Aug. 22, 2014
BEAUMONT, Texas -
When taking a look at the 2014 Lamar linebackers it is a very similar story to the rest of the defense - young talent looking to replace 2013 starters who have exhausted their eligibility. And, just like the rest of the defense, the LU linebackers are not completely void of players with career starts.
Junior Mike Hargis started four games for the Cardinals last season at the Sam linebacker, and eventually took over the starting role by season's end. The versatile Logan Moss earned starts on the defensive line and at linebacker during the 2013 season, while senior Anthony Beard also battled his way into the starting lineup late in the season.
The continuing theme that the LU players are trying to get across - the cupboard is not bare.
"I think people are going to be surprised this year," said Moss. "We have a very tight knit group of guys on the defensive side of the ball. We have great chemistry. In addition to that, we have some talented players that not too many people know of. We return several guys who started last year, and a number of guys return who saw a lot of snaps whether they started or not. This defense is not void of talent."
One adjustment the LU linebackers have had to make for 2014 was working with a new coordinator and a new position coach. Despite the new names, and the familiar names in new places it has been a smooth transition.
"We've added a few new wrinkles," said first-year Cardinals' linebackers coach Mark Criner. "But, we are still running the same concept from last season. We are a little more experienced on the outside with the return of Logan Moss and Mike Hargis, but we have four guys on the inside that I'm very excited about."
Entering the fall camp, the coaching staff has been focused on the mindset of its youthful linebacking corps.
"These guys are really good about picking up things both the old and new stuff we're teaching them," said Criner. "We made a lot of mistakes early but I'm happy with the progress. We threw a lot at these guys very early on, and now we're starting to file that down a bit.
"The thing we've wanted to focus on with the young guys is when you make a mistake don't hang your head but move onto the next play. That is a common tendency of younger players - focusing on their miscues. That was a problem early in camp, but now they are starting to gain confidence," added Criner.
Hargis and Moss are the two veterans on the outside and should see a majority of the starts, with redshirt freshman Kade Burman and sophomore Zach Johnson as key parts of the rotation. The Cardinals will turn to Anthony Beard, Ronnie Jones, Eddie McGill and Shawn Jones for production in the middle of the defense. Among the group of middle linebackers, Beard is the lone senior. The other three players will be back for at least one more season.
"This is a strong group of guys in the middle that maybe most folks don't know about, but they have talent," said Criner. "They can really help this team. One young man that has come in here and impressed everyone is the freshman Shawn Jones. If he doesn't start, he will still see a lot of playing time. I'm happy with the way these guys are coming around."
NOTES: The Cardinals will step on the field Saturday morning for their final of three scrimmages. Saturday's workout will be scaled back from last week's scrimmage and will focus primarily on goal line and red zone work ... The scrimmage is slated to begin with warmup drills at 10 a.m. from Provost Umphrey Stadium ... The official start to the 2014 season is Sunday when the Cardinals hosts the annual Lamar Football Kickoff Banquet at the Montagne Center. Tickets can be purchased through the Lamar Ticket Office ... Lamar's 2014 season opener is Saturday, Aug. 30th at 7 p.m. against Grambling State.