Position Preview: Linebackers

This is perhaps the deepest position on the defense in terms of experience. Guys like Keith Lewis and Serderius Bryant have been around the block.

They’re experienced backups, and that offers flexibility when Dave Wommack wants to move from his base 4-2-5 to a 4-3.

D.T. Shackelford has also been around the block and is attempting a rare comeback after two major knee surgeries and two years away from the field.

Shackelford has been running third team in camp and at this point doesn’t appear to be threatening for playing time. On his rebuilt knee, Shackelford is carrying 246 pounds, up about 16 pounds from the 2010 season.

He’s always had great leadership skill and been a guy players will rally around. His voice carries more weight, however, if he’s on the field. Players follow other players who make plays.

The Rebels have good leadership at the position with starters Mike Marry in the middle and Denzel Nkemdiche on the outside at what Wommack calls the “Stinger” linebacker.

Marry doesn’t have great speed – which can be a problem in pass coverage – but often off-sets that by being in the right place. He had 10.5 tackles for loss last year. He had a huge game in the Compass Bowl with seven tackles, four for loss and a forced fumble.

Nkemdiche does have great speed and is clearly the fastest of the linebackers. Last year he had team-highs of 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. He was named second-team All-SEC and freshman All-America by four different outlets.

Nkemdiche has a tendency to rely on his quickness rather than scheme, and Wommack would like him to improve there.

Redshirt freshman Temario Strong is an interesting name to watch here. He’s been running third team.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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