One of the most exciting positions for 2014 on this Fresno State Bulldogs is definitely the linebackers unit. Veteran players Jeremiah Toma and Patrick Su’a have graduated, but the Bulldogs return all four starters and the position has gotten even deeper with addition of several key recruits.
On the inside, Karl Mickelsen and Kyrie Wilson return as the big dogs after taking over the starting spots last year. They became the Bulldogs’ top two tacklers from the linebacker positions and still have room for improvement. Mickelsen has a nose for the ball and flies around the field while Wilson has a more impressive frame and does a good job sitting back and making reads. True freshmen Michael Lazarus and Xavier Ulutu will have the spotlight early in fall camp as they look to prove that they are as talented as they have been hyped up to be coming out of high school.
On the outside, Lewis returns for his third starting season at the joker spot and Ejiro Ederaine comes off a breakout season with 10 sacks. Lewis does a good job reading options and closing off the edge and the athletic Ederaine can get to the quarterback with his excellent pass rushing abilities. Ederaine will be out to prove that his sophomore campaign was no fluke and he has even more to improve in his game.
What to Watch
Impact Freshman - Two of Fresno State’s most highly regarded recruits under Tim DeRuyter are coming this fall in a pair of inside linebackers - Michael Lazarus and Xavier Ulutu. There are only three returning inside linebackers from last year’s team giving both of the freshman a good shot at landing on the two-deep. Expect the two players to avoid redshirt seasons and see the field a bit this year. Also keep an eye on Jeff Camilli and how the new additions affect his standing on the depth chart.
Brandon Hughes - Ejiro Ederaine and Donavon Lewis are established starters at outside linebacker for Fresno State. While Lewis sat out spring practice, Brandon Hughes built on his 2013 season with a very solid spring and the coaches will be looking for ways to add him into the rotation this season. Expect to see Hughes on the field a lot more this season either in certain packages or to give Lewis or Ederaine a rest. If one of the two were to get hurt, expect Hughes to step right in and be a capable replacement.
Kyrie Wilson - Yes, in 2013 Kyrie Wilson racked up 87 tackles - 5 for loss with 3.5 sacks, but Wilson's ceiling is even higher. Wilson ended up a Bulldog after originally committing to Oregon and he earned the starting spot already as a sophomore. In 2014, Wilson goes from solid starter to star player. Look for more big hits and more plays on the ball from Wilson as a junior and to set himself up as the Bulldogs' premier player on defense in 2015.
WildcardJaamal Rose - Jaamal Rose was a player that coaches thought highly of when they arrived in 2012 and he could have stepped into a starting role already had it not been for an ACL tear that made him miss most of 2012 and set him back in 2013. If Rose can be at full strength for fall camp this August he may get himself back into the conversation for playing time on this Fresno State defense.
Projected Depth Chart
1. Donavon Lewis
2. Brandon Hughes
3. Stephen Van Hook
4. Justin Green
1. Ejiro Ederaine
2. Jaamal Rose
3. Robert Stanley
1. Karl Mickelsen
2. Michael Lazarus
3. Tobenna Okeke
1. Kyrie Wilson
2. Xavier Ulutu
3. Jeff Camilli
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