Post-Spring Breakdown: Part VI

This is the sixth part of the post-spring practice breakdown. The previous five featured the spring offensive updates, including breakdowns of the quarterbacks, offensive line, backfield and receiving group, and the first defensive breakdown, the defensive line. Now, comes the linebacker breakdown.

1. There is fire in this group: The week before the annual Red-White game, linebacker Keenan Clayton mentioned someone had called the linebacking group out. Here's what he had to say.

"Some things were said today that I didn't feel like should be said to the linebacking corps when we have three starters coming back. I'm not going to say what was said and who said it, but it was said in our huddle, and it didn't sit well with me and I'm sure it didn't sit well with the other guys. Come Saturday, there's a point that needs to be proven by the linebacking corps. He called the whole group out. I want the whole group to step up and have a good day, so that way if something happens he can't say it's our fault."

And the OU linebacking corps responded, as they did have a very good showing in the spring game, specifically Mike Balogun and J.R. Bryant. Both had six tackles, and Bryant returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown. This group is clearly motivated for the fall.

2. They stay at home: Travis Lewis led the team with 144 tackles a year ago and also had four interceptions for 108 return yards, and Clayton was third on the team with 82 tackles, including 10 for loss. How did they have these types of numbers? They stayed at home in their positions, which is crucial in the heart of the defense. Lewis, Clayton and the others know when to rush and when to sit back and read the over-the-middle routes from the quarterback. It's something the Sooners in the middle continued to improve upon in the spring, and it will be crucial for them to stay home against yet another year's worth of great Big 12 offenses in 2009.

3. Incoming linebackers have been impressive: Most notably, Jaydan Bird and Tom Wort, a pair of players that graduated high school in the fall and elected to prepare for the upcoming season instead of sticking around and attending their high school proms, have been extremely impressive this spring. The coaches and other players have talked about their quick progress throughout the spring, and it definitely showed in the spring game for Wort. Here's what head coach Bob Stoops had to say about his performance.

"He's very unusual for a freshman in the way he has come in, picked things up and worked." Stay tuned for the seventh and final analysis on the defensive backs.

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