Welcome everyone to the latest edition of the Cajuns position preview! This week, we put the microscope on a position that looks to improve from last season.
After last season, this might be one of the more interesting positions to watch and see if they can get back to relevancy. On with the preview!
A good thing for the Cajuns is that only two linebackers departed after the 2017 season. The biggest has to be TJ Posey. His senior season saw him finish second on the team in total tackles with 72 and two sacks. Much like some of the departures in recent years, this one is going to hurt.
The other departure has been a very complicated story and that’s Tanner Holmes. Early on last season, he announced his intentions to transfer from the program. However, he then decided to not transfer once Billy Napier was hired on, but wound up transferring during the summer. It’s a strange story about a player that had a ton of potential, but was unable to achieve that.
While there was some turnover, the Cajuns have some strong frontline talent coming back in Jacques Boudreaux and Justin Middleton. Boudreaux is the big dog in this linebacker corps, racking up 58 total tackles, 2.5 of which went for a loss, and even racked up an interception during his sophomore season.
Looking at Middleton, he was able to put together strong numbers as well with 39 tackles, half a sack, 3.5 tackles, and an interception to boot. Heading into his senior season, he’ll be an integral part of the linebacker corps as a leader for this team alongside Boudreaux.
Some of the other linebackers coming back from last season are going to be some much needed quality depth including Chaiziere Malbrue who has been having a solid fall camp. He, along with Terik Miller were used as reserve linebackers last year, but both will have an expanded role on this team in Ron Roberts’ system.
The Other Guys:
When you look at the other guys in the linebacker room, it’s safe to say that Ferrod Gardner is going to be one of the key players. The transfer from Coffeyville Community College racked up 67 tackles and two sacks back in 2016 and will be one of the defensive players that will breakout on this team.
Looking around at some of the other players that could see some playing time has to be Brayden Bailey and Alonzo Brown. Yes, they saw some playing time last season, but it was very limited (Brown only played in game vs Tulsa, Bailey played in three games). With that limited work, there’s not a whole lot that you can say about them but will provide some depth to a position that really needed some in 2017.
The linebacker corps are going to rely on Jacques Boudreaux, Justin Middleton, and Ferrod Gardner but there’s still some quality depth at the linebacker position headed into the 2018 campaign and that is a definite positive. You look at how the second level performed last season, they had a hard time stopping the run once it got to that point. If the linebackers on this team can improve on that, this could be a big reason why the defense improves from a year ago.