Linebackers Experienced and Inexperienced

Like most of Oregon's vaunted defense, depth will be critical at linebacker. Linebacker's coach Don Pellum oversees a position group that displays an interesting dichotomy of experience and inexperience.

"Our system dictates that we need to rotate some guys. It's a higher energy defense where guys are moving around a lot, so we need to be able to do that," Pellum said .

Pellum hopes to use Thursday's scrimmage and the final week of fall camp to create a rotation of between five-and-six players who will see the majority of the reps come Sept. 1.

Presumably locked into that rotation is two-year starter Michael Clay, Rose Bowl most valuable defensive player Kiko Alonso and junior Boseko Lokombo, who Pellum refers to as a "quote-end-quote" back-up a year ago.

Those veterans and defensive end/drop end Dion Jordan have been instrumental according to Pellum, in their ability to use their experience to benefit the play of younger backers.

"A lot of your coaching is, ‘Watch this guy. This is what you're trying to get done, watch him," said Pelum. "They're tremendous role models, tremendous examples to follow."

For Lokombo that leadership comes naturally through a work ethic that he prides himself on just as much as he does his on-the-field play.

"I like for guys to see that I show up every time ready to work," admitted Lokombo.

To fill the other few spots, Pellum will look to a nucleus of young players that are talented, but relatively unproven. Sophomores Rodney Hardrick, Derrick Malone and Anthony Wallace saw limited action a year ago. Redshirt freshmen Rahim Cassell and Tyson Coleman took the field for the first time in this April's spring game. Junior walk-on Keloni Kamalani and true freshman Brett Bafaro will also compete for playing time.

While the difference between the upperclassmen and the underclassmen may seem vast, according to Pellum it's closer than one would think, with the major difference being the speed in which the players evaluate and adapt to the play in front of them.

"With the more experienced guys, when something new happens, they don't miss a beat," observed Pellum. "With the lesser experienced guys, you've got to coach them,"

Lokombo has noticed the ability of the younger players also especially in their mentality.

"A lot of young guys are hungry and ready to play," Lokombo said. "They're developing really well; showing that they're ready to play when game time comes."

That has been the case for inside linebacker Wallace, who is anxious to build off of a freshman season, which was full of promise, but also room to grow.

"I just wanted to go out there and give all I've got and just go full out," Wallace said of his effort on the field this past season and during the spring game. "I bring the mindset into every game that I've got to be ready to bring it just as much as the starter."

Part of that mindset can be seen in the effort he has put into his conditioning routine this off-season, a trimming down that Pellum says he has noticed this fall. The weight loss has allowed him to move faster and make more plays, Wallace says.

Also allowing Wallace to play more effectively has been his knowledge of the defense, something that can come slowly to a first-year college football player.

"I think that I have a better aspect of the whole defense," Wallace said. "It just allows me to make plays."

While only a redshirt freshman, Pellum raves about the potential he has seen thus far in Coleman, a 6-1, 222-pound Lake Oswego-native. Fans may remember Coleman as one of the spring game's standouts, creating two takeaways including an interception for a score. Pellum urges fans to temper their enthusiasm, but expect eventual excellence.

"I think the thing that everybody forgets about Tyson, is that he's a freshman," Pellum said. "The good news is that Tyson is still progressing very well. He's in incredible shape. He can go out and run and go and go and go. His technique has improved a lot. His attitude is fantastic, and that is a big a part of it. His ears are open and he's listening and trying to do everything we ask him to do."

Perhaps the player who has shown the biggest sparks of potential has been the speedster Cassell, Pellum says.

"Rahim Cassell has shown some flashes of what we thought he would be," offered Pellum. "He needs to be more consistent. But, we like what we've seen in those flashes. He has tremendous speed."

Speed kills, but so does inexperience, hopefully the experience of the upperclassmen will outweigh those behind them.

NOTES:

-Redshirt freshman Christian French, who recently made a position change from tight end to defense, is reportedly playing the drop end position that both Jordan and Tony Washington play. -Lokombo was excited about the new jerseys, referring to them as "innovative", "stylish", and "swag".
-Head Coach Chip Kelly said that two-deep roster will be announced Friday.

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