At linebacker, the Flames know who they have at the top of the depth chart in Nick Newman and Dexter Robbins. These 2 have combined to play in 72 games during their career. The biggest question is the depth behind these two experienced seniors. Linebackers coach Josh Bookbinder says starting with the foundation of Newman and Robbins makes his job easier. “Having those guys at the forefront and being able to lead the young guys is a positive thing for me.”
Newman was Liberty’s leading tackler last season with 74 and has been named to the Big South second team all-conference each of the past 2 seasons. He hopes the time he has put in during the offseason will help propel him to make first team.
Robbins came in behind Nick Sigmon and Jimmy O’Grady, and he had to wait his turn. He got playing time as a true freshman, primarily on special teams, and as he proved his merit he had opportunities at linebacker. Now, as a senior, he has been called on to lead the team as a captain and with his performance on the field. “He bought into his role,” Bookbinder said, “and now he’s kind of grown into a team leader, team captain. This year is going to be a great year for him.”
The next guys in the pecking order based on their play during camp are Lucas Irons, Jaylyn McKinney, and David King. “Lucas Irons is the 3rd guy right now,” Coach Bookbinder said. “He’s a guy that has really made some moves this offseason, and he will contribute.” Irons is a redshirt-sophomore from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He saw limited playing time in 9 games last year, and he was named the most improved player on the defense this past spring.
“Jaylyn McKinney and David King are 2 guys that have grown.” Bookbinder continued, “David just started working with the linebackers in the spring. Jaylyn is a guy that redshirted last year and he’s done a nice job in fall camp.”
The other guys in the linebacker room include Aaron Glover, Jason Pitts, and Korell Evans. Glover is a freshman from Norfolk, Virginia, and he will have a chance to make his mark this season on special teams. Pitts is a walk-on, redshirt-junior who joined the team in the spring. Evans is a true freshman from Hallandale High School in South Florida. He never played linebacker in high school as he was a defensive end and wide receiver.
“The biggest thing is we’ve got better speed,” Coach Gill described. “We’ve got some guys there that can run. That was our main thing was having our inside linebackers that we’ve been able to recruit. Are they able to do the things that we want them to do and that’s run to the ball from sideline to sideline.”