Aggie football kicked off spring camp this week and will begin to sort out the open positions. With several departing starters on both sides of the ball, returning letterman and incoming freshman will have a chance to lay claim to those vacancies. Monday we reviewed the open slot receiver position, and today we focus in on linebackers.
The three-headed monster that was Donnie Baggs/Tommy Sanders/Justin Bass have all exhausted their eligibility. While none of them necessarily won a starting spot outright, each of them filled in as starters when injuries occurred. They leave behind A.J. Hilliard, Josh Walker, Shaan Washington, and Otaro Alaka, all who have a great deal of experience. While many expect Josh Walker and Otaro Alaka to hold down middle linebacker and strongside linebacker, respectively; the weakside linebacker position is filled with questions. How will Hilliard return from his season ending injury? Will the versatile Shaan Washington impress new linebacker coach and defensive coordinator John Chavis this offseason? And what about JUCO transfer Claude George, one of the top JUCO linebackers in the nation?
A.J. Hilliard was largely considered A&M’s best linebacker coming out of fall camp. He started at weakside linebacker in the South Carolina season opener but suffered a tragic ankle break during that game. The injury sidelined him the rest of the season, and it will be interesting to see if he’s able to return to his former capabilities. If so, the Aggies could have their best starting linebacker group since 2012 in Hilliard, Alaka, and Walker.
The junior out of Louisiana, Shaan Washington was A&M’s most productive linebacker in 2014. Despite missing the first three games due to injury, he recorded 64 tackles over the rest of the season which was good for a team best 7.1 tackles per game. His playmaking ability and nose for finding the ball will be counted on no matter what in 2015. But spring camp will give him a chance to separate himself from the other contenders.
Finally, the Aggies welcome one of the top JUCO linebackers in the nation in Claude George. The transfer from Hutchinson Community College was a pass rushing specialist in the JUCO ranks and could be used as such in his first year at A&M. He has good size at 6’2” 230lbs. and decent speed with a 4.7 second 40. Him being enrolled early is huge as the coaching staff will be counting on him to push for a starting spot, and at the very least, fill out the depth chart.
Winner: A.J. Hilliard