Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Season Preview: Linebackers

Two time All-ACC linebacker Erin Henderson departed for the NFL but a solid core of experienced and talented linebackers remains going into this season. The position is probably the deepest and most talented on the team. Returning starters Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou are not even guaranteed their starting positions this season and are being challenged by Chase Bullock and Adrian Moten respectively. At middle linebacker sophomore Mike Wujciak replaces Henderson after sitting out last season with a knee injury. Wujciak was very impressive before that knee injury and it remains to be seen if the injury is still going to be an issue. He did have swelling in the joint after a series of hard practices. If Wujciak misses time freshman Ben Pooler is listed as the backup thought I wouldn't be surprised to see Bullock or Moten fill in either. Wujciak is a fearless and hard hitter with great instincts even if he may not be the fastest player of the bunch.

Even though Philistin is coming off a season where he amassed 124 tackles and is a preseason All-ACC selection and on the watch list for the Nagurski Trophy he isn't guaranteed a starting spot. I think he'll hold off Bullock but if his shoulder surgery gives him problems Maryland has a viable backup. Philistin has great athleticism but doesn't seem to have exceptional instincts for the position.

Moise Fokou is a former scout team player who has excelled as a starter and special teams player. While not overly strong or fast Fokou is very productive and sure tackler with a knack for forcing fumbles. Even though Philistin has more career starts Fokou is probably the most experienced member of the linebacker corps. His backup Adrian Moten is very similar to Erin Henderson as a quick, hard hitting linebacker who can run sideline to sideline. He is slightly undersized but has good instincts and uses his quickness to keep blockers from locking on to him. He is also a good blitzer evidenced by his 5.5 sacks in spot duty, two in the bowl game against Oregon State. I wouldn't be surprised to see Moten take the starting spot by the end of the season as he is more of a playmaker than the steady but unspectacular Fokou.

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