LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 13: Quarterback Omar Clayton #2 of the UNLV Rebels throws from the end zone under pressure from Keith Lewis #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium November 13 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. UNLV won 42-16. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
We take a step further in previewing the defense for the Cowboys. We are moving onto the linebackers and this will be a group to watch this year. Asfar as depth goes this unit is the best on the team. There is a great mix of upperclassmen and up and coming youngsters.
Let's take a look at the roster movement.
Brian Hendricks - Graduated
Jeff Rouche - Moved to DE
Mark Nzeocha - Moved to Safety
Brandon James (walk-on) - Transfer
Luke Knapton (walk-on) - Left team
Ghaali Muhaamad - Switched from RB
Siaosi Hala'api'api - HS
Lucas Wacha - HS
WILL LB: Korey Jones Backup: Alex Borgs
After a redshirtseason in 2011 freshmen Zach Berg has been on fire. He had a tremendous spring camp and won the starting spot. In high school Berg played safety and and his pass coverage skills have stayed with him as he moved to linebacker. He has a nose for coming up with interceptions and had two picks in the first fall scrimmage. The only thing he lacks is experience, but he certainly has not played like a freshmen this year.
Ghaali Muhammad makes his move back to linebacker after spending last year at running back. I've said it multiple times and I'll say it again: I love the fact that Muhammad is such a team player and willing to move where the team needs him. He's never played the same position two in years in a row. Due to a leg injury suffered during the season Muhammad was forced to miss the spring drills and that gave Zach Berg a leg up. Now healthy Muhammad is back and will be a key contributor on defense. In 2010 he was fourth on the team with 75 tackles.
Todd Knight was part of Coach Christensen's first recruiting class but saw his first playing time last season. He was a key reserve for the linebackers and totaled 12 tackles in 13 games. Now Knight finds himself third on the depth chart at this spot and has some tough competition ahead of him. Should still be very solid on special teams at the very least.
The first German player to sign with the Cowboys was Oliver Schober back in 2010. The 6-3 230lb middle linebacker had 46 tackles in 2010 and also handled kickoff duties thanks to his strong leg and soccer background. Due to his age Schober only had two years of eligibility when he arrived in Laramie. He used a redshirt in 2011 after suffering a shoulder injury and also missed spring drills while recovering. He is healthy this fall and leads a great group of middle linebackers.
Devyn Harris was a starter last year with Schober's injury. He is currently listed as second on the depth chart but provides another proven veteran at this position. In 2011 Harris played in all 13 games and 65 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He can play at multiple spots for the Cowboys.
One of the best stories of spring was the emergence of J.J. Quinnlan. At 6-1 235 Quinnlan finally got his first serious amount of reps while in Laramie. He originally went to Central Washington but Christensen convinced him to transfer to Laramie as a walk-on. He used a redshirt in 2010 and then was injured for all of 2011. Quinnlan was a tackling machine this spring and his hardworkearned him a scholarship. It appears that Quinnlan may actually be moving to H-Back due to the depth at linebacker. We'll find out where he figures into to the plans this year when the depth chart is released.
As junior college transfer Korey played in every game last year. Listed at 6-2 225 Jone started as an undersized defensive end and later moved to his natural position as an outside linebacker. He finished the year with 59 tackles, six TFLand four sacks. For someone so new to the program he quickly gained the respect of his teamamtes and coaches. He was named one of four team team capatains depsite only being on the roster for a year. You certainly don't see most transfers put into that type of leadership. He has had a strong fall camp and certainly appearsto have a lock on his starting position.
As a freshmen Alex Borgs played in 13 games last year onspecial teams but did not record a tackle. At 6-2 231 Borgs offers plenty of size for the linebacking spot. Right now he is battling for the backup spot behind Jones with the two freshmen. Borgs is one of five German players on the roster this year.
Due to the depth at linebacker the Cowboys didn't add many new players in the last recruiting class. These two are certainly talented but will face a challenge in trying to break into the rotation their first year. Siaosi Hala'api'api is6-2 225 and hails from Honolulu. He made some noise in the first scrimmage for a punishing hit he dished out. Luchas Wacha is a 6-1 208 speedy outside linebacker from Texas. Both could see time on special teams this year.