2013 SDSU Football Season Preview: Linebackers

Fely makes a tackle

San Diego State linebacker Jake Fely returns after an impressive sophomore season. He leads an experienced group of linebackers highlighted by five seniors and three juniors. (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

Who’s gone

  • 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.

2013 Commitments
Due to the depth at the position, don’t expect any of the incoming linebackers to see playing time in 2013. Tyler MorrisRandy 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.

Analysis
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.

Prediction
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.


2013 Season Preview: Home
2013 Season Preview: Defensive Line

Stay tuned tomorrow for a preview on the cornerbacks of the 2013 San Diego State Aztecs


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by Hunter Hewitt

GO AZTECS

Feature Friday: Rob Andrews

In the 2010 season vs. TCU, Andrews forced a huge fumble on QB Andy Dalton in the end zone, resulting in a touchdown for the Aztecs and a shift in momentum (Ernie Anderson/SDSU Media Relations)

SDSU’s Andrews shows perseverance, determination

In the hard-hitting game of football, serious injuries are common, and recovering from these setbacks can be very difficult. Months of rehabilitation can be physically and mentally draining, and it’s often hard to stay motivated.

Although the road to recovery is taxing, the reward of making it back onto the playing field can be well worth it. Imagine, however, finally making it back and suffering another serious injury soon after.

For San Diego State linebacker Rob Andrews, this became his reality.

A native of Pleasanton, Calif., Andrews came to San Diego State after a successful prep career at Foothill High School. He started at linebacker and fullback, and ran for over 1,000 yards his senior year while also recording 94 tackles and eight sacks.

After redshirting his first season, Andrews saw action in five games in the 2009 season. Heading into his redshirt sophomore season, he found himself in position to be a big contributor for the Aztecs.

Andrews had a solid season in 2010, playing in all 13 games and starting three times. He recorded 34 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one bone-crushing sack and forced fumble on then-TCU quarterback Andy Dalton, who is now an NFL starter.

However, in the 13th game, Andrews suffered the first of his two serious injuries. In the Poinsettia Bowl vs. Navy, a chop block from a Navy offensive lineman caused him to tear the PCL and MCL in his right knee, and although it was frustrating, the timing wasn’t horrible.

“The injury was rough, but it was good that I made it through the season and had the offseason to recover,” Andrews said. “That next spring I got to learn more about the defense and I got a lot stronger, both physically and mentally. I found out what it feels like to be hurt and not able to play.”

Andrews spent the entire offseason vigorously rehabbing his knee, and after countless hours of hard work in the training room, he found himself back in action for the start of the 2011 season. Unfortunately, he was only able to play four games before suffering a season-ending foot injury.

“The second injury was really hard,” Andrews said. “I was expecting to have a big year and play a lot, and then I broke my foot and was out again.”

One thing that helped Andrews during his second rehabilitation process was attending weekly meetings with Athletes in Action, a Christian sports ministry that has spread to colleges nationwide.

After being introduced to the group by former teammates Miles Burris and Colin Shumate, Andrews enjoyed the weekly meetings and found it as a great place to become closer not only with God but also with other athletes involved.

With another rehab-filled offseason, Andrews had to dig deep to get back onto the field. Once again, he displayed his incredible perseverance and worked tirelessly to get back into playing shape.

Now a senior, Andrews is healthy once again and is hoping to finish his collegiate career on a high note. How the season plays out will dictate his future plans, notably whether or not he will pursue playing football at the next level.

“It all depends on how the season goes,” Andrews said. “In January, I’ll see what’s on my heart and what I want to do. If that’s not the thing for me, I’ll have a business degree in May and I’ll either move back to the Bay Area and start working there or just try to find a job here.”

Although the injuries have been setbacks for Andrews on the football field, he says they have helped him grow as a person. Most importantly, he has still been able to enjoy his college years and make the most of his time at SDSU.

“I have still had a great time at SDSU and built great relationships,” Andrews said. “The injuries were tough, but it all made me a better person in the end. I’m still happy I made the decision to come here. It was the right place for me to go.”

Highlights from the 2010 game vs. TCU (Andrew’s sack/forced fumble at 0:43)


LINKS:
Hunter Hewitt: WordPress – http://hunterhewitt.wordpress.com
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Hunter Hewitt: About.me – http://about.me/hunterhewitt
Hunter Hewitt: BrandYourself – http://hunterhewitt.brandyourself.com/
Hunter Hewitt: GoAztecs.com Player Profile – http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/hewitt_hunter00.html


by Hunter Hewitt

GO AZTECS