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2014 Position Preview: Linebackers

Next up in RCT's position-by-position preview of the 2014 football team, we take a closer look at linebackers

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 linebacking corps will be lead once again by Coach Clint Bowen who, as of December 2013, has also taken over as Defensive Coordinator. Bowen directs a unit which returns three seniors and a junior who all saw significant playing time last season and look to be core of this season’s squad. Prior to the opening of fall camp, depth was not believed to be an issue. However, injuries and off-the-field issues have increased concerns. Let's jump in and see who will play significant minutes and where the role players will come from.

The Starters

Ben Heeney (Senior) – Heeney comes into his senior season as a third year starting middle linebacker. The two-time second team All Big 12 player has speed, toughness, and relentless motor and is looking to take another step this season. For two consecutive seasons, Heeney has lead the team in tackles (88, 112) and TFL (11.5, 11.5). Heeney enters the 2014 season on nearly every possible award watchlist and will lead a defense which looks to build on the momentum of 2013.

Jake Love (Junior) - The 6 foot, 220 pound linebacker is among the fiercest competitors and continually draws praises from the coaching staff. Love is undersized but athletic and has a knack for finding the ball. In 2013, the former high school running back had 58 tackles and 3 TFL.

Michael Reynolds (Senior) – Reynolds is poised to break out this season in the Buck role. In 2013, he had 10 TFL and 6.5 sacks. He was a one dimensional player in 2013, but this season he looks to add to his game play in running and passing situations. A great deal of success for this year’s squad can be related to how well Reynolds has matured and grown as a player.

The Backups

Victor Simmons (Senior) – Simmons is a utility player for the Jayhawks. This season, he will be playing primarily out of the Buck position for first time, but don’t be surprised to see him line up all over the field. Simmons opened last week’s scrimmage in place of Michael Reynolds at the Buck. His presence will give the front seven an ability to change looks within the flow of the game. In 2013 Simmons had 61 tackles, 7.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks.

Courtney Arnick (Sophmore) – Arnick has worked primarily with the twos this fall. In 2013, Arnick had 51 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and played significant minutes as Kansas changed defensive formations. Arnick has put on muscle without any noticeable loss of speed and is really making an impression in fall camp. Arnick has the versatility of providing coverage in passing downs and may continue to come in at nickelback from time to time.

Schyler Miles (Junior) - Miles had offseason leg surgery (knee scope) but looks to continue his role as Heeney’s backup. Miles has missed a good portion of training camp and will need to get up to speed quick. His absence has provided an opportunity for some of the young players to step up.

The Future

Kyron Watson (Freshman) – The 6 foot, 235 pound freshman may very well be ready to play immediately. The coaching staff has raved about his attitude, mentality and athleticism. It is almost a certainty that he will see playing time this season, especially in the wake of Miles’ injury. Watson is a sideline to sideline player who Weis believes has the ability to be a future leader of this defense.

Colton Goeas (R-Freshman) – 6’-2", 245 pound freshman who backed up the Buck position in last week’s scrimmage. Out of Honolulu, Goeas was recruited by Bowen specifically for the Buck role and will look to make an impact this season as playing time affords.

The Injured

Anthony Olobia (Junior) – An injury to Olobia during fall camp puts some real pressure on depth at the Buck position. The injury came during a kickoff last Tuesday and Weis stated he may be out "indefinitely or longer." While this will allow some of the younger players to gain some experience, the loss could prove to be a significant one.

The Missing

Josh Ehambe (Freshman) – The incoming freshman has been sidelined by an investigation into Prime Prep Academy, the school founded by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. The 6’3", 230 pound Arlington, Texas product may find playing time if he can get clearance.

Damani Mosby (Junior) – The transfer out of Mesa Community College is waiting on several assignments to be graded. Mosby would provide some much needed depth at the buck position.