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Old Dominion Defensive Preview: The Linebackers

We're talking Mikes, rovers, and Martezs (or Martezes?) as our ODU defensive preview continues.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

No one likes a middleman--except in football, where they serve an important purpose--and are called linebackers.

We started up front on the line with our Old Dominion defensive preview, but now let's head back and take a look at the linebacking corps. Again, the defense as a whole certainly has experience, but that doesn't equal a perfect unit. However, those LBs should be pretty solid going into 2014, meaning no more 80-20 games.

Let's check the outside LB first, which has JUCO transfer Martez Simpson listed as the starter on the most recent depth chart ahead of redshirt sophomore T.J. Ricks. Simpson recorded 47 tackles last year with Pearl River (Miss.) and comes in after taking the long route to Norfolk. I'd expect Ricks to see some good playing time as well (18 tackles in 2013) over at the position.

Over in the "rover" spot, we see redshirt senior and team captain Andre Simmons getting the call. One of the elder statesmen of the defense, Simmons played safety last season where he put up 78 tackles. It's good to see him contributing on such a high level and staying out of trouble after running into some legal issues at Vanderbilt several years ago.

The middle ("Mike") LB position is where I'm hearing one of the bigger battles is going on. On one hand, you have senior D.J. Simon, who recorded 39 tackles and three picks last season, showing up as the first string option. On the other hand, there's Richie Staton, who had a terrific freshman campaign (72 tackles, 4.5 sacks), but may not even start. Staton's clearly the future at that spot, whether or not he gets the lion's share of time at MLB.

So that is your linebacker situation. Next time, it's the secondary, as we're just a week from kickoff.