OU Football | 2013 Spring Preview Series | Linebackers

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Underwhelming may be the best way to describe Oklahoma's linebackers in 2012. To be fair, there was a lot going on in Tim Kish's first season as the linebackers coach. They were asked to play differently than in previous years under Brent Vanables and the struggles of the d-line didn't help in terms of keeping the backers clean of blockers. Just like their front line, the theme for the linebackers this spring isn't to reflect on 2012. Rather, its to see how they can improve before the fall arrives.

Departures: Joseph Ibiloye, Tom Wort, Jaydan Bird

Additions: Dominique Alexander, Jordan Evans

No.

Name

HT

WT

Year

84

Mike Onuoha

6-5

235

SO

45

Gastelum, Caleb

6-1

196

JR

13

Anderson, Tyler

6-2

210

SO

40

Lindley, P.L.

6-2

240

SO

41

Striker, Eric

6-0

198

SO

20

Shannon, Frank

6-1

230

SO

51

Thompson, Kaleb

5-11

200

RS FR

25

Franklin, Aaron

6-1

212

JR

7

Nelson, Corey

6-1

219

SR

Storyline: The shocker with the linebackers was the early departure of middle linebacker Tom Wort to the NFL. His absence leaves Corey Nelson as the only senior linebacker and the most experienced in the corps. With the rumored shift to a 3-4 scheme things could get a bit interesting this spring as the team must find four linebackers to put on the field. Just from an experience perspective, there's going to be a lack of it on the field this fall.

Aaron Franklin and Frank Shannon both have some playing experience but neither player has yet to draw a start. That means, if they switch schemes, that the best case scenario for the Sooners is that our their four starting linebackers only one will have starting experience and just three of them will have game experience.

Battle To Watch: Word broke earlier in the week that Mike Onuoha would be transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker. The questions about this are, 1) can he start there and 2) if he can't then who can? Onuoha is a huge body for an outside linebacker position but if he has the speed to get to the edge, and to blitz, then his size will be an asset.

Coaches have liked what they've seen from Eric Striker and P.L. Lindley during their first year on campus. So right there are six players competing for four linebacker positions. You'd think that Nelson is a shoe-in to start but that's not necessarily a given either.

My opinion is that there is going to be a switch in scheme (there's just too many signs to ignore) but even if they weren't switching there is still going to be a battle for new linebackers and Onuoha is going to be a factor in it.

Overview: The entire front seven must improve and there's just no way to sugar coat that nugget of information. Just as there is immense pressure on the d-line to overhaul, the linebackers face the same task after a season in which all four starters in the secondary recorded more tackles than anyone in the linebacker corps.

The scheme can only take you so far and then personnel has to take you the rest of the way. The biggest challenge the coaching staff faces this spring is to find just the right scheme that allows them to get the most from their personnel. It really is a delicate balance but, if done properly, will make all the difference in the world when the team takes to the field this fall.

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