Linebacker update -

Imagine the surprise of the media when, at Monday's practice, true freshman Middle Linebacker Chris Strong was running with the first defense. Read what LB Coach Dave Corrao has to say about that and the other lineackers inside.

True freshman Linebacker Chris Strong didn't take long to make a mark, an impact if you will, on the Rebel defense.

His status of the number one middle linebacker has not been established - yet - but in Monday's practice he was running drills with the first team defense.

Linebackers Coach Dave Carrao wasn't about to annoint Chris as the next savior to the Rebel defense, but he obviously has liked what he has seen to this point.

"What we look for are guys who want to come downhill and attack the line of scrimmage, meet the opposing ballcarriers on their side of the line of scrimmage," said Corrao. "Chris can do that and he likes doing that.

"We want to find three guys like that. That's what we are working on. As far as where we are on the depth chart and things like that, you will have to ask Coach (Ed) Orgeron and Coach (John) Thompson, but his ability to come downhill is pretty impressive. Fullbacks aren't going to want to block him and offensive linemen aren't going to relish zoning him because he's going to hit them harder than they hit him. That is our big focus right now - going downhill and smacking people in the mouth. Chris has shown an ability for that already."

The other number ones - right now - are Will LB Jonathan Cornell, the one guy at LB expected to start this year after spring training, and Sam LB Ashlee Palmer.

"Jonathan is having a very good fall camp. He's been soilid and consistent play-in and play-out, like we expected," the first-year Rebel LB mentor said. "Ashlee's focus coming out of spring was learning how to be an every-down player. When you look at him, he's a big physical kid who can run and make plays. For him, it's about developing consistency. He's getting there."

The "other" candidates - Tony Fein, Lamar Brumfield, Allen Walker, Jamie Phillips, Scottie Williams, et al - got some blanket kudos from Corrao.

"Everyone is competing hard. The saying around here is the depth chart is etched in sand. If someone has a good day and the other guy doesn't, you move up," he continued. "We've got good guys who want to move up.

"With all the new guys, Chris included, it's a matter of learning the volume of information they have to learn. It's a lot different than playing high school LB. The speed of the game is a lot faster. There is a lot more copetition out there now and all of them have to up their level of play to advance and move up. Jamie, Lamar, Allen, Tony, all of them, have to rise to the occasion and adjust to the speed of the game.

"What we have now is a deeper pool of players and a lot of competition. Competition makes everyone better. That's a key to our development."

Corrao said a lot is up in the air right now, but things will start to sort out in the coming days and weeks.

"We are getting a good bead on what each player can do and adjusting accordingly. We'll get there - it's just a matter of time," he closed.

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