Position Preview: Linebackers
Key Players lost: Christian Jones and Telvin Smith
Biggest question entering 2014: Can the young players step up?
Terrance Smith is the only returning starter at linebacker for Florida State. Last year’s other starters, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, are now on NFL rosters leaving two gaping holes in the depth chart. Florida State has a lot of talented options to fill the holes, but they are mostly unproven players with little first-team experience. The player with the most experience outside of Terrance Smith is junior Reggie Northrup. He has been a key member of the second-team defense for the last two seasons and will enter fall camp as a favorite to earn a starting job. The Seminoles will need Northrup and the rest of their young linebackers to step-up in 2014 in order to make another run at the title.
Returning starter Terrance Smith will make the move from middle linebacker to weak-side linebacker to replace Telvin Smith. His insertion into the starting line-up last season was a turning point for Florida State’s defense and he will be the leader of the unit in 2014.
The battle for the other two starting sports will be hotly contested during fall camp though. Northrup looks to be the favorite to start at middle linebacker, but he will face a lot of competition. One of the main competitors for the MIKE job is E.J. Levenberry. He appeared in 13 games as a freshman last season and played well as a member of the second-team defense.
Another player to watch is redshirt freshman Mathew Thomas. A consensus 5-star recruit out of high school, he is an impressive athlete and showed flashes last season before suffering a season ending shoulder injury. He is fully healthy now and will push for a starting job in fall camp. Thomas has the ability to play all three linebacker positions which increases his chances of winning a starting job.
The favorite to replace Christian Jones at strong-side linebacker is Ukeme Eligwe. The SAM’s main job is to serve as a run stopper and pass rusher. Eligwe has proven that he has the ability to be disruptive in the backfield. He will face competition from Thomas as well as dark-horse candidate Ro’Derrick Hoskins, a redshirt freshman. Although he is yet to touch the field in a real game Hoskins received a lot of praise from head coach Jimbo Fisher during spring practice and shouldn’t be ignored.
Florida State’s trio of freshman linebackers shouldn’t be counted out either. They will have an uphill battle, but each brings a lot to the table. Kain Daub has the ability to contribute at all three linebacker spots, Delvin Purifoy is a true middle linebacker, and Jacob Pugh is a force to be reckoned with off the edge.
By: Brandon O’Connor