At linebacker, we have probably the best football player on the roster with Markus Bailey. Around him, we have some young guys that got some field time at linebacker last year or on special teams.
This is a position that doesn’t have a ton of depth, but it has a lot of talent. With four senior linebackers graduating, there are all kinds of questions with this position group. But, this is what I have for the upcoming season.
OLB: Derrick Barnes - Covington, Kentucky, Sophomore
MLB: Markus Bailey - Columbus, Ohio, Junior
OLB: Cornel Jones - Miami, Florida, Sophomore
I think this starting group is pretty darn good. Bailey may be the best linebacker in the conference this season. Moving him to inside linebacker will be great for him. He won’t be limited to one side of the field and will be able to use his speed to get from sideline to sideline.
Barnes showed some glimpses last year that he could be pretty good. He also had times where he missed tackles pretty bad. But, he was just a freshman and he will only get better. Pencil him in as a for sure starter and strong side outside linebacker.
The other outside linebacker spot could go to Jones or to Larry. Depending on what Coach Holt wants to do. Larry has a little bit more speed, but lacks the size to be in on all running downs. Maybe we see a mixture of the two to fill the position perfectly.
Jonah Williams - West Lafayette, Indiana, Redshirt Freshman
Tobias Larry - Lakeland, Florida, Sophomore
Jaylan Alexander - Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Freshman
Jack Smith - Lakeland, Florida, Freshman
The depth s where I am worried. Larry is the for sure rotation guy, but outside of that, who the hell knows. Jonah Williams, a walk on, has potential to see the field and he probably does on at least special teams. I think Jaylan Alexander may be forced to play just to get his feet wet, as we will need him in the coming years. He will probably be utilized on special teams just like Barnes, Larry and Jones were last year.
Rumor is, Jack Smith did not report in early June with all the other freshman, maybe an academic issue. But if he comes, he may see a redshirt year as he is smaller than some of our defensive backs currently.
What I could see happening, is if Bailey needed a break, Barnes would slide to MLB and then fill in with Larry or Jones. If a couple guys get hurt or banged up, look for Williams or Alexander to step in a try to fill the void.
This is one of the positions that just doesn’t have a ton of depth. Maybe we end up see more 4-2-5 from Coach Holt. Who knows, but the men we have on the team are talented.