Maybe I'm noticing it for the first time, but the roster now lists Shawn Lemon as a linebacker.
As I have written on numerous occasions, Lemon's attributes beg for him to play outside linebacker as a pass-rush specialist. I think Almondo Sewell is similar in some ways, but he is an All-MAC defensive end, so there's no use in changing a good thing.
Lemon will join potential All-MAC linebackers Mike Thomas and Aaron Williams. Some combination of the talented young backers Troy Gilmer, Brian Wagner and Will Fleming certainly will earn playing time. You also have serviceable upperclassmen Sean Fobbs and Al-Teric Balaam for depth.
When J.D. Brookhart says he wants to rotate between six or seven linebackers, those are the players of which he speaks. I think the linebacking corps is shaping up to be as deep as the defensive line. Well, almost.
The secondary is a different story. It reminds me of the defensive line of this time last year.
Brookhart has four solid defensive backs in Jalil Carter, Tyler Campbell, Manley Waller and Miguel Graham. I think Wayne Cobham can be productive once he leaves the rover position, which did not suit him well.
The starters are fine, but the second string brings a lot of question marks. Brookhart must rely on at least three players who lack game experience. Marvase Byrd and Josh Richmond are athletic enough to do it. Kevin Davis, a juco transfer, probably has more knowledge about what it takes to play secondary in college. Perhaps the coaches can get some minutes out of three-star newcomers Diamond Weaver and Bill Alexander, as well.
Like the defensive line in 2008, the 2009 secondary has some dependable pieces and some untested talent. If all goes well, the unit could develop into a strength for 2010. If injuries occur and development slows, then we're looking at a collapse that could negate the defense's strength: the front seven.
Remember, Akron will enjoy serious talent on the defensive line. It's definitely the best defensive line that Brookhart ever has had, even if Ryan Bain is hurt. With the linebacker positions looking stronger, it's time to get excited about the Zips finally stopping the run.