And a fierce one it will be during training camp.
The leader in the clubhouse at the moment is junior linebacker Antonio Lowery who turned in an equally impressive spring campaign. Lowery got the majority of time alongside Munoz and D'Imperio with the first team in training camp, and judging by the general success of the defense over the spring, he may be there to stay.
"He has played well this spring, better than he has ever played," said head coach Greg Schiano on Lowery at the end of spring practice.
Competing for the spot with Lowery are sophomore Manny Abreu and redshirt freshman Marcus Witherspoon.
Abreu played in all 13 games last season with select starts, but seemed to tail off at the end of the year. He played mostly with the second team in the spring after recording 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks in his redshirt freshman season, but also saw some time with the first team.
Witherspoon, a four-star transfer, according to Scout.com, from Michigan, has yet to see the field as a Scarlet Knight because of transfer rules and an injury, but Schiano said that he expects Witherspoon to be full-go come August and Witherspoon will likely turn a few heads with 4.55 speed and tackling ability on the weak side.
The bench player to watch for the Scarlet Knights in training camp is junior middle linebacker Jim Dumont, the winner of Frank R. Burns Award for displaying mental and physical toughness. Dumont impressed the coaching staff immensely in the spring. Although he will not start because of D'Imperio, he will see a lot of time on special teams and in reserve roles this season.
"He's one of the tougher guys I've been around," Schiano said of Dumont. "He broke his hand and he finished the practice with a little tape on it and casted it up and practiced every other day — every other practice that we had. He may not have some of the physical tools that a Ryan D'Imperio or someone like that has, but he'll throw his body in there and is fearless. The Frank Burns toughness award, he really epitomizes what that award is about."
Training camp also means the arrival of three new three-star linebackers to the Banks in the forms of Ka'Lial Glaud, Steve Beauharnais and Jamil Merrell.
Glaud, the 42nd rated middle linebacker recruit nationally according to Scout.com, recorded 97 tackles and eight sacks on the defensive side of the ball in his senior season and also threw for 1,379 yards and 19 touchdowns as his high school's quarterback on the offensive end.
Beauharnais, the 34th ranked strong side linebacker recruit, stands at 6'2" and weighs 230 pounds and committed to the Knights in June of 2008.
Merrell, the 17th ranked weak side linebacker recruit, struggles in his shedding ability, but has shown at the high school level that his hitting ability, athleticism and aggressiveness make him a legitimate threat.
It is unlikely that any of the three will see significant, if any, time in 2009 because of depth at the linebacking spot, but with the departure of D'Imperio and Munoz at the end of the upcoming season, all three have the potential to be four-year starters.
Make sure to also see previous Training Camp Preview installments:
Training Camp Preview: Linebackers
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