WVU will rely on young linebackers in 2011
Published: Thursday, August 25, 2011
Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2011 22:08
Anthony Leonard, J.T. Thomas, Najee Goode.
Those were West Virginia's three starting linebackers last year. This year only one of them is coming back, redshirt senior Najee Goode.
If you haven't heard names like Casey Vance, Doug Rigg, Josh Francis and Tyler Anderson, you will this year.
The Mountaineers will most likely rotate several linebackers into the games until the team finds the right guys to step up and make big plays.
"When you throw those guys in there, if they don't know what they're doing, I can tell them what they're doing," Goode said of his young teammates. "For the most part they know, but even when they aren't sure about certain things I can tell them ‘look for this, look for that' and give them hints and cheats and they can go ahead and play with their natural ability."
It is too early to tell who will start the season beside Goode, but the linebacker has confidence in the rotation the team has to get the job done.
"It's still hard to tell just because you got guys like Josh, Doug and Tyler who stepped up," Goode said after the team's scrimmage last Saturday. "They're getting more athletic and they're learning, so it's almost interchangeable. Coach (defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel) always says he wants to play with six linebackers and we got five right now with Casey, Josh, Doug, me and Tyler pretty much going in there."
When asked if the linebackers have gotten enough hitting in throughout camp, Goode said the defense has had a good sense of everything except getting hits on the quarterback.
"When we do drills like this in the passing game, Coach Holgorsen made a good point: we can't go live every practice ... Like in the past we've done these situations, we just haven't put them all together," he said.
"The only thing we haven't got enough of, I think, is just hitting the quarterback. We need No. 12, there isn't too many of him around the country."
Due to the fact the linebacking group is filled with young players like sophomore Rigg and redshirt sophomore Anderson, the Mountaineers have not focused on their opposing teams just yet. Holgorsen and the rest of the coaching staff want them to work on getting better as a unit.
"The thing is we don't game plan yet," Goode said. "Right now, just for us, we want to learn football. The young guys want to learn football. They want to learn when you line up over here and the when (the offense) goes trips (three wide receivers) and lineup here when the offense does certain things."
The other players are still adjusting to the fast pace of Holgorsen's offense in practice and learning their objectives on the defensive side of the ball.
"For the most part, when (the offense) runs their plays, they are going full speed. Like our defense – we used to run it before, but we start getting into missing things, and we've got guys learning on top of trying to get the plays learned and everything.
So that kind of slows us down a little bit. When that slows us down, they speed up. They don't care."
The linebackers, led by Goode, will have a lot of work to do in order to play to their full potential against the team's tough upcoming schedule.