Football Season Preview: Linebackers

John Paschall, Reporter

Projected starter(s): senior Damien Proby, junior Chi Chi Ariguzo and sophomore Drew Smith

Key Reserves: junior Collin Ellis, redshirt freshman Joseph Jones, redshirt freshman Jaylen Prater and senior Timmy Vernon

Breakout candidate: Smith

The sophomore made his presence felt on defense mostly in blitzing situations in 2012. But with David Nwabuisi no longer on the team, Smith will need to play more of a role on every down. He has the speed and hard-hitting ability to create pressure on the quarterback and contain the edge. As coach Pat Fitzgerald has said, “He goes to bed dreaming about knocking someone’s lips off.”

Season outlook

Proby returns as the leading tackler of the unit and will be looked to for more leadership. The linebackers last year provided a major spark for the defense, constantly causing turnovers and swinging momentum in favor of the Wildcats. Ellis will certainly see a lot of the field even if Smith starts. The most important question with the linebackers will be how the young guys step up. Redshirt freshman Eric Wilson’s transfer certainly hurt because he looked impressive in the spring. Guys like Jones and Prater will be counted on in important situations if the starters go down with injuries. But if this group can stay healthy, it will be faster than previous years and tough to run on.

– John Paschall