Monday, June 26, 2006

A look at the 2006 Linebackers

I think the key to the defensive unit will be the play of the linebackers. If you are going to run an agressive defense these guys need to be able to hold their positions a lot better than last years group.

Benjamin, and Lobendahn will be missed, they both had a lot of experience. The problem was that while Joe had the heart of a lion, he was undersized and slow. The knee injuries took away whatever speed he once had. Benjamin was a guy who played well at times, especially later in the season, but he isn't a hall of fame candidate either. So the falloff isn't going to be great, but it would be better if there was improvement, especially in sideline, to sideline speed. We get more of that this year minus the experience.

Scott White comes back for his senior year as the undisputed leader of the unit. Even though he is the leader he is going to be pushed Howell again who has been an able back up. White isn't an All American, but he is a vocal leader. Inside Taj Bomar did a credible job filling in for Lobo the last few games of the season, in fact it was good to see a little more mobility on the inside.

Trenton Tuiasosopo get his first real chance to compete for the position after injuries knocked him out since he first arrived. He needs some time to knock the rust off. Jones played early, but wore down physically just as early, and wasn't a factor later in the year. He could be spending more time DE, or once again compete for the job in the middle. Stevens, who played behind Benjamin last year is the starter on the outside going into the Fall. The return of EJ Savannah to health is a big deal, here is a guy who is going to play al ot even if he doesn't start, if he can stay healthy. Trew is still around hasn't been moved to FB yet, but still hasn't made a move to get into the rotation.

On the recruiting front Tormey wasn't able to attract a can't miss kind of guy. Houston is a guy the DM guys say that can play early. Butler was everyone's favorite recruit, who could forget the hand written letter to Willingham accepting the offer to become a Husky. What these two kids have in common is that they are workers who will get it done over the next 4-5 years. The best LB recruited will start out at FB. In Omaha, Paul Homer is a legend, they say just knock the snot out of people and they are surprised we aren't giving him a look at LB. Jake Merrill could move down here eventually from safety.

Anthony Atkin's is a possible wildcard on the inside. He put on a bunch of weight and looked lost at DE this Spring. Last I heard he was trying to get down to 265. He could end up redshirting, it will be interesting to see how he looks in August.

How will they play together?

They key to this years defensive unit is going to be linebackers. We need some serious improvement here if we are going to be playing football somewhere in December.

Bomar, and White are serviceable Pac Ten guys will alot of experience. In baseball we would call these two guys replacement level players. We have seen worse, but we have also seen better judged on past performance. These guys really need to break through to next level.

EJ is going to end up starting, maybe not right away, but he is going to get a lot of reps. Chris Stevens looked pretty good last year and has good speed even though he gives away some size. In an ideal world Tui, and EJ shake off the rust and earn starting jobs this August, but I think it may take 4-5 games for these guys to be fully back in the swing where their talent overcomes the guy's ahead of them's experience. Both are capable of the all star level if healthy, but both are coming off injuries that were considered career threatening.

My prediction is that at the start of the season the tandem of White/Howel, Bomar/Tui, and Stevens/Savannah will be the equal of last years unit. I think by midseason they will be better than last years group at their peak. Overall though unless some young player's emerge this will be a very middle of the road unit.

Long range this is a position that needs some more speed, and talent. As far as that goes I believe Willingham will do well in the recruiting wars this year with a few more victories under his belt, so we have to be patient till the talent arrives.

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