Scores & Schedule Close keyboard_arrow_down

Team News

Finish What We've Started Preview: LBs

August 10, 2010  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
|   Share
Doncel Bolt will be one of several key components to Liberty's linebacking success during the 2010 season.

Doncel Bolt will be one of several key components to Liberty's linebacking success during the 2010 season.

Throughout the month of August, LibertyFlames.com will be running previews of each position on the Flames' roster as part of its Countdown to Kickoff coverage, leading up to the home opener against St. Francis, Pa., on Sept. 4.

The web site's position previews continue today with a look at Liberty's linebackers. The top tackling unit in head coach Danny Rocco's squad during the last four year will see some slight adjustments in 2010, including the creation of the "adjusted" position.

Linebackers
A linebacker has finished as Liberty's top tackler each year under head coach Danny Rocco and for the last nine years running. The last non-linebacker to finish as Liberty's top defensive stopper was defensive back Sammie Choice, who finished the 2000 season with 77 tackles.

Under Rocco, the theme of having a linebacker as a top defender is expected, considering Rocco brought the 3-4 defensive scheme to Liberty Mountain five years ago.

A converted running back kept Liberty's linebackers atop the defensive statistics sheet last year. Outside linebacker Wes Cheek led the Flames with 72 stops, evenly finishing with 36 solo and assisted tackles.

Cheek has now graduated and is leaving the leadership reigns in the hands of three up-and-coming seniors – Chad Brown, Doncel Bolt and Kyle O'Donnell. The change in leadership should be an easy transition, considering two of the three, Brown and Bolt, were selected defensive team captains, last spring.

"Our linebackers are led by three seniors this year," commented Rocco. "Doncel Bolt, Chad Brown and Kyle O'Donnell each return with quite a bit of experience under their belts. We will move these guys around at the MIKE and JACK positions, trying to keep fresh bodies on the field at all times."

Bolt finished second last year to Cheek in total tackles, more than tripling his previous career high with 62 stops. He also ranked second on the team with six tackles for loss, while being one of five team leaders with two sacks.

"Doncel Bolt had an outstanding junior campaign, as did Chad Brown," remarked Rocco. "Both players were explosive middle linebackers and we are looking for a lot more production from them this year."

Brown finished two spots below Bolt on the defensive statistics list by recording a career-high 51 stops, including 36 assisted tackles. O'Donnell was more of a reserve player in 2009, but he did finish the season with 32 tackles and recorded one of Liberty's 12 fumble recoveries on the year.

"Kyle is kind of a guy who came on strong at the end of last year and really put together a great effort during the spring," added Rocco. "He had a knee injury at one point in time, but that seems to be behind him and we are looking forward to his senior year."

Mike Connolly, Demetrius Ward and Marques Jenkins are the three players behind Liberty's linebacking leadership. This next trio will add support to this key position.

Connolly is the player with the most experience under his belt, having recorded 19 stops in 11 games of action in 2009. "Mike has a chance to be one of the better linebackers we have ever had in our program's recent history," stated Rocco about Connolly, who could also play outside linebacker at the "DROP" position.

Ward is a "dynamic athlete, who is a run-and-hit linebacker," while Jenkins is slated to see most of his time behind Bolt and Brown as an inside linebacker.

Three young players – Nick Sigmon, Scott Hyland and Matt Baptiste – are also joining the program this year and could contribute should they pick up the system quick enough.

"We are excited about these young guys and the potential they have for the future of this program," commented Rocco about his incoming freshmen linebackers. "Nick and Matt are big physical inside linebackers, while Scott is a local product, who can play all four linebacker position."

Never looking to be satisfied by doing the same thing year in and year out, Rocco has altered his linebacking setup slightly. For the 2010 season, he has created a new position he calls an "adjuster" linebacker.

"The adjuster position is a quazi safety and linebacker position," commented Rocco. "We are going to be playing two very talented athletes at this position, keying in on their excellent speed."

The pair that Rocco speaks about is Brent Vinson and Danny Broggin. Vinson is preseason all-conference selection, who finished his true freshman year with 32 tackles, including 18 solo stops.
"Brent has all the makings of an all-conference and All-America type athlete," stated Rocco. "We've converted Danny from running back to this new position, but he showed during spring practice that he is more than capable of handling this new role.

"With Danny and Brent playing this outside position, I feel real good about the speed and the athletic ability of this new role."

Looking to provide additional depth at this position will be newcomer Randy Spann. "Randy is another incoming freshman who could play this adjuster position," stated Rocco. "He brings a big and physical body to our linebacking corps and this new role."

Linebackers at a Glance
Front Runners
DLB - Mike Connolly (R-Jr., 6-2, 245)
MLB - Doncel Bolt (Sr., 6-3, 230)
         Chad Brown (R-Sr., 6-2, 240)
JLB - Kyle O'Donnell (R-Sr., 6-2, 240)
ADJ - Brent Vinson (So., 6-1, 195)
Contenders
Danny Broggin (ADJ) (R-Sr., 6-0, 210)
Eric Fath (R-Fr., 6-3, 255)
Marques Jenkins (R-So., 6-2, 235)
Kyle VanDuser (R-Fr., 5-11, 215)
Demetrius Ward (So., 6-1, 235)
Up-and-Comers
Brian Arelt (R-Fr., 5-11, 210)
Matt Baptiste (Fr., 6-0, 215)
Scott Hyland (Fr., 6-1, 220)
Jeremy Kinkead (R-Fr., 6-1, 220)
Nick Martin (R-Fr., 6-1, 225)
Nick Sigmon (Fr., 6-2, 240)
Randy Spann (Fr., 5-11, 205)