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Flames Position Preview: Linebackers

August 21, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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During today's video highlights, head coach Danny Rocco talks about today's practice and the Flames linebackers, including senior outside linebacker Ian Childress (pictured).
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As the Flames training camp starts to wind down, Countdown to Kickoff's positional previews is starting to ramp up. Over the next week, LibertyFlames.com will be bringing you three position previews, beginning today with the Flames linebackers.

Three-time Big South Coach of the Year Danny Rocco brought the 3-4 defensive scheme to Liberty when he took over the position almost four years ago. According to Rocco, the linebackers are the key to the 3-4 scheme, as the group has to tally most of the tackles and put pressure on the quarterback.

Below is the linebackers position of the Flames full season outlook. Be sure to key reading to hear more about this group and their importance to Liberty success on the field of play.

Linebackers
Linebackers certainly play a key role inside a 3-4 defensive scheme, and 2008 continued to prove that point. Nick Hursky led the Flames in tackles, marking the eighth straight season a linebacker has led the team in total tackles.

Hursky wrapped up his stellar career roaming the middle of the defensive field by finishing the year with 97 tackles, which ranked No. 41 nationally in tackles per game (8.8), giving the four-year veteran 270 career stops and 25 tackles for a loss.

Two seniors will look to carry the mantle left by Hursky, as the Flames will be looking to leadership from Ian Childress and Wes Cheek at linebacker in 2009.

Childress was a welcomed surprise for Rocco, as the strong side linebacker was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of a medical hardship suffered during his freshman season, where he only played in a single game in 2005.

"Our linebacking corps is deep and we were excited to hear that it got deeper with the return of Ian Childress," commented Rocco about the senior who ranked fourth on the squad last year with 59 tackles.

Cheek, who was elected one of three defensive team captains, returns for his second year as a linebacker, after making the switch to the position last year. During his first go around as a linebacker, Cheek was tied for eighth on the squad with 44 tackles, including five tackles for a loss and five pass breakups.

Joining Cheek and Childress among the list of projected starters at linebacker are Doncel Bolt and Chad Brown in the middle linebacker positions.

Brown is coming off a solid season, where he tied for sixth on the squad with 48 tackles, while Bolt tallied 20 stops during his first season with the Flames.

"The inside linebacker position once again has a lot of competition," commented Rocco. "We are really looking at four guys. I think right now that Doncel Bolt and Chad Brown are the two guys who came out of spring as the starters, but Kyle O'Donnell and Pierre Tinsley are right there and that gives us some flexibility with our rotation."

Also vying for playing time in 2009 at linebacker will be Mike Connolly, Marques Jenkins and Demetrius Ward, according to Rocco.

"Mike Connolly is another outside linebacker who is going to be an outstanding player for us and we need to find ways to get him on the field," added Rocco. "Demetrius Ward is a young, first-year player in our program, who we will be playing at outside linebacker.

"Marques Jenkins is a transfer from Ole Miss who looks the part, and I think that before the end of the season, he is going to find himself in a lot of situations where he is playing for us.

"When I look at our linebacker positions, I see a group that is talented, deep and experienced," stated Rocco when summarizing his linebackers. "This is exciting, as we try to get the right combinations of guys in the game at the right time and to keep guys fresh thought the course of the game."

Linebackers at a Glance
Front Runners

SLB - Ian Childress (R-Sr., 6-4, 225)
MLB - Doncel Bolt (Jr., 6-3, 230)
JLB - Chad Brown (R-Jr., 6-2, 230)
WLB - Wes Cheek (Sr., 6-0, 205)

Contenders
Mike Connolly (R-So., 6-2, 245)
Cameron Gillespie (R-Sr., 5-10, 245)
Marques Jenkins (R-Fr., 6-2, 235)
Kyle O'Donnell (R-Jr., 6-2, 230)
Brandon Robinson (So., 6-1, 175)
Pierre Tinsley (R-Jr., 6-0, 235)

Up-and-Comers
Ron Hobby (R-Fr., 5-9, 170)
Jordan Marsh (Jr., 6-3, 220)
Nathan Revell (R-Jr., 5-10, 225)
Kyle VanDuser (Fr., 5-11, 215)
Demetrius Ward (Fr., 6-1, 215)

During today's practice, Rocco reviewed Liberty's first and second down playbook, while getting a considerable amount of work done on Red Zone situations. As seen in today's video highlights, Rocco opened his post practice comments by remarking on the early morning workout.

Tomorrow, the Flames will officially wrap up training camp with another morning practice on Saturday, as they will hit the turf inside Williams Stadium at 9:20 a.m. The session will focus mainly on special teams situations and unique periods and plays, like overtime.

LibertyFlames.com Countdown to Kickoff coverage will give you a unique perspective on training camp, as the web site was able to follow Wes Cheek on Thursday. The seven-minute video feature will detail Cheek's routine through a normal training camp day, following the linebacker from breakfast in the morning to practice later that evening.