Due to the recent defensive changes, more scholarships must be allocated to the linebacker position in future years. As long as head coach Bronco Mendenhall sticks with the 3-4 system that saw immediate success a year ago, numeric logic dictates that more linebackers will appear on the roster and under scholarship at BYU than have been in years prior.
Furthermore, it's no secret that it is now the linebackers that are looked at to make plays and lead the defense. The current talent at the linebacking position has dictated a system that revolves around them and their strengths. Supplementing that talent at linebacker is crucial and will be a major focus for 2008 and beyond.
In looking at who will be available at linebacker in 2008, the answer is plenty when viewing the current roster. The 2007 roster is dotted with super impressive sophomore prospects at the linebacker position and all of them will obviously be ready and available for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Players such as Shawn Doman, Grant Nelson, Terrance Hooks, Matt Bauman and Dan Van Sweden all showed very well this past spring. Most of those names will be players that fans can expect to see contributing this next season, while all will be heading the mix for playing time come 2008 and 2009.
Throw in two-year-starter David Nixon, who will be finishing up his final year in 2008, and it can readily be noted that no immediate needs exist at linebacker from where we sit. Don't look for the BYU coaching staff to be perusing the junior college ranks for linebacker talent the same way they're currently looking for immediate help at the defensive line.
Stocking the Shelves
Although no immediate needs will have to be addressed at linebacker in recruiting for 2008 and even 2009, the need will arise to make sure the Cougar coaching staff aren't caught with their pants down heading into the 2010 season and beyond. Considering the importance of the position in the 3-4 system, Mendenhall and his staff will do well stocking up early and often at the linebacking position to prep them properly for regular play.
Given that there are so many sophomores at linebacker, the time when they will eventually leave could prove ominous unless able bodies are signed and developed from now until that time. Indeed, the immediate mission for those linebackers signed in 2008 will be different in many ways to the mission of the defensive linemen. Those signed in 2008 won't be pushed to contribute early, but will be reared to be ready to go in 2010 and beyond.
Recent years have not seen the proliferation of prime linebacker talent signed. While players such as Austen Jorgensen, Tyler Beck, Aveni Lueng-Wai and Brandon Ogletree all provide exciting prospects and all should be back and raring to go after returning from planned missions when 2010 arrives, the problem is that there are only four of them. Four linebacker prospects signed over the past two years to fill a two-deep in a defense that has four linebacker slots isn't an ideal situation.
BYU would do well to sign a bevy of promising high school prospects this next recruiting year to develop in time for the 2010 season. Linebacker is not a position where you want to be lacking in depth and talent, especially given the defense currently being run in Provo these days.
When thinking of linebacker prospects for 2008, Uona Kaveinga is the name that surfaces to most minds. BYU is in the hunt and will likely be there until the end of the hunt when Kaveinga signs this coming February. But Kaveinga is just one name and as mentioned earlier, BYU needs to start signing and subsequently developing more LB talent here soon, very soon.
Having seemingly missed out on early target J.P. Hurrell, BYU's football staff will turn their attention elsewhere to prospects such as Wally So'oto, Zeke Mauga, Reuben Willis, Steve Acker, Sam Mafi, Neil Crook, Michael Alisa, Jake Murphy and others.
BYU will do well to sign at least four linebackers out of high school for 2008. Signing at least four every year would seem necessary to align the program properly with the bodies needed to fill the position. Having signed only four in the past two years isn't a model that will likely be maintained if BYU is to have a free-flow of talent at linebacker at every stage of development during every year in the program.
While the Cougar staff is off to a good start, having committed Jerry Bruner who should make a fine linebacker at the next level, Bruner may choose to play running back, which leaves the staff with the cupboard bare at linebacker heading into summer camps. Look for the Cougar coaching staff to focus in and make a subsequent push to commit and eventually sign some prime high school linebacking talent this coming summer.