Spring Assessments: Linebackers

With two returning starters missing spring due to injury, the linebacker corps has provided a ton of opportunities for guys who wouldn't normally get them.

The linebacker trio is loosing only one starter from last season with the graduation of A.J. Tuitele. However Tuitele missed five games last season due to injury, and returning starter, senior John Bacon, also missed several games last season. Their injuries gave repetitions to true freshman Casey Matthews and sophomore Kevin Garrett, who both saw reps with the first team defense this spring.

Stepping Up Into A Starting Position – Kevin Garrett

Kevin Garrett is the most experienced of the candidates looking to fill in for Tuitele at outside linebacker. Garrett saw action in 12 games last year, and he recorded 21 tackles with over a quarter of them being for a loss. He was also credited for one and a half sacks and a fumble recovery. However while Garrett may have the lead at this point, Spencer Paysinger has been on Garrett's heels this spring. Both gave standout performances in the last scrimmage.

The Surprise of Spring – Spencer Paysinger

The sophomore played very well in the last scrimmage. Mike Bellotti singled him out for his play after the scrimmage saying, "I thought Spencer Paysinger made a bunch of plays."

Paysinger's improved play can be credited to his learning of Nick Aliotti's defense.

"Spencer is learning a lot more, and since he's learning a lot more, he's playing better," mentioned Jerome Boyd on Tuesday.

The Ducks are perhaps as deep at linebacker as they have ever been. Beyond anticipated starters John Bacon, Jerome Boyd, and Kevin Garrett is a whole list of players who saw action in games last year and some who have made progress this spring. At the top of that list is Casey Matthews. Matthews as a freshman saw extensive playing time last season after John Bacon went down, and he has continued to be the starting middle linebacker during the spring with Bacon still rehabilitating.

Behind Matthews is defensive end turned middle linebacker Kenny Rowe. Terrance Pritchett, Eddie Pleasant and Riley Showalter are other linebackers who have shown improvement this spring. The Ducks are also waiting on their three linebacker recruits to arrive for next season. Dewitt Stuckey, Kiko Alonso, and Josh Kaddu will give even more depth at linebacker this fall.

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