Welcome to a new series in which we try to determine if the Arizona Wildcats’ position groups are in strong, stable, unstable, serious, or critical condition heading into fall camp. Next up are the linebackers.
Projected Starters: Kylan Wilborn, Colin Schooler, Tony Fields II
Backups: Jalen Harris, Jose Ramirez, Lee Anderson III, Carrington Vaughn, Jacob Colacion, Anthony Pandy, Troy Young, Rourke Freeburg, Rexx Tessler, Richard Merritt, Issaiah Johnson, Dayven Coleman
Arizona brings back three freshman All-American linebackers; Kylan Wilborn, Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II. Fields led the team in tackles with 104 and Schooler was second with 95. Together, the trio topped the team in sacks, and combined for 16.5, which was over half of the teams total (31).
Wilborn had offers to Hawaii and Idaho, and ended up being one of the best pass rushers on the team. He led the team with 7.5 sacks last season.
Schooler is the heart and soul of the defense. He’s the consummate middle linebacker you want on your team. The similarities between him and Scooby Wright are eerie, only Schooler has proven to be much more athletic.
Fields flies to the ball and is never out of a play and is often overlooked among the three linebackers, despite leading the team in tackles in last season. Not only can he get after a quarterback, but he can drop back in coverage, too.
Anthony Pandy was another freshman who contributed a decent amount, mostly on the weak side and special teams.
Troy Brown is new to the group, after playing a good amount at bandit last season, he’s moved to the weak side and brings a lot of value to the group. The weak side linebackers are in a really good spot with this depth.
Carrington Vaughn is an interesting middle backer. While he may have been passed up, he’s valuable and experienced depth for this group.
Instead, behind Schooler, will be Jacob Colacion. A smaller, more athletic option who is still very young himself.
Lee Anderson III and Jalen Harris are back up studs and will need to take some reps on in order to limit usage of Wilborn. Jose Ramirez is still young and holds some upside with a good frame of 6-foot-2, 240 pounds.
Anderson is experienced, but Harris proves to be the more versatile option because of his speed and size at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. Expect Harris to be a breakout star for the unit in 2018.
Rourke Freeburg, Richard Merritt and Rexx Tessler are all walk-ons who will serve as reserves.
Arizona brings in middle linebacker Issaiah Johnson, who could even make the jump to share some time with Schooler.
And then there’s hybrid safety/linebacker Dayven Coleman, who is an extremely strong edge rusher. He could play immediately on the weak side as well, despite the depth. Although he could easily win time as a bandit safety, too.
It’s hard to say that a group with three freshman all-Americans is anything but strong. Wilborn and Harris make a great push rushing tandem. A sophomore trio of Fields, Pandy and Young is extremely promising. And Schooler is your leader on defense, with Colacion as valuable insurance.
In all, it’s very young group, but it’s already proven to be talented.
What condition are Arizona’s linebackers in?
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