Over the next couple of weeks, the Catamount Sports Network and CatamountSports.com will feature positional previews of the 2015 Catamount football team. Each feature will contain the position write-ups from the 2015 Western Carolina media guide, and Catamount Sports Network All-Access video highlights and interviews with the position coach and student-athletes.
2015 WCU Football Position-by-Position Preview: LinebackersWCU has a proud tradition at linebacker -- a legacy carried on by a solid group of returning play-makers in 2015 despite a key loss from the 2014 season. Christon Gill concluded his four-year career, the second-half of which was spent at linebacker. Gill, a third-team All-America selection in 2014, ranked second in the Southern Conference with a team-best 111 tackles including 51 solo hits a season ago.
Picking up the torch this year are a pair of returners that played alongside Gill a year ago. Junior Tyson Dickson, who despite injury recorded 44 tackles in six games played, and redshirt sophomore Daniel Riddle, who was tied for ninth in the SoCon with 74 tackles, are the top two returners at linebacker. Riddle appeared on the Jerry Rice Award watch list for top freshman at the FCS level.
All told, WCU's linebackers are the most youthful area of the defense with just two seniors in A.J. McKoy (22 tackles in 34 career games), who is a converted defensive back moving into the Buck linebacker position, and Damian Whitaker (17 tackles in 23 games played). Whitaker has four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble in his playing career, also seeing time elsewhere in the defensive backfield. Coleman Cunningham (15 games played) adds experience to the position.
Several underclassmen are looking to climb into the two-deep and are expected to contribute this year. A year after transferring to WCU from Indiana, redshirt sophomore Kris Smith, who played in all 12 games a season ago, headlines the returning group. Sophomores Chris Seaborn (12 games) and Kendall White (11 games) both saw solid playing time as freshmen in 2014.
WCU has six incoming freshmen on roster that will add depth and competition to the linebacker position: Hassan Belton (Columbia, S.C.), Jay Gibbs (Charlotte, N.C.), Mitchell Chancey (Asheville, N.C.), Jerod Walls (Lexington, S.C.), Trey Fisher (Cullowhee, N.C.) and Spencer McCoy (Bryson City, N.C.).
Additional Defensive Line Notes:
Three of WCU's top four tacklers in 2014 were linebackers including Christon Gill, who finished second in the league with a team-high 111 tackles including a team-high 12 TFLs, fifth in the SoCon;
Two of WCU's top six returning tacklers -- including the leading returner from last season in Daniel Riddle -- are linebackers ... Tyson Dickson only played in six games in 2014, but finished with 44 tackles, averaging 7.3 per game.
WCU Football 2015 Position-by-Position Preview (tentative schedule):
Offensive Line - WATCH
Defensive Line - WATCH
Wide Receivers - WATCH
Linebackers - ABOVE
Running Backs - Aug. 18
Defensive Backs - Aug. 20
Tight Ends - Aug. 24
Special Teams - Aug. 25
Quarterbacks - Aug. 27