both have seen injuries keep them from competing for playing time. Both will need to get healthy for fall camp or could see younger guys come in and push for their playing time.
Other newcomers – Porter has the ability to start at either spot coming in from junior college, but two freshmen could also push returners for early playing time.
Quanterio Heath (6'3 215 FR) and DeKeathan Williams (6'2 205 FR) both are very athletic and both have very good speed. The two young athletes could play a number of positions but have a better chance at pushing for time at the linebacker positions. Fall camp will allow both of these guys push the young returnees for spots on the depth chart.
The linebacker position will be the most experienced and deep position based on the returnees. Herrold, Nelms, and Lee give the Red Wolves three guys that are solid D1 performers.
If Porter finds himself on the D-line, the linebackers can still have good athletic depth with the young returners as well as the incoming athletes. If the young linebackers have good fall camps then the linebacker position shouldn't have too much of a drop off.