Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Dawg-like Preview: Linebackers

(Note: Each week from now until the start of the season, we will be previewing different position groups for the Dawgs. In case you missed the last two installments, find them here and here.)

The real buzz around the new defensive unit has been the addition of the Todd Grantham coached OLB's as well as Warren Belin's ILB's. I think we're in VERY good hands with these two. This was, by far, the worst-coached unit on the team the past few years. (If you can tell, I wasn't the biggest fan of John Jancek; even his recruiting skills were terrible.)

I think the more unknown and overlooked factor in this equation is Warren Belin. CWB produced numerous All-SEC linebackers at Vanderbilt with those being Moses Osemwegie (04-05'), Hunter Hillenmeyer (2002), Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs (06'-07'), and Patrick Benoist and Chris Marve (08'-09'). If you take a look at where these guys were in high school you'll notice that they were mostly two-star guys, with a couple being three-star caliber recruits. The guy can obviously coach. I'm excited to see what he can do with the talent we have in those positions.

Speaking of the talent we have at ILB, here is the depth chart as of today (in my opinion from fall camp performance):
  • ILB- 1. Christian Robinson, 2. Marcus Dowtin, 3. Richard Samuel
  • ILB- 1. Akeem Dent, 2. Mike Gilliard, 3. Akeem Hebron
  • OLB- 1. Justin Houston, 2. Reuben Faloughi
  • OLB- 1A. Darryl Gamble, 1B. Cornelious Washinton, 3. T.J. Stripling/Chase Vasser

From what I've gathered, Houston and Gamble have been lighting the place up. As I said yesterday, Darryl Gamble has 6 sacks in the first two scrimmages and coaches have been raving about his work ethic. JH had three sacks in Saturday's scrimmage as well as a fumble return for a TD. Cornelious is a solid option behind Gamble and could easily start as well.

If you haven't noticed, despite Dent's foot injury and his inability to practice, I still have him listed at No. 1. From what the coaches are saying he'll be back full speed before LaLa, so I still have him inked in there.

There is a HUGE concern with depth in this OLB group. As you can see, there is ZERO experience behind these three. This will necessitate a lot of time for Faloughi, Stripling, and possibly Dexter Morant or Brandon Burrows or Vasser. I haven't heard much on the latter three of these four, and I can't say that they'll be a factor. Morant has the measurables, but it seems likely that he'll redshirt because of his lack of practice time while considering whether or not to stay in the program. I think we could be pleasantly surprised with Faloughi and his entrance via preferred walk-on.

Inside linebacker will be our best unit on defense. I don't think its a stretch to say our top four would be starters at pretty much every other school in the country. Dowtin, Dent, and Robinson are VERY good and will prove to be the anchor of the defense very early on in the season. I expect this group to be a lot more dynamic and fundmentally sound this year than years past. Hopefully, Belin knows how to teach these guys how to get off of a block and also how to form tackle. ***(If you remember 2008 and Dwyer's TD run to open the 2nd half, you have nightmares of this. If not, down below Scott Howard does.)

The Dawgs have a very good group of athletes and coaches at the linebacker positions. I'm not worried about Belin and the inside. I am mortified at the lack of depth we have on the outside, however. Grantham is going to have to work some magic with those young pups or we're going to get exposed, especially in the coverage department. We have the pass rushers, but I'm not sure we have the guys that can drop back into coverage when the other guy is "pinning his ears back". I just hope the coaches have done their part on the recruiting trail and we can lean on raw talent a little. Time will tell.

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