March 18, 2010

Spring drill huge for inside linebackers

In the 1980s and 90s Texas A&M was known as "Linebacker U." Every season, A&M would throw an All-American or an All-Conference caliber performer onto the field like clockwork. Some years, A&M would feature four senior linebackers and watch all four get drafted by the NFL.

Not only that, the Aggies would take people playing other positions - guys who never played linebacker in their lives - plug them in and then watch them outperform other people's blue chippers.

But all of that ended in the early 2000s and to an extent so did the run of A&M's great nationally-ranked defenses. And although the most highly publicized members of those "Wrecking Crew" defenses were the outside linebackers who terrorized opposing quarterbacks, it should be remembered that A&M's first All-American linebacker in the 80s and 90s was Johnny Holland, an inside linebacker.

In fact, A&M's talent inside was perhaps even better than the people who came off the edge, for without the ability of the inside people to stop the run and force other teams into throwing the ball, there would be no glory for the pass rushers.

So far in our series, we've discussed positions in which A&M lost contributors from the 2009 campaign. However, our look at inside linebacker is a little different because A&M returns both starters from last season (although the Will was technically an outside linebacker, that player often lined up in the box and functioned moreso as an inside linebacker).

New A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter will employ a multiple look 3-4 defense. Even so, the Aggies have a lot of young players that will be vying for playing time at the position from the 2009 class, and most of them have already seen the field.

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