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UTEP Football 2016 Position Group Preview: Linebackers

Linebacker is an interesting spot in 2016 with a number of new faces, and some potential for major production.

Will Linebacker Depth Chart

  • Nick Usher, 6'3, 240 lbs, Senior; 2015 stats: 33.5 tackles, 6.6% of team tackles, 10 TFL's, 3.5 sacks
  • Lawrence Montegut, 6'1, 230 lbs, Junior; 2015 stats: 10 tackles, 3.0 TFL's, 2.0 sacks

Production, and experience are what they bring, but a different position of standing up and reading the defense has been the main adjustments since the spring for Usher and Montegut.

In 2015, former defensive coordinator Scott Stoker used Usher in a number of ways, including coverage of running backs out of the backfield, so the adjustment period seemed to be a refresher for the talented third year starter.

Usher can produce all-conference type numbers, with his skill set perfectly fitting as an outside linebacker in the Miners’ 3-4 defensive scheme.

His length, and tackling ability will be a plus in defending underneath passes, and of course Usher can get after the quarterback with his sheer heart, and speed.

Montegut will also see plenty of time on special teams, and towards the end of last season he became a nice, and important depth piece at defensive end.

Mike Linebacker Depth Chart

  • Alvin Jones, 5'11, 220 lbs, Junior, 2015 stats: 70.5 tackles, 12.7% of team tackles, 14.5 TFL's, 6.5 sacks
  • Makana Foster, 6'0, 225 lbs, Junior

When you look back at Alvin Jones' 2015 season, one thing seems to be majorly omitted.

Jones was one of the most productive linebackers in the conference, but played majority of the season with a bad shoulder.

Now fully healthy, the only thing on his shoulder are major motivation chips to prove he was wrongfully snubbed from all-conference honors in 2015.

Jones will have almost the same assignments from the 4-2-5, but could have more gap protection in front of him with the Miners big defensive line crossing paths of offensive lineman.

Fraser brings speed, and keen lateral movement needed to rack up tackles in a sub package role this season.

You could also see converted safety Leon Hayes help out with depth at both Mike and Will linebacker this season, but I doubt Jones leaves the field and will lead the defense in snaps taken.

Jones will be the centerpiece of an improved gallery of depth, but a statistically unproven line backing core behind him.

Buck Linebacker Depth Chart

  • Dante Lovilette, 5'11, 230 lbs, Junior
  • Cooper Foster, 6'1, 235 lbs, Senior

One of the most surprising position battles in the fall was at Buck linebacker, and the results were even more surprising.

Lovilette, a JUCO transfer, won the starting job for week one over veteran special teams producer Cooper Foster.

Sean Kugler has raved about Lovilette's speed, and ability to get after the ball.

He led Kilgore College in 2015 with 95 tackles, racked up four sacks, and added three interceptions, numbers that can possibly translate to the C-USA level after a strong showing in fall camp.

Foster will certainly see the field at linebacker, but the hope is Lovilette duplicates, or improves his production from his impressive JUCO sophomore year.

Stephen Forester is another guy, along with freshman Sione Tupou who could provide depth behind Lovilette, and Foster.

Sam Linebacker Depth Chart

  • Silas Firstley, 6'0, 265, Senior; 2015 stats: 15.5 tackles, 4.0 TFL's, 1 sack
  • Jayson VanHook, 6'3, 200 lbs, Freshman

Firstley has been a big part of the Miner defense since his redshirt freshman season, and has looked strong at the new outside linebacker spot from the spring, until the end of fall camp.

Not only will Firstley be an important pass rusher, but his run stopping abilities will be heavily relied up at the Sam linebacker spot.

VanHook had a solid year on the scout team last season, and has received praise from Sean Kugler and staff since he starting showing up on the scout team.

His length, and speed will help in sure fire passing downs, and can be moved around to help out in a number of spots, and in certain defensive play calls.

Outside linebacker might end up being a defensive strength as the season goes on, and the quality starting, and depth along the depth chart will show up in a number of different ways in 2016.