"Everybody has been working hard and doing a good job in preseason," said second-year Bobcat assistant coach Donavan Baucum. "We have been pleased so far."
Heading this year's group is Wayne County sophomore Jerrell Gandy (6-1, 220), who is at the ‘mike' or strongside linebacker slot.
"Jerrell is really the leader of the linebacking corps," said Baucum. "He played a lot of snaps for us there last year. He does a good job of getting everybody lined up properly and he is a hardworking guy. He is like a coach on the field for us."
Leading the way at the ‘will' or weakside linebacker position is Brion James (6-2, 210), a transfer from Tulsa University. He played in 12 games for the Golden Hurricane last year, including Tulsa's Hawaii Bowl appearance.
"Brion is trying to make the transition from safety to linebacker," Baucum said of the Hahnville High School in Killona, La., product. "He has kind of had his ups and downs there. He is learning how to take on blocks and how to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
"Brion is a great leader for us and is always trying to motivate the other players. As a coach, that's something you really like to see."
Backing up Gandy is Marcus Mayers (6-2, 225) of Taylorsville. Mayers signed with Ole Miss out of high school.
"The biggest thing with Marcus right now is to get him to play faster," said Baucum. "He is making the transition and is trying to get used to the speed of the game. But when he does that, he will be somebody that can really help us this season."
Behind James is Mize redshirt freshman Chavez Sims (6-2, 225). Sims injured a knee in the season opener last year at Mississippi Delta Community College.
He is also the younger brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Eugene Sims.
"Chavez has done a tremendous job to come back from the knee injury last year," said Baucum. "He got hurt in that first game and to be back and cleared in about 10 months is remarkable. But he is trying to figure out where to go and what to do, like all of our younger players.
"Physically, he has good size and tremendous speed. He just needs more and more reps."
An addition at linebacker is Anthony McGilberry (6-2, 190), a freshman from Laurel. McGilberry has played in the secondary in addition to linebacker.
"Anthony will be our fifth linebacker," said Baucum. "The biggest thing with him is just learning the system. But he will probably play on all of our special teams and really contribute there."
Wayne County freshman Marion Chapman (6-1, 210) is a late addition to the roster and will add more depth at the position.
Baucum is pleased with the way his group has performed in preseason on the field, but he also likes their demeanor off the field.
"They are good kids, they are ‘yes sir, no sir' types of kids," he said. "Everytime we've asked them to be somewhere, they've been there. Jerrell does a good job of leading, but Chavez and Brion have stepped up to be leaders of the defense, too.
"You really need that, especially at the linebacker position."
The Bobcats open the season at home at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 in Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field against Mississippi Delta Community College. The game will be televised on www.jcjc.tv and can be heard on WGDQ-FM, 93.1. Lance Pittman will call the play-by-play and Mark Easley provides commentary.
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