Fall Camp Preview: Linebackers

Fresno State must replace two three-year starters, but return two experienced linebackers with starting experience. Ahijah Lane started all 12 games last season. Marcus Riley started the first nine games of 2005 until a knee injury has hampered his playing time since. Both lead a deep group of talented linebackers into fall camp.

Sr. Marcus Riley (6-0, 220) was having a banner year in 2005 until he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half against USC. Some NFL scouts were comparing him to Derrick Brooks during his standout sophomore campaign. He returned last season in the third game vs. Washington. He was far from 100% and played sparingly the rest of the season.

Riley is healthy and had an incredible spring. He returns to his weak-side spot bumping last year's starter, Sr. Ahijah Lane (6-2, 240) to the inside. Riley is arguably the top run-stopper in the WAC. The Bulldogs rush defense has suffered greatly since his injury, specifically on the edge. His progress should be complete in fall camp.

Lane is the most versatile linebacker on the team. He is naturally a strong-side linebacker, but moved to WLB last season because of injuries. This season he moves to middle linebacker. In spring, Lane was quite a force. He brings speed to the inside and is arguably the Bulldogs strongest backer.

So. Quaadir Brown (6-0, 210) is the fastest among the three starters. He redshirted last season after injuring his arm. He was expected to start at WLB in 2006 replacing Riley. In spring, he moved to SLB. He solidified his starting spot with a strong showing. However, off-the-field issues will keep him out of the first game and could affect his starting spot beyond.

Sr. SLB Trevor Shamblee (6-1, 220) emerged late last season and started two games. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second to last game of the year and subsequently missed spring and summer. He has been cleared to workout in fall camp. If healthy, the former JC track star could emerge as the starter.

So. WLB Ryan Machado (6-0, 225) is an extremely underrated player. He quietly had a good spring etching his place as Riley's backup. He should see significant amount of reps in camp.

Jr. Ryan McKinley (6-1, 230) can play inside or outside linebacker. In spring, he served as Lane's backup on the inside. During summer, he has seen more time as the No. 3 WLB. He could be moved back to the inside during fall camp, which should increase his reps.

RFr. Ben Jacobs (6-3, 230) is the player to watch in fall camp. He has steadily risen from the outside spot to a solid candidate to share inside duties with Lane. Jacobs is big, fast, and smart. His progress could allow Lane to move back to SLB in fall camp. Regardless, do not be surprised if Jacobs is starting the season opener with Brown sitting out.

RFr. Nico Herron (6-3, 230) had a solid redshirt season. He followed it up with a good spring. Initially he was slated to play MLB. He moved to SLB in spring and is second on the depth chart heading into fall camp. Naturally, he should see some first team reps in fall camp and will have a chance to earn a starting nod in the season opener.

So. MLB Todd Chisom (6-1, 220) came out of nowhere in spring. Considering he has been unknown commodity his first two fall camps, his spring 2007 performance was a surprise. He saw plenty of second team reps at MLB in spring but the emergence of Jacobs pushes him to third on the depth chart.

RFr. Robert Schenck (6-2, 250) is a wildcard heading into fall camp. He is by far the biggest LB on the team and has 4.56 speed. However, he sat out last season as a redshirt. He missed spring and summer practice with an ailment that was not made public, but he is supposed to be cleared for fall camp. By default, he is last on the depth chart. He can play inside or be an effective pass rusher on the outside. There is also the possibility he could see some time at defensive end during camp.

True freshman Austin Raphael (6-2, 230) missed most of his senior year at Sonora (Calif.) High School with an injury. He is healthy but is expected to redshirt this season. Walk-ons So. Mike Cheese (6-1, 220), So. Nick Bates (6-2, 220), and Fr. Dustin Russell (6-0, 220) are not expected to make much of an impact in fall camp.

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