Spring Position Preview: Linebackers

Brent Venables talks about this year's linebackers heading into spring practice

Heading into the spring the linebacker position is one of the biggest question marks on the Oklahoma football team.

Star linebacker Rocky Calmus graduated along with the talented Brandon Moore. Both are headed to the NFL and they leave two glaring holes to fill in the Sooner defense.

The prospects to replace them are inexperienced and have played very little varsity football. However, Brent Venables has proven over and over again that if that player has talent, he can turn that inexperienced linebacker into a one of the nations best.

Venables realizes that his linebacker core will receive a lot of attention from fans at spring practice. OUInsider had a chance to sit down with him recently to find out how his linebacker corp stacks up going into the spring.

JH: Is linebacker one of the key position of interest for the OU team this spring?

BV: Without question the safety position that Roy Williams played and a couple of different linebacking positions are real key for us in having somebody step up. There will be tremendous competition among a lot of young talented players who will be competing for those positions.

JH: Who is in competition with who this spring?

BV: We hope that Teddy Lehman, with an additional year under his belt playing ÎMIKEÌ linebacker, will have a better understanding of the entirety of our defense. We hope that he will be ready to make an easy transition to Rocky Calmus' weakside linebacker spot.

We anticipate that we have four other guys will be in competition to not only back Teddy's position, but to take over Rocky's and Brandon Moore's position at strongside linebacker. The battle will be real fierce to get on the field.

There are a lot of young, hungry guys who are very talented with great desire to get on the field. It is going to be very exciting to go to practice every day.

JH: Who are the candidates for your middle linebacker spot?

BV: Lance Mitchell and Clint Ingram are two big, strong, athletic linebackers who can both run. They can be physical as well. They have shown in winter conditioning that they are athletically what we are looking for at that middle linebacker spot.

Clint has been here and has redshirted so he has a little head start on Lance, but he hasn't taken any quality snaps though either.

Lance comes here with two years of junior college experience, where he competed at the highest level at San Francisco City College. Lance was a great junior college player in his own right and we anticipate him to make a smooth transition this spring to Division 1 football.

JH: Who will compete to replace Brandon Moore at the strongside linebacker position?

BV: Pasha Jackson and Russell Dennison, two rangy, athletic linebackers who run about 6-foot-3 to 6-3 and a half. Both are physical players who are very athletic and can really run. They have really similar body types and they will give us great competition at that position. Both are quality young men that we really believe gives us more depth at that position than what we have been afforded there over the last couple of years.

JH: Did the JUCO's (Jackson and Mitchell) play a system similar to OUÌs at San Francisco City College?

BV: As a matter of fact there are a lot similarities in what they did. I think the biggest thing they will have to learn is the new terminology that we have. Having a similar system than we have gives them a good understanding of what we do, but the biggest hurdle is taking the new terminology, learning it and then putting it to use.

JH: How big and fast is Teddy Lehman as he enters his junior season?

BV: He ran a 4.46 at 238 pounds. So he is heavier then he has ever been and maybe two tenths of a second slower in the forty than what he has run in a consistent basis. He has improved his vertical jump by three-and-a-half inches from last year. He has improved all of his quickness in the shuttle and all shuttle drills. He is also better in change-of-direction drills, despite gaining some really good weight.

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