Linebacker switch-up looks daunting

Jordan Pendleton stepped out onto the practice field on Saturday and resumed his role with the first-team defense as if he had never missed a beat. Now that he's back, the coaches face the challenge of deciding to do with the two-deep at outside linebacker. That includes choosing the best role for Kyle Van Noy.

It's been a while since Jordan Pendleton has felt as good physically as he does now. The senior star outside linebacker feels great and is excited to be back after being away from the field for so long.

"It's great to be back out here and I haven't played in forever," said Pendleton. "I didn't sit out any reps and wanted to get out here and do what I should be doing, so it felt good to get out there again. It was different, but I was excited to practice and get going again."

After going under the knife to fix an injured shoulder and a bum knee, a healthy Pendleton's return to the practice field is a welcomed sight, especially when knowing what he can do as an outside linebacker. But, the first day back didn't come without some adjustment.

"I felt pretty good doing some stuff out there," he said. "I just need to calm down, and what I mean by that is just reading my keys … I have all the physical stuff taken care of, but now I have to get used to reading the plays and reading my keys again and just getting out there and playing the scheme. It's just getting back out there and getting my feet wet again."

Pendleton suffered a season-ending injury last year in the fifth game of the season. When he played in all 13 games in 2009 as a sophomore, he had 52 tackles (30 solo), three sacks, three pass breakups, five quarterback hurries, an interception, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

"It's nice to have him back out there on the field," said Kyle Van Noy. "I have a lot of respect for Jordan and if he stays healthy he's going to the next level, so I have high hopes for Jordan and I'm glad he's back because in the end he really helps our defense a lot."

Pendleton's return to the field for the 2011 season will bolster a defense that's both talented and deep, but his return also poses a nice defensive problem. That problem is figuring out what to do with Jameson Frazier and the aforementioned Van Noy, who is a rising outside linebacker star that filled in tremendously for Pendleton last season.

"I don't know if you can keep a guy like Kyle off the field," Pendleton said. "Kyle just keeps getting better. Right now we have so much talent and depth that it's not just going to be two guys playing. You're going to see Jameson out there and Kyle and me out there as well. We're going to be able to rotate and have it not hurt at all."

"Right now, I'm just trying to get on the field, so I'm trying to give Coach every reason to put me out on the field," said a smiling Van Noy. "I'm working as hard as I can, like watching film, going harder in practices. That way when Coach gets the film and looks at everything and sees our practices, there's no doubt that I'll be the man, but with that being said, there is no doubt any one of us could be that man. We're all capable of playing and we'll all play and I think that will benefit us all in the long run by keeping us fresh."

The first day of fall camp saw a first-team linebacker group featuring Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree in the middle, with Pendleton and Van Noy on the outside. Van Noy was moved to the boundary side, something he's no stranger to.

"Nowadays, our coaches are making us learn both sides of the field because they feel it will benefit us for the next level so we'll have a better transition," Van Noy said. "I think it's a good idea.

"When I first came here the coaches said I have a great football I.Q., so I had to learn both the field and boundary outside linebacker positions. I'm happy that they had me do that because it just gives me more chances to see the field, knowing how to play both sides at Sam or Will. One thing I do know is we're going to be deep and very, very good this year."

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