Steele: Freshman linebackers will play early and often

by - Senior Writer -
Tony Steward had off-season knee surgery, but Steele said he is fairly certain that his future star is healthy.

SUNSET, S.C. – How much are the freshman linebackers going to get to play in 2011? Early and often according to defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.

Steele spent a good portion of Tuesday morning at Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing answering questions about the nation’s No. 1 linebacker recruiting class, and he made it clear that they are all going to get their chance to play.

“We're going to put them out there and they'll learn the stove is hot, Steele said of Stephone AnthonyStephone Anthony
# 6-2, 220
Wadesboro, NC

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, Tony StewardTony Steward
# 6-2, 225
St. Augustine, FL

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, Lateek TownsendLateek Townsend
# 6-2, 197
Bennettsville, SC

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and B.J. GoodsonB.J. Goodson
# 6-1, 215
Lamar, SC

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. “ They're athletic enough, they run around enough, and they're going to make some mistakes. You might have to watch and cover one eye, but that’s ok, we’ll get through it."

Steele said that after two years of having a dearth of linebackers on the roster, it’s nice to finally be building depth.

“It’s been a process where for two years now, we’ve played a lot of games with just four or five linebackers,” he said. “If you have one guy get dinged you are in trouble and we’ve had that. Now, the sheer numbers have improved, and we have some athletic guys who can run and they can hit you. You can't work with them in the summer or really do anything more than say hello to them in the parking lot, but they are on scholarship and we are going to put them out there and let them go.”

Steward will begin August camp in the middle [MIKE] behind Corico HawkinsCorico Hawkins
#42 5-11, 230
Milledgeville, GA

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, with fellow freshman Colton WallsColton Walls
# 6-2, 230
Charlotte, NC

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also in the mix. Anthony and Goodson will compete with Tig Willard on the weakside [WILL], while Townsend will join Quandon ChristianQuandon Christian
#34 6-3, 215
Lake View, SC

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and Justin ParkerJustin Parker
#8 6-1, 225
Port Royal, SC

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at the strongside [SAM] spot. Steele said that Walls and Goodson may switch once fall camp arrives, however.

Steele then made it a point to put the veterans on alert that the youngsters are here to play and stay.

"Bottom line, you do your job or somebody else will do it," he said. "We've got a recruiting budget. That's a little cold, but it's the truth. It’s not my job to determine their playing time; they are in charge of it. Competition is good.”

Anthony, Steward and Townsend were all more highly-rated than Goodson, but Steele said that Goodson – a 3-star player out of Lamar, S.C. - has the same skill set as his counterparts.

"If you put B.J. Goodson in Atlanta, he'll probably have more stars and he'll probably have 10 times more offers just because he's got the skill set,” Steele said. “It goes back to that old recruiting adage of ‘Don’t fly too far when you’re recruiting, because you’ll probably fly over players who are better than the ones you are flying to see.’ Not many people get to Lamar, they drive right past it.”

Steward had off-season knee surgery, but Steele said he is fairly certain that his future star is healthy.

“I’m not a doctor, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night,” he said. "But he had the surgery pre-Christmas, so the time clock says everything is on track."

Steele said that he is looking forward to the challenge of coaching the younger players and getting them ready to play.
It's not our first rodeo," he said. "We've recruited freshmen before and they've played as freshmen, and then we've recruited them and they haven't played. If you've only got four years and they can play, figure out something they can do and put them out there. If you've recruited right, let them play. It just gives you more tools in your toolbox. It's exciting.”

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