- MLB Rob Andrews
Projected starters (2012 stats)
- OLB #36 Nick Tenhaeff – RS Sr., 6-foot-2, 225 pounds (52 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble)
- MLB #42 Jake Fely – Jr., 5-foot-10, 210 pounds (90 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two pass break-ups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries)
- OLB #50 Derek Largent – Jr., 6-foot-4, 235 pounds (61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions, three pass break-ups, three fumble recoveries, one forced fumble)
Key reserves (2012 stats)
- OLB #37 Vaness Harris – RS Sr., 6-foot-2, 255 pounds (31 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass break up, one forced fumble)
- MLB #46 Jacob Driver – RS Sr., 6-foot-2, 220 pounds (Nine tackles, one tackle for loss)
- OLB #48 Josh Gavert – RS Jr., 6-foot-2, 220 pounds (24 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble)
Players to watch
- OLB #37 Vaness Harris – Sr., 6-foot-2, 255 pounds – Harris started the first seven games of 2012, but was replaced by Largent in Week 8. He didn’t lose the job because of poor play, however, as it was simply due to the stellar play of Largent. Expect Harris to compete with Largent for the starting spot, but understand that both will still see significant playing time with Rocky Long’s tendency to rotate defensive players. Harris could arguably start for most teams in the country, and will still put up impressive numbers whether starting or not.
- MLB #46 Jacob Driver – Sr., 6-foot-2, 220 pounds – With backup middle linebacker Rob Andrews gone, someone will need to step up to split time with Fely. Expect Driver to take on that role in his final season with the Aztecs, as he will be motivated to finish his collegiate career with a solid senior campaign.
- MLB #38 Scott Graves – Sr., 5-foot-10, 210 pounds – With a loaded linebacker core, expect Graves to play a backup role but also make an impact once again on special teams next season. Graves was named the team’s Special Teams Player of the Year last season, and will continue to play an integral role and be a special teams guru for the Aztecs. If any of the linebackers in the two-deep go down with an injury, he will be more than ready to step in and fill the void.
- OLB #54 Micah Seau – RS Fr., 6-foot-3, 235 pounds – Keep an eye on Micah Seau, nephew of the late Junior Seau, as he tries to make an impact for the Aztecs next season. He possesses great size and loads of talent, but he lacks the experience the other linebackers have. Another year of development might be needed for the young linebacker, but don’t be surprised if he is able to break through and find his way onto the field.
Due to the depth at the position, don’t expect any of the incoming linebackers to see playing time in 2013. Tyler Morris, Randy Ricks and Calvin Munson are three high school commits expected to play linebacker, but all three will benefit from using a redshirt year to develop as they gain strength and size.
If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, Jake Fely is not too small to play middle linebacker.
Fely was nothing short of spectacular in 2012, flying around the field and making plays every time the Aztecs needed them. After being named the team’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, Fely will continue to play at a high level next season, proving to doubters that his heart and ferocity outweigh any size concerns.
Another pleasant surprise in 2012 was Largent, a junior college transfer who came out of nowhere and stuffed the stat sheets, doing everything he could to help the defense succeed. Expect an even bigger year from Largent in 2013.
In addition to Fely and Largent, San Diego State has five senior linebackers, making this group arguably the strength of the defense. Tenhaeff and Harris, two seniors with the most experience among the linebackers, will look to have strong senior seasons, and both will contribute greatly to the Aztecs.
San Diego State had two all-conference linebackers in 2012, as Fely was named to the second-team and Largent was an honorable mention. In 2013, three Aztec linebackers will be all-conference selections.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the cornerbacks of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs
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by Hunter Hewitt