Lea on the Competition at LB

Linebacker Coach Clark Lea talked about the competition for two starting linebacker positions, the injury to Patrick Larimore, and the potential of true freshman Jordan Zumwalt, and more...

With Patrick Larimore down, you've had a chance to look at Jordan Zumwalt a little …

‘'Yeah, yeah. You know, Jordan is a guy that came in. We were real excited when we signed him and he's done enough in these first couple of days to let us think to give him a shot, so we're going to take a look. Obviously, we have a lot of defense in, we have more going in, so he's going to have to prove himself mentally capable to keep up. This affords us the opportunity to do it, and we're going to see what he can handle.''


How is he handling what he has right now?

‘'He's a conscientious kid. He's a hard-working kid. This game moves fast for these guys no matter how smart they are, but it's slowing down for him and I think athletically he's done a nice job. Again, he's got to continue to study and push himself in the classroom because he's behind. A guy like Steve Sloan, he's four years behind. It just takes a while, but as far as an incoming freshman digesting the playbook, he's done a very nice job. He really has.''


Physically, is he at a place where he'd be able to play right now?

‘'Well, you know, he certainly has not reached his potential physically. I think when we talk in four years he's going to be physically a different looking guy. Is he physical enough to play in the Pac-10? That's what we're going to find out this week because of getting the pads on, the wear and tear of working every day ... you know, we'll figure it out. But, certainly, there's enough there athletically that we're excited about him. We really are.''


How much does Larimore missing this time hinder what he's trying to do?

‘'First of all there's no one more upset about that than Patrick Larimore. He wants to be out here and as a coach, of course we want him to be out here. But we've got to remind ourselves that the kid is the one who's hurting. These guys have come to trust Patrick as a player and as a worker and so the main thing his focus has to be on now is healing that hamstring. Once he does, he'll have plenty of time to come out and prove himself worthy and compete for that job without question. Does it slow him down? Sure it does. But once he comes back and is 100 percent, he's going to be right back in the mix.''


It doesn't seem like he's going to have any problem with the physical part of the position and even when he's down like this he can still do the book work, so …

‘'Oh, sure. And Pat's the guy who is always taking notes in the meetings. He's a cerebral guy. Obviously, he's done incredible work in the offseason, in a testament to his work ethic, reshaping his body and being ready to play physically, But you can never replace repetition and so just doing it over and over … the thing about the MIKE linebacker, it's not just about your responsibility. You're responsible for every other person getting lined up, getting the front set, making the checks. As a guy that hasn't played on Saturday's as a MIKE yet, those are the things that we're going to need to see from him, We've got to see him take command on the field, so that's where that repetition, once he gets back healthy, becomes critical.''


And the two guys at WILL, how do they look right now?

‘'Both of them are really working hard. You know, I think obviously Sean Westgate has had a nice camp. He's been consistent. He can handle the playbook. He knows it as well as anybody and that is a value to have a guy like that who can be on the field. It's like having another MIKE on the field. Glenn Love has continued to push. Glenn is still young at the position and my job is to continue to shape him as we move through camp, be patient with him bit make him better every day and both of those guys are working hard and obviously still competing for that job and done a nice job so far.''


With Westgate, there are questions whether he can hold up. With Love, there are questions whether he can make the adjustment to playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Do you need to cultivate another option there?

‘'Coach (Chuck) Bullough has a philosophy that the best three guys play. That can be a combination of a lot of different things and, obviously, football is structured such that there are a lot of situations and we can change personnel and get the right grouping we need for those situations. But, you know, that said, if we have a guy at another position that we feel we need on the field and there's somewhere else where we may be a little deficient, absolutely. We've always had that philosophy here – the best three play. And the way I teach these guys, the way Coach Bullough teaches them, the positions are interchangeable. So in the meeting room it's not just about knowing what you do, it's about knowing what the other two parts do. That kind of lends itself to that approach.''


So if you need, you can make some moves …

‘'Certainly. It's just a matter of seeing how things shake down and once the dust settles after camp, we'll have a great idea who those three guys are that are going to be out guys. We'll probably have it before the dust settles and, you know, I would say right now with the positional battles, Westgate and Love are two great players. They're going to do great things for us on the field. In some capacity, both of them will. Of the three MIKEs we're dealing with now in Sloan, Larimore and Zumwalt, obviously Zumwalt being the least experienced but doing enough to where we're excited about him, Lari having to get healthy and Sloan, one of those guys will be a great player for us at MIKE. The great news, too, is that we have the depth there to can survive an injury. And at SAM, you know, it's about finding a guy that can be consistent behind Akeem Ayers so if he goes down we have a guy that can go in the game and not slow down. That's also a position where we can move guys around to plug that spot, too.''


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