Position Analysis: Linebackers
The Players: 52 Quanterio Heath (6-2, 220 RJr), 55 Xavier Woodson (6-1, 209 Jr.), 50 Austin Copeland (6-1, 218 Sr.), 51 Kirk Louis (6-2, 230 Fr.), 9 Khari Lain (5-10, 195 Soph.), 40 Sterling Wright (6-2, 194 Jr.), 41 Jude Louissaint (6-0, 203 RFr.), 53 Ben Gallagher (6-0, 204 RSoph.), 32 Tajhea Chambers (6-2, 215 Fr.), 37 Avery Johnson (6-2, 210 Fr.).
The Breakdown: Middle, 1. Quanterio Heath, 2. Tajhea Chambers, 3. Kirk Louis. Will, 1. Khari Lain, 2. Austin Copeland, 3. Xavier Woodson, 4. Chambers.
The Numbers: This position at Arkansas State lost a huge amount of production with the graduation of Qushaun Lee, who finished with 393 tackles for his career, fourth most in school history, and 110 last season. Lee also finished in a tie for the team lead in interceptions last season with four. Stepping into those shoes is Quanterio Heath. Heath finished with just 12 tackles a season ago and for his career has 26 stops. Also returning are Will LB Xavier Woodson who finished second on the team in 2014 with 95 total tackles, as well as 9 tackles for a loss and 4 sacks as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Austin Copeland returns after his initial campaign as a JUCO transfer and saw action enough to total 24 tackles and 2 sacks. Sterling Wright moves to LB from Nickel and he also had 24 tackles in 2014. Khari Lain saw time as a true freshman on special teams and in some defensive packages where he totaled 6 tackles a year ago.
The Analysis: There is a lot to like with this bunch. They are an athletic group, will all of them possibly being able to stay on the field during passing situations. They can all run well enough to be sideline to sideline players.
The scary thing is that there is so much inexperience at the position. The true freshmen that have been backing up Heath, Kirk Louis and Tajhea Chambers, are both big, athletic players who each seem to have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Copeland is a steady back up and Lain seems to find a way to the football. Sterling Wright (6’2 210 Jr) was a big safety who shifted down to LB. Jude Louissaint (6’0 210 RFr) is a well put together athlete who could help on special teams. Another true freshman is Avery Johnson (6’2 215 Fr) who may see time on the special team squads. Walk on Ben Gallagher (6’1 210 RSo) may also be a special teamer.
With only Woodson having a true wealth of experience though, a lot of questions litter the depth chart. Will Heath be able to step up and fill the shoes left by Qushaun Lee? Will the true freshmen behind him be ready if an issue should arise? Will Woodson be able to stay on the field all year, as he was ejected from two games last season and will sit out the opener against USC? Will the undersized bunch be able to shed blockers if the defensive line misses them? Until the ball is put down there are more questions than answers for this bunch.
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