I continue my breakdowns with linebacker today.
Benardrick McKinney (soph)
The 6’4 240 freshman All-American returns as the centerpiece of the 2013 defense. Last year McKinney was 2nd on the team in tackles registering 102. The physical freak of nature has been well publicized this offseason and has some hype to live up to this year. During the spring he seemed to take the next step and seems primed for a bigger breakout year.
Deonte Skinner (SR)
Last year saw Skinner a bit out of position on the weak side and his production showed it (62 tackles; 7 less than the year before). Lining up on the weak side put him more matched up with WR’s and the passing game. At 6’2 245 he is a physical player who plays more to his strengths on the strong side. He plays mad and delivers a big pop when he gets to the ball. Look for a much more productive Skinner and better tackle and TFL numbers this year.
Matt Wells (JR)
Under the previous defensive coordinator’s scheme, Wells was the moss under and misused player on the defense. He’s 6’2 215 and has run sub 4.4 (hand timed) on the watch of Balis. He is a big time athlete that plays the hybrid LB role perfectly and can help match up with spread teams. He has been almost unblockable in blitzing drills in practice and I expect Coach Collins and his “defensive mayhem” scheme to put Wells in positions to play to his strengths. Look for tackles (34), TFL (2.5), and INT’s (1) to go up from last year.
Ferlando Bohanna (JR)
The 6′ 230 lb headhunter saw some action last year and registered 25 tackles. One could make a strong argument that he is the hardest hitter on the team. He plays angry. The Chris Hughes dismissal makes Bohanna so much more important since not only is he the backup MLB but he may also be the next SLB as well. He has all the physicality to do so and the Memphis product has patiently waited to make his mark.
Beni Brown (RS freshman)
The 2012 4 star recruit redshirted last year and used the year to learn the defense and get bigger. Entering the 2013 year in the 225 lb range (6’1) allows him to be able to better handle the physicality of the SEC. In the spring he seemed the more game ready of the redshirts, especially physically. The dismissal of Hughes makes his development crucial since he could be the next LB of the bench on the strong side. Brown does posses the speed to play on the weak side but I think circumstance pushes him to SLB.
Richie Brown (RS freshman)
The 2nd of the 2, 4 star LB’s who redshirted last year. I think Richie’s future is in the middle or strong side but circumstance pushes him here for now. The 1rst thing that jumps out at you about Richie is how fast he his. The 2nd is how much room he has to grow despite his listing at 6’2.5 and 230 lbs (he looks slim). He really has a big time future at MSU. I’ve heard many compare him to Cam Lawrence but I disagree. He reminds me much more of Chris White who is currently in the NFL.
Zach Jackson (JR)
He’s another of the hybrid type LB’s who has floated back and forth between here and safety over his career. He’s 6’1 215 and runs really well. I think the number one thing holding him back is his lack of experience at LB. He has the tools. I think he will have a tough time getting game reps at LB (Hughes dismissal helps him though) but he can be a standout on the coverage units because his strengths are running and hitting.
Dez Harris (true freshman)
Big time athlete at 6’2 and 220 who played QB in high school. Another guy Coach Collins has spotted and thinks he can mold into a LB a la Benardrick McKinney. Harris suffered an ACL injury his senior year and is expected to redshirt.
First thing that sticks out is a whole lot of ability in the first 3. The Browns have to make MSU fans feel good about the future. There is one concern. Only 8 LB’s on the roster with 1 graduating is not an ideal depth position. MSU needs to address this in recruiting but I’ve heard they are taking from 3-4. Back to this year. McKinney has the chance to be really special and this year the progression should stick out. Skinner and Wells should both be used much better scheme wise, therefore helping them make plays. Bohanna is crucial off the bench this year. Also, look for the Browns to get their first taste of action and show well.