Fall camp is underway and we’re just three weeks from the start of football. Let’s keep cruising down our list of position previews with a linebacker group that returns some star power and experience. Be sure to get caught up with the previous position groups.
Total linebackers: 12
Newcomers for 2018: Blake Barron (spring enrollee), Carson Kropp, Braden Spicer
Projected starters: Justin Phillips, Calvin Bundage
Projected backups: Kevin Henry, Devin Harper, Amen Ogbongbemiga
Player I’m most excited about: Calvin Bundage. This one is easy for me because I am an unabashed Bundage fan. I love his intensity, his swagger and his flailing arms (wrapped in some sort of bandage?), about as much as I like to see a couple of nasty sacks of Baker Mayfield.
I hope to someday have half the swag that Calvin Bundage possesses. pic.twitter.com/1wfs39esSF
— Pistols Firing (@pistolsguys) September 23, 2017
Take all of that plus another year of maturity, roll it up, pull the pin and toss into the middle Jim Knowles’ aggressive scheme. Cover your ears. Kablooey.
Player who has the opportunity to surprise: Kevin Henry played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2016 and was slated for big-time reps in 2017. But he suffered a season-ending injury after grabbing six tackles and one tackle for loss against Tulsa in Week 1. Now that he’s healthy, Henry should be in line to play a big role in Jim Knowles’ new scheme.
As a freshman, Henry showed off his playmaking ability with an interception and 26-yard return against West Virginia. Hopefully, he can stay on the field and show even more of the same in 2018.
What concerns me about this group: An adjustment period may be inevitable for OSU’s defense on the whole, given the new faces, scheme, etc., but I’m actually pretty optimistic about this group. I know, famous last words. Please don’t @OldTakesExposed me when Boise State goes over the middle repeatedly.
Strengths/weaknesses of this group: Despite the loss of starting Mike linebacker Chad Whitener as well as rotational backers Gyasi Akem and Kirk Tucker, the Cowboys should have adequate depth if they stay healthy. Unfortunately, Patrick Macon appears that he might be done for the year — he was going to be my player to surprise. Hopefully, that’s the last of the Pokes’ backer injuries.
Between Justin Phillips, Bundage, and a mix of Henry, Harper and Obongbemiga, expect the coaching staff to be able to rotate through the now two LB spots, hopefully keeping legs fresh and hits hard.
So, I’d say its strength is its star power and its weakness is its lack of experienced depth if it anyone else goes down.