Throughout spring practice we're going to be looking at a few position battles. Today we'll examine the outside linebacker spot up for grabs.
2006 Starter - Dan Connor
Connor has moved to the inside linebacker spot now which was vacated by Paul Posluszny. So really we're talking about a replacement for Poz. Replacing a guy who holds the school record for career tackles and won two Bednarik awards and a Butkus award is no small task. You can pretty much guarantee whoever the Lions put in there it's going to be a downgrade. Fortunately, they have a lot of talent to plug in there so the drop off shouldn't be too steep.
Jerome Hayes - The redshirt sophomore has had a tough time cracking the depth chart in his first two years with the program. In 2006 he only saw the field in only seven games recording only five tackles. He's got great size at 6'2" and 236 lbs. The buzz from the practice field is that he's extremely physically gifted, but he has a tough time playing with discipline. If he plays like Lavar Arrington, I would be ok with that.
Tyrell Sales - Sales also stands an imposing 6'2" and 237 lbs. The redshirt junior has played in every game in the past two years. In 2006 he recorded 17 tackles. Though said to be not as physically gifted as Hayes, the coaches say he has a better understanding of the game and plays under control.
Bani Gbadyu - The redshirt freshmen is a darkhorse to claim the position. Gbadyu is 6'0" and 217 lbs and lightning quick meaning he may be better suited to play safety. Right now he's somewhere in between and will probably get looks at both linebacker and safety this spring.
Right now it appears Sales has the inside edge on claiming the third linebacker spot. He has more experience and understands the system better than Hayes and Gbadyu. Honestly, I would take any one of these guys and feel quite comfortable with them. Line up any one of them with Sean Lee and Dan Connor and I feel we have the best group of linebackers in the Big Ten. Heck, line up Joe Paterno with Lee and Connor and I still think we have the best set of linebackers.