Step one in learning about the Zips' linebacking scheme: Figure out what the heck J.D. Brookhart is talking about when he says "sam," "mike" and "bandit."
Sam is the strong-side linebacker. Mike plays in the middle. Bandit is a safety/linebacker hybrid who is typically your fastest linebacker because he chases the play from the weak side.
OK. Now let's get to the starters...
Kevin Grant, a freshman All-American honorable mention two seasons ago, had a quiet season in that he did not record a sack. In 2005, he had 4.5 of them. Still, the middle linebacker was second on the team with 87 tackles (John Mackey, 88).
Doug Williams, the bandit or weak-side linebacker, possibly had the best spring season of anyone on the team. If that translates to the regular season, the junior from Tampa will be one of the MAC's best defensive players the next two years.
Then we have Brion Stokes, the senior who plays on the strong side, who will be crucial to the Zips' pass rush. As the team's best blitzer, according to Brookhart, he led the team with 5.5 sacks last season. CollegeFootballNews.com calls Stokes the Zips' best player, period.
Now it's time to pull out the wild card: Al-Teric Balaam whose talent probably makes Brookhart wish he could go to a 3-4 defense for this season. The sophomore is talented enough to play any linebacker position today if needed. Both Balaam and backup bandit Amin Kabir will give the Zips a solid linebacking corps for the next three years.
There is no doubt Akron's linebackers are among the MAC's best. The question will be whether the defensive line can consume enough blockers to allow them to make plays on the ball carrier.