The Linebacker position this spring seems to one of the least intriguing positions heading into this spring. There are starters returning as well as experienced back-ups trying to impress new DC Kevin Sherrer, formally of the University of Alabama's defensive staff.
Obviously, anytime there is a scheme change or a defensive coordinator change (or both), guys can change spots or move up and down the depth chart.
That being said the smart money is still on redshirt senior Clifton Crews to be the guy at SLB and redshirt senior Enrique Williams to be the guy at WLB. (We’ll cover the Jack LB position with the DL.)
Williams has been a tackling machine over the last 4 years racking up 228 in 40 games.
Crews has proven to be very skilled in coverage breaking up 10 passes over his career along with 2 interceptions and 120 tackles in 40 games.
It’s hard to imagine the hard hitting and productive Enrique Williams or the athletic and versatile Clifton Crews not retaining two of the starting LB spots.
Considering the fact that junior Desmond LaValle came in here two years ago as a true freshman and worked his way up to second team MLB (25 tackles and 2 TFL in 2011), the smart money is on him to come in here this spring after a semester at Northwest Miss. CC and make a serious charge at the starting MLB spot vacated by Senior Bowl invitee Jake Johnson (at least until Tony Johnson graduates from Southwest Miss JC in May and throws his hat into the ring).
Inside LB Bryson James, a redshirt senior, has been a productive ‘backer throughout his Jag career. He was 9th on the team in tackles in 2012 despite not starting a game. He’s proven himself to be very adept in pass coverage and his career totals include 91 tackles, 4 TFl, 1 sack, 3 QB hurries, 2 interceptions and 4 passes broken up.
Redshirt senior Ben Giles has been around the South Alabama football program for the past three years as a back-up LB, during which time he’s played in 24 games and totaled 41 tackles and 2 TFL.
Junior Maleki Harris is one of the more athletic LB in the rotation. For the most part, he’s backed up Clifton Crews for the past two season, though he has logged some time at SS, which speaks to his overall athleticism. There was some talk before the change at DC of moving Harris to WLB and sliding Enrique Williams to MLB. Who knows if that’s even a consideration now but it would make for an athletic, though slightly undersized LB trio. Maleki Harris would seem to be a prime candidate for some of the niche packages we’ve heard about with the Alabama nickel and dime defense, as he’s as much big safety as he is small LB.
With all of that experienced depth ahead of them, it can often be hard for a younger guy to get on the field. Redshirt sophomore Cordividio Grice, redshirt junior Davin Hawkins as well as walkon David Hawkins now have a chance with a change in DC as well as positional coach (Travis Pearson) to catch someone’s eye and make a move. The LB positions gets really thin after the 2013 season (and then again after 2014), so this spring would be a good time for some of the younger players to step up. And as a side note, recruiting at this position will be key moving forward.