August 4, 2010

LB camp preview: Who will emerge from the pack?

Few positions have undergone as much offseason change across the board than Nebraska's linebackers. Not only did the unit lose its most experienced member to the NFL in Phillip Dillard, it also had its Buck linebacker spot all but completely erased from the defense in place of the new "peso" position.

As a result, the Huskers are entering fall camp with a stable of young contenders fighting for playing time. This can only be a good thing. Here's a look at the competition at linebacker coming into the season.

Biggest question: How many will play?

With the loss of the Buck spot from the base defense, Nebraska has a total of 18 linebackers competing for playing time at just two positions - the Mike and Will. Realistically, only about eight of those 18 actually have a legitimate chance to start. Still, how the Huskers distribute playing time within those eight could play a huge part in how the position shakes out over the next few years. Guys like Will Compton, Sean Fisher and Eric Martin all seem like locks to see their share of playing time, but what happens when highly-touted juco transfer Lavonte David enters the mix this fall? And don't forget about Alonzo Whaley, Mathew May and Matt Holt, who will both be competing for time as well.

What we know right now: The best will play

Nebraska's coaching staff loves the whole concept of competition breeding overall improvement within a unit. That's exactly what head coach Bo Pelini is counting on this fall and throughout the season with his linebackers. With a unit desperate for someone to emerge as a clear leader, the competition this fall should go a long way in sorting out the top handful of linebackers that will see the most playing time this year. The fact of the matter is that juniors Holt and May are the eldest players in the unit, so it's fairly safe to say that all this competition won't be ending anytime soon.

Fresh fall camp faces: Lavonte David

David has yet to even take an official practice rep at Nebraska, but he's already one of the leading candidates to win a starting job by the time fall camp wraps up. At 6-1, 210, the Miami, Fla., native joins the Huskers as one of the most highly sought after juco defensive players in the country out of Fort Scott (Kan.) CC. With three years to play two, David's superb athleticism helped him rank as the No. 7 juco linebacker in the country last year by As long as he doesn't get completely overwhelmed by NU's defensive scheme this fall, there's no reason that David won't start or at least see some serious playing time right away.

Early camp prediction

Linebacker is easily the biggest question mark on the entire defense, and it will likely continue to be through the fall and on into the season. I see the usual suspects of Compton, Martin and Fisher holding their spots as frontrunners, but as I said earlier, if David can get it figured out mentally, there's no way Nebraska can't put him on the field. Compton said he made it a point this spring to establish himself as a leader of the defense. If he or someone else can step up an fill Dillard's shoes in that regard, I think the linebackers will be more than capable for the next two or three years to come.

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