The loss of all three starting linebackers has opened a door of opportunity for a lot of guys, veterans and youngsters alike. As MSU goes through spring drills – they resume a week from Thursday – the coaches are looking for the best six at those spots.
A candidate to line up in the middle is redshirt freshman Ferlando Bohanna. He was rated the 15th-best in the country at his position as a senior at Memphis Whitehaven, and now that he's got a year of work under his belt, the 6-foot, 225-pounder feels ready to step in and see action.
"I sat out a whole year. Got bigger, got faster, got stronger. Ready to go play," he said after a practice last week.
Bohanna is in competition mainly with seniors Jamie Jones and Brandon Wilson, so it won't be easy for him to crack the rotation, but his talent level and work ethic make him a viable candidate.
"I've really been impressed with Bo," defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said. "He's done a tremendous job of coming in and preparing this offseason. … [A]nd then you combine that with his natural instincts. He's a very instinctive football player."
That's a good trait for an inside linebacker to have. Don't be surprised if Bohanna, who made 85 tackles, 13.0 tackles-for-loss and 3.0 sacks his senior year at Whitehaven, sees the field a lot this season. Not only is he working hard in the weightroom – "It's a grind every day," he said – he's taking notes from those with experience.
"Those guys have played, I haven't, so I don't really know what to expect from the game, so I'm trying to learn from those guys," Bohanna said.
He feels like he's on the same page as everyone else, and he credits bowl practices for that. During the first week of Gator Bowl prep, MSU gave most of the reps to younger, less experienced players like Bohanna.
"I actually learned a lot more during bowl (practice), because I got a chance to get reps with the other players," he said. "It was a grind. Everything I do is a grind. I'm just trying to get out here on the field and play."
Bohanna said he and the others are learning every linebacker position, and that it's been a good competition so far.
"I just want the best guy to play. I just want to make my teammates better; I want them to make me better."