"Countdown To Kickoff": The Linebackers

Chad Schoen (#21) and Kyle Fitzpatrick (#46), who have both changed jersey numbers, are expected to contend for starting roles this fall
Chad Schoen (#21) and Kyle Fitzpatrick (#46), who have both changed jersey numbers, are expected to contend for starting roles this fall

Editor's Note: This is the sixth installment of an eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare for their 2009 season opener on Saturday, Aug. 29, against Tiffin at Top Taggart Field.

Big Rapids, Mich. - Normally, when a football team loses a two-year starting trio of talented linebackers and five of the top six overall, you'd expect a rebuilding effort at the position.

In Ferris State University's case, however, the Bulldogs don't expect to rebuild their entire linebacking unit in 2009, but rather hope to reload.

While the two-year starting trio of Kevin Noe, Jeff Hollandsworth and Jordan Moore have all moved on after earning the bulk of playing time last fall, the Bulldogs believe they have several veterans in this group that are ready to go and will finally get their chance to play.

In the middle, senior Nick Butler (Midland) steps in to replace a two-time All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) standout in Noe and is expected to lead the unit after playing behind a pair of all-league honorees throughout his career in Noe and Mike Klobucher.  The 5-10, 235-pound Butler has played in 21 games over the last two years and made nine tackles in a reserve role during the 2008 campaign.

Senior Chad Schoen (Woodhaven/Gibraltar Carlson) is expected to hold fort at one of the outside linebacker positions and help replace the loss of Hollandsworth and Moore.  A tremendous athlete who loves to hit, Schoen could be poised for a breakout year after posting 10 stops in 11 contests last season.

The other outside spot will likely be manned by either senior Matt Ryan (Howell) or junior Kyle Fitzpatrick (Vestaburg).  Both have contributed on special teams in the past and saw action in all 11 outings in 2008.

"It will be hard to replace the type of all-league guys we lost, but we're cautiously optimistic," said Defensive Coordinator Duane Wilson.  "We're not replacing those guys by throwing a group of young kids out there.

"The guys we have returning have all been in the program and will finally get their chance."

A pair of redshirt freshmen, Mike Elias (Ann Arbor/Huron) and Alex Brajak (Munster, Ind.), are also expected to challenge for playing time after solid first years in the program while sophomore Josh Williams (Ortonville) transferred in from Eastern Michigan prior to camp and could crack the rotation.

"We're reloading this group with guys who have been in the program and have worked hard to get their opportunities to compete," FSU head coach Jeff Pierce said.

Seniors Leon Curry (Detroit/Warren Fitzgerald) and Joe Parrinello (Scottville/Mason County Central) are among another candidates who could play and have the potential to be solid contributors at the position.  Junior Charles Wasson (Orchard Lake/Detroit Jesuit), who has made a valuable contribution on special teams each of the past two campaigns, was moved from running back in the spring and could help supply depth.  Sophomore Joe Sams (Benton Harbor) and redshirt freshman Tayo Moss (South Rockwood/Monroe St. Mary's Catholic) might also figure into the picture.

"If we can stay healthy and continue to develop, we'll have a good group back there," Wilson added.

The Bulldogs also inked several young linebackers as part of their recruiting class including Kyle Coburn (Gregory/Chelsea), Max Banktson (Frankfort), Corbin Harrington (Greenville) and Cam Howard (Traverse City/West).

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will conclude on Sunday (Aug. 23) with a two-part look at both the secondary and special teams units.