Spring Report Card: Linebackers

How are the linebackers looking during the spring? Does speed versus size seem to be working out for the defense? Can these young backers get to the quarterback? Websider's Taylor Freeman takes a look at the linebackers and grades the unit for their spring session.

If there is ever a question of how the linebackers did on any given play, just listen for the sound of Joe Kines. Kines, the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, brings his wealth of experience to the LB position, and knows exactly what he is looking for on any given play. After the snap, players, coaches, and fans up to a half mile away will be able to tell if he liked what he saw or not.

Despite the constant tirades that occur when a linebacker takes a misstep, Kines has actually seemed quite pleased with the linebacker corps, especially Sophomore Von Miller and Junior Matt Featherston. Both of these two have shown flashes of greatness and could bring the Aggies a step closer to becoming a linebacker university.

Lining up next to these two is redshirt freshmen Garrick Williams, who fits the mold of Sherman's idea for a smaller, speedy defense. Garrick was once recruited as a wide receiver/athlete, and he shows those skills in pass defense every day.

The problem with this unit is typical, its depth. At the MLB position Anthony Lewis is a backup worthy of contention to start, and Derrick Stephens can fill this role adequately as well. Stephens has also begun to take snaps on the outside however, where the position is much less deep and has had walk-ons working as high as second team.

In fact, the second team outside linebackers have been Junior Derek Dumas and Senior Jonathan Haynes. With Billy Chavis getting a look at the tight end, Derrick Stephens is the only projected impact player that could fill this role if a starter gets injured.

Because of this, expect true freshmen to come in to the fall with a chance for immediate playing time. If the Aggies are to be successful at this position, they must stay very healthy, or make stars out of players previously unheard of.

Projected Starters:

OLB: Von Miller
Analysis:
The linebacker with the most upside is Von Miller. He is cat quick, and shows tremendous effectiveness getting to the quarterback. Makes mistakes, but most of them are mental in nature and has shown consistency in physically dominating his opponent.

MLB: Matt Featherston
Analysis:
Originally starting the spring behind Anthony Lewis, Featherston has won the starting position by showing intensity and a great nose for the football. He is excellent at stuffing the run, and can both take on and shed a blocker.

OLB: Garrick Williams
Analysis:
When I first saw Garrick starting, I had to look on my roster to see which Williams we had out there, and did not even know Garrick was playing this position. By the end of the spring, I, and most others in attendance, not only knew Garrick was there but felt he deserved to be. He is smaller like Von, but great in pass coverage and should be a nice compliment to the bigger Featherston in the middle.

Best of the Rest:

MLB: Anthony Lewis
Analysis:
Lewis being on second team should not be viewed as a strike against him, but an endorsement of how strong the player of Featherston has been. Still, Lewis consistently gives reason to wonder why he does not deserve being on the field as well. He is more than a capable backup to Matt, and should still see much action in the fall.

Darkhorse:

MLB/OLB: Derrick Stephens
Analysis:
Coach Sherman said Derrick's move to the outside was a decision by Derrick to try and see minutes on the field. If his passion for playing can translate into production, this redshirt freshman could have the breakout year everyone was expecting. Questions about his speed from the outside remain, but he may be asked to step up sooner rather than later if Von or Garrick go down.

Taylor's Grade for Linebackers: B




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