Aug. 20, 2012
BEAUMONT - With less than two weeks remaining before the season opener at Louisiana-Lafayette, Lamar University's linebackers look to be rounding into shape as the Cardinals' defense will feature a new defensive formation this season.
For the first time since Lamar reinstated its football program in 2010, Lamar will line up in a 3-4 formation on defense. With four linebackers on the field at one time, Lamar will have to stay healthy to keep its production at a high level.
"I think it fits us," said linebackers' coach Craig McGallion about the formation change. "We have a lot of team speed and we're able to get some more linebackers out on the field. That kind of spreads us a little thin. We'll recruit a little differently now, recruit more linebacker types.
"It fits our defensive line very well. They're moving around a lot and it kind of frees up the linebackers to make some big plays."
Seniors Marcus Malbrough and Blake Chavis are both moving from defensive end to outside linebacker positions, while James Washington and Jermaine Longino are currently penciled in as the starters at the inside linebacker positions.
In Saturday's second intrasquad scrimmage, Malbrough and Chavis were indeed freed up to make big plays and the duo responded with three combined sacks and applied pressure in the offensive backfield the entire evening.
"They're able to stand up and see the field and we're utilizing their body types out there," said McGallion about Malbrough and Chavis. "We've got some young guys who are coming up right now who hopefully will be able to step in and produce."
Malbrough earned honorable mention All-Southland Conference honors in 2011 after tying for the team lead with 4.5 sacks, adding 33 tackles in his first season at Lamar.
The Cardinals did suffer a blow earlier in preseason camp when leading returning tackler Anthony Beard
went down with a knee injury that will likely keep him out for the season. Beard accounted for 58 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, as a redshirt freshman.
"I was thin to begin with," said McGallion. "We're very fortunate to have Longino who could come from the outside and move to the inside. Certainly there's going to be a void there losing Anthony Beard, but I think Longino's going to step up and we'll be fine."
Longino comes with impressive credentials after earning first-team All-America honors as a sophomore at Trinity Valley Community College. The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder was named the Southwest Junior College Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.
Washington played in only seven games last season after going down with an injury, but still managed 25 tackles in 2011. A junior from Houston, McGallion is expecting a big return from Washington this year.
"Getting James back from injury is really going to help us," said McGallion. "That guy has been here since the beginning, but this is his third system to have to learn. There is a lot of carryover from what we've done in other defenses, though. I think without a doubt, he's the leader as far as getting everybody lined up."
Sophomores Jestin White, Joshua James and freshman Mike Hargis are expected to see time at the outside backer positions. Junior Will Jones, senior Joseph Viator and freshman Ronnie Jones Jr. provide depth on the inside.
Lamar opens the season at Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. The Cardinals' home opener will be the following Saturday (Sept. 8) at 7 p.m. when Prairie View A&M visits Provost Umphrey Stadium. Lamar will host five games following the Prairie View A&M contest. Highlights of the home schedule include the homecoming contest against McMurray at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 and a Southland Conference game against national runner-up Sam Houston State at 3 p.m. Oct. 27.
Tickets can be purchased at the Montagne Center ticket office, by calling (409) 880-1715, or visiting www.LamarCardinals.com.