Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Preview (Linebackers)

As big of a loss as Shady was at running back I think Scott McKillop is a bigger loss. When we open up against Youngstown State I think the absence of McKillop will be immediately noticeable. Our depth was boosted big time though earlier this month we when got word that Adam Gunn got his sixth year of eligibility. Luckily for us we have a bunch of bodies at each linebacker position so this will be a very interesting spring.

The groupings during the first few days of spring practice have been (thanks to Pantherlair):

Strong Side: Greg Willams, Nate Nix, Manny Williams
Middle Linebacker: Adam Gunn, Steve Dell, Brandon Lindsey
Weak Side: Max Gruder, Tristan Roberts, Joe Treblitz

Strong side linebacker could have a very similar setup once the season starts. Greg Williams played some fantastic football once given the chance last season. He showed some really good athleticism and playmaking ability. He will definitely be a starter at one of the outside linebacker positions. Nate Nix struggled in his time on the field last season and I'm interested to see what he brings to the table this spring. Manny Williams hasn't seen any time at all and may be lost in the shuffle for this season but could contribute on special teams.

Middle linebacker is missing a name and that is Shane Murray who is sitting out camp due to injury but has been moved to this position in the offseason. I'm a little apprehensive to have Murray as a middle linebacker just because of his physical limitations. He is a solid player who made tackles as the weak side linebacker two years ago but I wonder how well he will hold up to the middle linebacker position. He isn't terribly fast and is a bit undersized but he can tackle which is a big asset. 

With Murray out Adam Gunn has stepped into the middle linebacker position but I see him moving back outside in the summer. Gunn is coming off a neck injury but he has proven to be a decent player in the past, if a bit unspectacular. A great spring could lead to him taking over the position but my money is on him moving back outside. Wanny has praised Steve Dell in the off-season as a player he expects to make a run at his position but he hasn't played at all other than some special teams in 3 years here. Remember that this is his senior season and crazier stuff has happened so don't count him out. Brandon Lindsey is a guy who looks the part and has looked good every time I have seen him in practice. I would love to see him get a shot at this position in the spring but he might be a guy who is destined for a position change or never getting a shot which is unfortunate.

Strong side linebacker is being kept warm by Max Gruder until Gunn or Murray moves back. Gruder is a very interesting player in that he played a bit last season on the outside and looked good. Wanny seems to be grooming him as a do everything linebacker that can play inside or outside. I think Gruder will be a player who gets a ton of playing time even if he doesn't start this season. Tristan Roberts is another player like Brandon Lindsey that I have been impressed with whenever I have seen him and I would really like to see him get a shot down the line. Joe Treblitz is a redshirt freshman and I would expect him to see make an impact on special teams this season.

Williams-Murray-Gunn is how I see the linebacker position shaking out to start the season. I'm a bit worried about the lack of a big time playmaker in this group but there is experience with Murray and Gunn. Filling the shoes of McKillop is going to be impossible for anyone and I hope we can lock down this position for the future. 


johnny said...

I will once again go on record and say that Greg Williams is a beast. I look forward to when Shane Gordon gets to campus to see how he develops to the speed of collegiate practices. I fully expect him to redshirt, but I also fully expect him to develop in to a solid 3 or 4 year contributor when all is said and done.

rkohberger said...

Gunn won't participate in any contact drills until July (doctor's orders), so the chances of his cementing any position in the spring is unlikely.

I think we'll be fine at the LB positions, and their play will surprise us. For one thing we have experience back there - for another thing we have a monster DL in front of them. That's going to be the key, especially with a kid like Murray. He may not be big enough to fight off OLs every play, but if the DL does it's job, which I think it will in spades, then Murray will be free to use his athleticism to execute plays.