A player that is ready to take the next step is weakside OLB Nigel Bradham(6'2, 241). He eased into playing time as a freshmen in 2008, built on that performance in 2009, and should be one of the country's best in 2010, in fact, some are expecting Bradham to leave early for the NFL after this season. Physically Bradham is a freak, big, strong, fast, he has everything that teams look for in a difference making LB. Bradham still has some things to improve on, he can do a better job shedding blocks and continue to improve his skills against the pass. Coach Fisher was impressed with Bradham, but still feels he can do more to help the team. With a defense that may still struggle in 2010, Bradham needs to be a consistent, steadying force while bringing some game changing plays to the table.
Backing up Bradham should be Vincent Williams(6'0, 252). Williams had a terrific Spring Game with six total tackles and he certainly proved he can be counted on as we move forward. We were impressed with his ability to find the football and his physicality against the run.
Nigel Carr is still the favorite to start at strongside OLB. Carr is another player that is built like a brick wall at 6'2, 231. Carr is not quite the athlete that Bradham is, but he is a hard nosed player that has some experience the last two years and he has the versatility to play all three LB positions. It is hard to see him not being a big contributor next year. He will have to hold off Mister Alexander(6'3, 227) however. Alexander received numerous accolades throughout Spring from the coaches including being called the top LB. A senior who has moved around some positionally, perhaps he is ready to put together a big year for the 'Noles. These two should continue to battle into Fall Camp.
Senior Kendall Smith(6'0, 235) continues to hold down the starting middle linebacker job, but he will need to beat back challenger Jeff Luc(6'0, 249). Smith is uber talented, up to this point his play has been inconsistent, he now has Luc breathing down his neck. He will need to work as hard as he has ever worked to hold off the talented newcomer who almost certainly is the future at the position. Luc is still supposed to be in high school, but looks the part of a grizzled veteran with terrific natural size. He is going to need some time, in an ideal world he can be eased into playing time which should allow him to develop at a reasonable pace. Perhaps the biggest area for Smith to improve on is pass defense, he needs to show his experience over his younger counterpart, that will go a long way into holding down the job.
This is a very talented of two deep, the first issue is getting these guys to play as a unit. While everyone wants super recruit Luc to step in and dominate, the senior Smith needs to show that experience matters. Both Bradham and Carr have had enough snaps in the college game, in 2010 we should see both take the next step forward. Alexander and Williams would be starters a lot of places, they are excellent depth to have. Another monster recruit will join the group over the summer when Christian Jones arrives. We will have to wait and see how close he is to contributing. Overall, this is the best group on the defense.