"We're deep," Archer said following a recent practice. "There's simply no question about that. We've got some talent."
Talent is right. Durrell White, Chad Anderson, and Dustin Williams return to lead a linebacking group that could go as many as nine deep this upcoming season. An incredible reality that shows just how talented this group has become.
White, returns this season after starting 10 of 11 at outside linebacker last season. White improved his strength and his speed this off-season, and it has helped him get to the ball carrier quicker in the backfield. With a year of experience under his belt, you can only expect that White will know the defense better from his true freshmen season, and will only improve his numbers from last season.
Anderson returns after leading the Southeastern Conference in tackles per game last year. The junior from Canton (OH) hopes for bigger and better things this season on the football field, coming back stronger from a year ago. The added lower body weight has helped him move more freely in the secondary, but it is his instincts that have improved from last year. This spring practice, Anderson continues to make the right reads and understand the defense. Because of his continued effort to learn Archer's schemes, Anderson has become a mentor on the field for his teammates.
The "Hammer" returns for his junior season as well. The 6'4" linebacker from Channahon, Illinois will be the most experienced member of the linebacking group, with 26 games under his belt. This spring practice has shown not only his ability to lead the unit, but the defense as a whole. Williams continues to bring nothing less then 100 percent to every practice and it is that intangible that is perhaps most needed as a leader. Nobody's star has shined more this spring than Williams' and nobody is looking forward to this season more then the "Hammer" is.
Raymond Fontaine and Joe Schuler continue to battle for the fourth and final outside linebacker spot. Fontaine continues to utilize his speed to offset the lack of weight he has struggled to put on. Redshirt freshman Shuler has more of the characteristics of a linebacker, but he is still playing in pain from last season's injuries. As of today, the thinner Fontaine will most likely get the starting nod, but expect Schuler to see some playing time as well. As much as Archer has alternated the two this spring, if one slips, the other could very well get the start.
Part 2: The Back-Ups