Virginia Tech Linebackers: Skills, Schemes, and Sales – Part 1

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Bud Foster
Bud Foster

The Nuts and Bolts

I don’t know how people play linebacker.  At its very basic level, playing LB is about anticipating, reacting, and ultimately beating an explosion of movement by the offense.  One moment all is calm, and the next the entire offensive line and backfield are running in every direction—sometimes straight at you—and you’ve got to figure it all out on the fly and then make them pay for whatever scheme they’re running.  It’s like being caught in a flashmob where everyone’s out to get you.

Generally, linebackers are tasked by position in a manner that’s true from the pros all the way down to Pop Warner.  Middle linebackers have to identify backfield action, read the guards and center, defend the middle of the box against inside runs, pursue outside runs to the sidelines, defend the middle of the field against passes, and follow backs out of the backfield.

Outside linebackers identify backfield action, read the nearest receiver, tackle, guard, directly defeat outside runs, cover tight-ends and slot receivers, pass rush from the edges and follow backs out of the backfield.  Their skills and physical attributes generally diverge slightly to meet these demands.

We can break down the Hokies’ linebackers into similar categories: Mikes play like middle linebackers, and to a lesser degree Backers and Whips play like outside linebackers