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2012 football position by position: linebackers

August 29, 2012

As we near the start of the football season, it’s time to take a detailed position-by-position look at the 2012 EMU football team. This is our time to refresh our memory about returning players, and learn a little about the new faces.

Justin Cudworth trying to tackle a Toledo player (possibly the unstoppable Eric Page?) in 2011. Photo by Kenneth Bailey

After being EMU’s weakest defensive squad in 2009 and 2010, Ron English brought in four junior college transfers to shore things up. Last year the linebacking corps was strong, and they only figure to be better this year, as those four — Justin Cudworth, Bryan Pali, Blake Poole, and Sean Kurtz — enter their senior year.

Lost: Nate Paopao, Marcus English, Herb Waits.

In 2011 English played in eight games, starting seven at middle linebacker. He was limited somewhat by injuries, and they seemed to affect his play in several of the games he was in. He ended the season with 46 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery. Not bad numbers, but if he hadn’t been injured he would have certainly been in EMU’s top echelon of defensive players. Paopao and Waits were both reliable contributors  off the bench, who each averaged 1-2 tackles per game.

Expected starters: Justin Cudworth (weak-side), senior; Colin Weingrad (middle), junior; Bryan Pali (strong-side), senior.

If you only remember one name on EMU’s defense, it will probably be Cudworth, because it gets called over the loudspeakers at Rynearson more than any other: last year he led the Eagles with 83 tackles, with 8.5 tackles for loss, and with 3 forced fumbles, plus his 1.5 sacks were the most by any non-defensive lineman. He finished last year being named to the third-team All-MAC squad, but if all goes well at the end of this season he should be on the first-team squad, and he may even have an outside shot for MAC Defensive Player of the Year.

Part of the reason I think Cudworth is going to have such a good year is that opponents have to also respect Weingrad and Pali, both of whom are also quite good. Weingrad started five games in 2011, with little drop-off from what English had been doing, while Pali came on strong toward the end of the season.

Depth: Ike Spearman, freshman; Amos Houston, freshman; Blake Poole, senior; Sean Kurtz, redshirt junior; Desdan Hester, redshirt sophomore; Anthony Zappone, freshman; Hunter Matt, freshman; Jake Haviland, freshman; Arieus Towns, freshman; Jake Pennese, redshirt freshman; Tim Brown, junior.

The top linebackers coming off the bench are probably Spearman (what a great name for a linebacker!), Poole, and Kurtz. Poole offers very little, if any, drop off from Pali — indeed, Poole started the first nine games of 2011 before being replaced as starter by Pali for the last three. Spearman is a highly touted recruit, rated three stars by Rivals and listed as the #83 outside linebacker by Scout. Kurtz and Poole both transferred to EMU from Santa Ana Community College in 2011, but Kurtz never saw game action — I’m guessing he was injured, because usually junior college transfers are expected to be immediate contributors.

You’ll notice that beyond the starters plus Kurtz and Poole, there’s an awful lot of youth here. After having to lean heavily on junior college transfers last year (which worked out pretty well) and this year (which is looking good), Ron English seems to be setting things up for this to be a deep squad in another year or two.

Read what Hustle Belt has to say about all the MAC linebackers, where they rate EMU 4/13, which might be about right, or maybe a little low.

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