The most important development with the linebackers at the Coaches Clinic Scrimmage was that Mike Mauti (right, cross jersey) was in pads and actually warmed up then went through individual drills. Of course, he did not play in the scrimmage as he continues to come back from the torn right ACL he sustained last preseason. But he was moving extremely well in the action he did see, despite playing with a brace on the knee.
After dropping below 210 pounds following his surgery, Mauti is currently listed at 231. As the best linebacker on the team, it is imperative that he returns to full strength by the preseason, and he sure looks to be ahead of schedule in that regard.
With all three starters form last season gone, Mauti is practically a lock for a first-team job come fall. Knowing that, and considering how vanilla the offenses were in the scrimmage, this was one position where it was difficult to form many opinions based on seeing one day of practice.
The starters were Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu on the outside with Chris Colasanti (right, No. 48) in the middle. Stupar is the most well-rounded of that group. He did a nice job of pressuring the quarterback and was the most comfortable of the three dropping into coverage.
Colasanti has what it takes to be a tackling machine. But I wonder if he is athletic enough to drop into coverage. Gbadyu is extremely athletic but seems to get lost on the field at times.
On the opening drive of the scrimmage -- where the first-team offense faced the first-team defense -- the offense's two biggest plays were a dump pass to receiver Curtis Drake and a scramble by quarterback Kevin Newsome. The ‘backers appeared to be out of position both times.
I liked what I saw of redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Mike Yancich with the second-team defense. He attacked ball-carriers, had a sack and was more comfortable in space than Colasanti.
He also showed some fire by briefly mixing it up with center Matt Stankiewitch after the offense was stuffed on a first-down play.
I'm sure folks have a lot of questions about sophomore outside ‘backer Gerald Hodges (right, No. 6). But he didn't do anything that jumped out at me in this scrimmage -- either positively or negatively. I do know that every time I see him on the field, I wonder why he's not at safety.
Early enrollee Khairi Fortt saw third-team reps. He is obviously a good athlete and looks the part of a big-time linebacker at 225 pounds. But this is another instance where it was tough to make any real call on his abilities because he wasn't playing with or against the best athletes on the team.
For instance, the third-team defensive ends really had their hands full, which allowed the backup tailbacks they were facing -- Silas Redd, Hykeem Brodie and Derek Day -- to break a lot of big runs outside. So it was very difficult to make a fair evaluation of Fortt under those circumstances.
Grayshirt freshman Glenn Carson was the third-team middle linebacker. He appeared to have a good feel for the position but is REALLY thin. I'll be stunned if he does not redshirt.
I left the scrimmage thinking Mike Hull, who will be enrolling in June, will have a very good chance of cracking the depth chart in the preseason.
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