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Boise State Spring Preview: Linebackers

Questions surround the position heading into Spring ball

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Fresno State at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of questions surround the linebacker position heading in to the 2019 season. Starting linebacker Tyson Maeva was dismissed from the team, Riley Whimpey will be coming off a major injury, and Zeke Noa may be looking at a position change. Boise State is now listing STUDs as OLBs, but I will be including them in the defensive line preview. So, stay tuned. Let’s take a look at what to expect at the linebacker position.

Middle Linebacker (MLB)

Benton Wickersham

Wickersham is a former walk-on, who was recently awarded a scholarship. Wickersham played as true freshman in 2017, and with injuries and lack of depth, he has stepped into a major role. Wickersham had 16 tackles as a freshman and a career-high five tackles against UCONN this past season. Barring a position change by another player, Wickersham may be the starter in Jacksonville on August 31st.

Chances of starting: 50%

DJ Schramm

Schramm is an intriguing prospect; the Broncos recruited him out of Fresno’s backyard, and he enrolled early. Schramm will likely need to step in and play right away as a redshirt freshman.

Chances of starting: 20%

Strongside Linebacker (SLB)

Brandon Hawkins

Like Schramm, Hawkins enrolled early. Hawkins had an impressive offer list out of high school, and he has the size and speed to compete for playing time. Spring ball will be crucial for Hawkins, as he will look to compete for a starting spot.

Chances of starting: 25%

Roman Kafentzis

Kafentzis was a stud in high school; his highlight tape showed him all over the field making tape. The redshirt sophomore will have an opportunity to make an impact in 2019. Kafentzis saw action on special teams in 2018. I expect his role to increase there and for him to see some second team snaps at linebacker.

Chances of starting: 20%

Weakside Linebacker (WLB)

Ezekiel Noa

Noa replaced Whimpey after he was injured. Noa looked liked a future stud, and his solid play led to rumors of a position change. He finished the season with 34 tackles, including four tackles for loss. A move to MLB feels like a natural transition for Noa, who is excellent at stopping the run.

Chances of starting: 80%

Phillip Mills

At 6’2” 225 pounds, Mills seemed like a candidate to play as a true freshman. An injury prevented Mills from seeing the field, but I see big things in store for him. He should have an active role on special teams and be a part of the linebacker rotation.

Chances of starting: 10%

Riley Whimpey

Whimpey had the tough task of replacing Leighton Vander Esch. He struggled with run reads early in the season, but it seemed like he was finally finding his stride before an injury in early November. I expect Whimpey and Noa to be on the field together. Take these listed positions with a grain of salt.

Chances of starting: 80%

Bruno DeRose

DeRose appeared in all 13 games, including one start. He registered 10 tackles. Like Wickersham, DeRose is a walk-on, who has been forced into action due to injuries. If Whimpey and Noa stay healthy, he will likely be relegated to special teams duties.

Chances of starting: 5%

2019 Signings

Casey Kline (OLB)

Kline is already enrolled at BSU and is listed on the roster as an outside linebacker. The four-star recruit has the versatility to play a couple of different positions. It will be interesting to see where he fits in with this defensive unit.

Chances of starting: 10%

Lolani Langi

Langi was a February signee and a huge get for the Broncos. He played outside linebacker in high school, but has the size and speed to play all three positions. Like Kline, I think he has the potential to play right away.

Chances of starting; 5%

Linebacker will be a position to keep an eye on. Kaniho will likely occupy one of the spots as a nickel, but who will fill that hole when he is not in the game? I wouldn’t get too hung up on what position the players are listed at, Boise State coaches are known for moving players around.

Stay tuned, as next week I will be previewing the defensive line.