We begin our position previews today with a look at the linebackers. After spending the past three seasons at Liberty as the defensive line coach, Josh Aldridge slides back to coach the linebackers this season as he takes on the additional duties of Co-Defensive Coordinator. This move allows Aldridge to focus on coordinating the defense while not having as many position players that he is responsible for.
Linebacker was probably the thinnest position on the team when Coach Freeze, Scott Symons, and Josh Aldridge got to Lynchburg a few years ago. The coaching staff attempted to remedy that perceived weakness by focusing on the transfer portal, and that worked out great with several talented linebackers filtering through the program the last couple of years. The downside to that approach, is it has been a constant turn-style of players at linebacker, but that can begin to change this year.
Coach Aldridge has six veterans that he is comfortable turning to at linebacker entering the season. Here’s a look at those guys, as well as the rest of the depth at linebacker for Liberty in 2022:
MIKE LB 7 Mike Smith, Jr. R-JR 6’1″ 225
Smith was one of the most talented and heavily recruited linebackers at the JUCO this past season. Coming out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the Flames are very high on Smith’s prospects. He spent three years at the JUCO level due to the COVID pandemic, making him a much more advanced first year JUCO player than typical. He and Ahmad Walker are pushing each other for the starting spot at the Mike LB spot.
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “He had a really good summer. Mike had probably one of the best summers in our group, just in terms of where he was before the summer conditioning-wise to now. Not to say he was ever out of shape, but just getting acclimated to the weight room. Dom does great things here, but Dom’s hard on them. I can tell his stamina is at a different spot than it was at the spring. Because of that, you see him not making hardly any mental errors out there because he’s nevera feeling as fatigued. He’s done a great job. Mike practices really hard. Mike really cares. He’s really hard on himself.”
WILL LB 24 Aakil Washington R-SO 6’2″ 240
Washington was moved to linebacker prior to the spring. He’s one of the best pass rushers on the team, and now he brings that skill-set to the linebacker room. He has seen plenty of playing time his first couple of years on the team, playing in all 13 games last year, which included six starts. He finished 2021 with 27 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks. The coaching staff is looking for him to take that production up another level.
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “I think Aakil had a great summer mentally. That was a big deal for him to pick it up over the summer. He’s a dynamic player that’s going to play multiple positions in a different way than Tyren (Dupree). Aakil is going to play both those inside linebacker spots or D-End or rush the passer. When you get to third down, I think you’re going to see that guy out there every time. He is one of our better pass rushers. I’ve been really pleased with him and his progression. I’m not shocked, he’s one of the leaders on our team as a young guy already. Him picking things up has never been an issue.”
MIKE LB 34 Ahmad Walker SO 5’11” 215
As a true freshman last year, Walker started three games and played in 11. He finished the season with 37 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3 sacks. Now, he has a year of experience under his belt and Coach Aldridge is looking for a big jump in his production. Walker and Smith – flip a coin as to who gets the start at Mike on game days.
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “I see a lot of confidence in Ahmad, even though we’re putting in new things. That step from freshman year to sophomore year is usually a pretty big jump. I’ve seen that in him. He obviously sat out Spring. He could have gone through some stuff, but we held him out. He had that knee clean-up, it wasn’t anything major. I can tell that he did a good job preparing mentally while he was out.”
LB 35 Tyren Dupree R-JR 6’1″ 240
Dupree is the most experienced linebacker on the roster for the Flames this season. He played in 13 games last year, recording 31 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. He is a bit of a swiss army knife for Coach Aldridge, being able to slide in at either linebacker spot and in special packages, as well.
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “He was really light in the pants when we first got here. I wasn’t coaching, obviously. I think last year he kind of turned the corner with his weight gain. Tyren in that room could play anywhere from the two inside linebacker spots to the outside linebacker spot. He mentally probably has the most on him right now and doing it pretty well. He’s experienced. It’s easy to coach him because you can tell him something and be same as something he’s done in the past because he’s got that experience. He’s kind of a catch all guy for us. I think you will see him do several different things for us.”
WILL LB 0 Jerome Jolly, Jr R-SO 5’11” 215
Jolly has been primarily a special teams player his first couple of years at Liberty. He spent his high school career playing in the secondary and originally came to college as a safety. Jolly transitioned to linebacker a year ago, and he is finally able to take that next step and be counted on as part of the normal rotation. He did play in 12 games last year, recording two tackles.
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “This is going to be a year that you see him have a bigger role. In terms of his production, I can’t speak to that, that’s going to be on him. I do think he’s turned the corner. Him playing linebacker is totally different than anything he’s ever done. I do think you can see him clicking a little bit. We’ve got about six guys in that room who I trust in there, and he is one of those guys.”
MIKE LB 57 Carl Poole R-SO 5’11” 235
Poole is another young guy with a lot of playing time under his belt for the Flames. The former walk-on played in 12 games last year, finishing with 13 tackles and one TFL. He provides additional depth and leadership for the Flames at the Mike.
LB 21 Micah Glaize JR 6’0″ 205
LB 30 Jordan Norwood FR 6’1″ 210
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “Jordan is coming in with a slight injury that’s going to make him miss camp. He probably won’t be practicing with us until late August. From a maturity standpoint and learning the playbook, he’s done really good. Jordan is really talented. It wouldn’t shock me when Jordan started practicing if Jordan did play as a freshman. He is just focusing on his rehab right now. Jordan is a really good pickup for us, he is a really talented player.”
LB 2 Kaci Seegars R-FR 6’2″ 225
LB Coach Josh Aldridge – “He’s hurt. He’s still coming off an Achilles’ injury. Mentally he is in much better shape. Physically, gotten a lot heavier in a good way. We will have him at mid-season at the earliest. That Achilles’ deal is hard to measure, but I have been pleased with Kaci’s maturity.”