Cards developing depth at linebacker

Despite the loss of middle linebacker Robert McCune to the NFL Draft, U of L outside linebackers coach Tony Levine says that the future is bright for the group.

Despite the loss of middle linebacker Robert McCune, the team's leading tackler the last two seasons, the University of Louisville has assembled a solid group of both experienced and young linebackers.

Returning are outside linebackers Brandon Johnson and Abe Brown, who combined to record 139 total tackles, including seven sacks, plus three interceptions for a defense that finished 15th in the NCAA.

Joining the first team defense at middle linebacker is sophomore Matt Sanders, while players like Malik Jackson, Nate Harris, Preston Smith, Terrance Butler and others are finding more and more reps with the first or second team.

"I think we are starting to get some depth at a lot of positions," said Levine. "At linebacker we have Brandon Johnson and Abe Brown that started last year, and then Malik Jackson, who had a good spring and is coming on strong. Right now Malik is splitting time with the one's."

"Preston Smith is playing at WILL linebacker and is doing a nice job," continued Levine. "Terrance Butler is a guy that we moved from safety last spring to WILL linebacker and he is really coming on. We brought in Blake Boyd from here in Kentucky and he's starting out at SAM linebacker."

However, Levine admitted that majority of the depth at linebacker is in the middle.

"The majority of the depth is at the MIKE position with Matt Sanders, Nate Harris, Johnnie Burns, Lamar Myles and Mozell Axson. It's five or six deep right there."

With competition at each position becoming tighter and tighter, Levine says the that coaching staff will continue to live by Coach Bobby Petrino's philosophy of 'feed the studs'.

"One thing we try to do on both offense and defense is to our best eleven on the field," he explained. "One of our objectives as a staff during the early part of camp is to identify who our best eleven are."

And, with the gap between the those on the depth chart becoming smaller, coach Levine and fellow linebackers coach Reggie Johnson has to be pleased with the group's progress.

"We are getting where we want to be at the linebacker position," he said. "With only one senior in Brandon Johnson the future looks bright."

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