Thursday, April 21, 2011

Linfield Football Spring Review: Linebackers

Wildcat11 is betting Junior Axel Cederberg will have a huge year for the 'Cats
YOUR Linfield College Wildcats are 1/2 way through their 2011 spring football campaign and Wildcat11 knows that I've been behind with the coverage of what's been happening at the 'Catdome.  The 'Cats have two weeks left of practice and unfortunately I won't be able to provide you guys with video clips from practice but I have something that might even be better.  

What we're going to do is review each Linfield position group and try to run down and chat up the coaches that head up the groups.  It should provide you with some good insight on what returners the 'Cats are loading up on, who's up and coming, and a good temperature check on the development of the 2011 version of the Linfield Wildcats.  These posts won't be covering incoming 'Cats or transfers (we'll get to that later) but these posts will be talking about the talent we have right now (which is freaking good).

Starting us off will be the quarterbacks of the Linfield defense and of course I'm talking about Linebackers.  For the 3rd year in a row the Linfield defense will be seeing two new names in the starting line-up at LB for the 'Cats.  After the departure of Jackson, Takachuk, and Partlow in 2009, the Linebacker position was a huge questions mark going into 2010.  The answer was the steady improvement that eventually turned into rock solid play by Bubba Kukahiko and Sam Higgins.  Kukahiko and Higgins wound up being a great blend of physicality and speed that produced game after game of the Linfield defense.  Problem is both 'Cats were seniors so once again the 'Cats have two open positions in the heart of Linfield's base 4-2-5 defense.

Rest easy my Linfield faithful as there is no need to hit the panic button as the 'Cats have in their pocket what could develop into one of the most talented and deepest group of Linebackers the 'Catdome has seen in a very long time.  While Kukahiko and Higgins started for the 'Cats there was plenty of opportunity for the names below last year to get some time and starts under their belts.  The base defense is a 4-2 but Linfield's defense plays a lot of situation football and often you would see a 3-3-5 with Linfield running in a 3rd linebacker.  So while the names below don't have a huge amount of starts this group of Linebackers are not without experience.

Leading this group of Linebackers headed into 2011 is Junior Axel Cederberg.  Axel was the team's 7th leading tackler last year with 32 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, and 1 QB sack.  Cederberg has a great combination of size, speed, and toughness that should pay dividend for Linfield over the next two seasons.

Dominique Forrest started a handful of games earlier in the season when Higgins was injured and accumulated 15 tackles, 3 for loss, and 1.5 QB sacks during his frosh campain, and Tim Edmonds saw a significant chunk of time during his Frosh season and walked away with 19 tackles, 1 for loss, and 1 sack.

While Forrest and Edmonds saw the primary action for the Frosh class of Linebacks, Wildcat11 is excited to see guys like Colasurdo, MacClanathan, Norris, and Gauksheim develop along with the rest of the class.  All of these guys have talent and the potential to contribute.  In my opinion; who is going to start and a be a part of the rotation at Linebacker for the 'Cats this season open for the taking (sans Cederberg).
Steady Vets
Axel Cederberg 6' 3"  220 lbs, Junior
Up and Coming
Dominique Forrest 5' 11" 209 lbs, Sophomore
Tim Edmonds 5' 11" 200 lbs, Sophomore
Louie Colasurdo 5' 10" 205 lbs, Sophomore
Michael MacClanathan 6' 2" 215 lbs, Sophomore
Logan Norris 5' 11" 200 lbs, Sophomore
Sam Gauksheim 6' 1" 210 lbs, Sophomore

Billy Simon, 5' 10" 200 lbs, Sophomore
Jackson Holstein 6' 0" 205 lbs, Sophomore
Kyle Petheram, 6' 1" 225 lbs, Senior

 Talkin' Ball with Linfield Linebacker Coach Phil Rombach
Linfield's Linebacker coach Phil Rombach enters his 5th year on the 'Cats Staff
Coach, 3rd year in a row where ‘Cat fans will see a new set of starting linebackers. We’re getting our money’s worth out of you. Just how are things going this Spring with the LB’s? Can you tell us what the group is up to?

I think Spring Ball is going well for the LB's. The rest of the coaches and I have been very impressed with the raw talent that this group possesses. There are some very good athletes in this group. Unfortunately we do lack experience and that is a concern for our defense and our team. We are consistently emphasizing leadership and communication with this group. The guys have identified their lack of experience as a potential weakness and are working hard to get up to speed. They've taken this as a challenge and are meeting it head on.

While folks may be worried about new starting LB’s, this is not a group without talent. Can you tell us about the strengths of our 2nd year linebackers coming through the ranks? Where do they need to make immediate improvements for next season?

Yes this group definitely has a lot of potential. The guys are strong in all the areas that you would expect from a young group of Linfield LB's. They have the speed to play from sideline to sideline but are still physical enough to play in the middle with the big boys. There are also some LB's on our squad who seem to have very good defensive instincts, a nose for the football and the ability to make plays. I'm excited to see these young LB's progress over the next three seasons.

While we have potential, we are still very rough around the edges at this point. A few areas we need to continue to improve are our overall knowledge of the defensive scheme, our communication, reads, and our tackling. Tackling has to be a major emphasis for us once we enter doubles this August. This is the main area that we struggled in at the beginning of last season. The good news is that this is a hard working group and I have no doubt we'll significantly improve in these areas before September.

Axel Cederberg: stand-out athletic ability, size, speed, and a proven player in the program. How good could Axel be over the next two seasons for the Linfield defense? What does he need to do to take his game to the next level?

Axel definitely has the ability to be a very good LB for us. He has a great frame, speed, and explosion, but also has the mental toughness, work ethic, and determination he'll need to be successful at Linfield. Axel needs to continue to develop his understanding of our schemes so that he can be the assertive voice our defense needs from a Veteran LB. If Axel continues to work as hard as he has this spring, I'm sure he'll be a great player for us in the future.

Huge tests right of the gates with CLU and Willamette during two out of the 1st three games of the season. I’m not worried about this group meeting the physical challenge but how are you feeling about this group handling making calls, adjustments, putting people in the right place, and having to make plays? Our defense is not simplistic by any means.

We definitely have our work cut our for us playin CLU & Willamette early in the season, but I'm sure this group is up to the challenge. To be ready for these games, the LB's need to improve their knowledge of our defense and get to the point where they feel comfortable and confident making checks and adjustments. This confidence comes from repetition on the field and in the meeting room. Rest assured that we are putting in the time necessary to make sure we improve in this area. This is a smart group of guys. They've already made significant progress this Spring and I know they'll be ready once we start implementing game-plans this Fall.

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