Aug. 28, 2007
Speed. Strength. Experience. Leadership. Playmakers. Ingredients that are needed to help make a successful football team. All these ingredients exist within the 'Jacks' linebacker squad. The Lumberjacks return four veterans, two All-Southland Conference honorees and one preseason All-American. That, along with an influx, of some strong freshmen, should help ease the transition of first-year linebackers' coach Brad Laird.
"I've always taken the approach that the linebackers have to be the glue of the football team, being in the middle of the line and secondary," said Laird. "They got the job done last, and they only continue to get better."
The 'Jacks' linebackers will be paced by preseason All-America selection Damian Perkins. Originally recruited to be the future of the team's ground game, Perkins was switched to linebacker prior to his sophomore season. He burst onto the scene in the third game of the season at Arizona. Perkins was involved in 23 stops and recorded his first career interception during the game. He went on to lead the league in tackles and earn second-team All-Southland Conference honors during his first season at the position.
"Damian has a great attitude," said Laird. "He gives you everything he's got on every play. That is one of those little things that you can't coach. When other players see that, it brings the whole team up another level."
Playing his new position, similar to a Patriot missile seeking its target, Perkins was non-stop in his pursuit of the football. He dominated the position, not only leading the league in tackles, but was also among the league leaders in sacks and tackles for losses. Perkins garnered so much respect during his first season on the defensive side of the ball that he enters his junior campaign as a Lindy's Magazine Preseason Second-Team All-America selection.
Standing 5-11, 200-pounds, senior Bug Aymond also made the transition to linebacker in 2006. Appropriately named `Bug,' Aymond is undersized for the position, but don't let the size fool you. Aymond is the type of player who always seems to be around the ball.
"We moved Bug to linebacker last season and he did a tremendous job," said Laird. "Bug is a very experienced player who played every game for us last season. He's the guy that can get everyone adjusted right, linebacker wise."
If the phrase, "squashed like a bug" is true, then in 2006 the `Bug' got his revenge. Aymond earned honorable mention All-Southland Conference honors after finishing fifth on the team with 67 tackles, including 4.5 for losses.
Junior Jonathan Patke could be the biggest addition to the Lumberjack linebackers. Although Patke has been on the roster the past two seasons, his career to this point has been riddled with injuries.
After coming off an injury-riddled freshman season, Patke earned a starting job heading into 2006. But Patke was struck with a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the season-opener at Tulsa, putting an early end to a second consecutive season.
"He has overcome all the stuff that he has had to endure over the past couple of seasons," said Laird. "The great thing about Patke is he never brings it up, and he never looks back. He is only looking at the season ahead. He's a very smart player who works very hard at what he does."
Calvert, Texas, native Brian Ford enters his junior season battling for a starting role at middle linebacker. A former star at the six-man level in high school, Ford is growing into one of the better linebackers in the league. Standing 6-2, 225, Ford started two games last year, recording 25 tackles and an interception, which he ran back 39 yards for a touchdown at Southeastern Louisiana.
"Brian played a lot for us last season, and really had some big games," said Laird. "He hasn't seen the reps that some of the other guys have so far this season, but he will play a lot of minutes again this season."
Also in the mix fighting for playing time are redshirt freshmen Jeremy Fontenette and Terrance Nurse. Members of the 2006 signing class, both utilized their redshirt season to workout with strength and condition coordinator Dan Eason. Nurse enters the year standing 6-2, 225, while Fontenette is 5-10, 185 pounds.
"I think the future is very bright for Terrance," said Laird. "He utilized his redshirt season last year and didn't play, but he will back up Bug. Jeremy was in the same situation, redshirting last year, but he is a talented kid that we have backing up Patke."
Another young talent who could figure into the mix is Garrison, Texas, native Jabara Williams. A highly-sought after prospect during the recruiting process, Williams has already turned some heads in fall camp.
"I've been real impressed with Jabara," said Laird. "He is the mix with Fontenette, backing up Jonathan. He has come in as a true freshman, really studied our defense and is making plays."
Things look very bright for the 'Jacks' group of linebackers, and not only for the 2007 season. SFA has a solid mix of veteran experience and talented youth that should make them one of the strongest groups of linebackers in the Southland Conference for years to come.