This group last year was perhaps one of the most concerning areas of the team. The trio of M.Morgan, C, Gallipo and M. Smith had the task of taking over for 4 linebackers that are now playing in the NFL (Cushing, Malauga, Matthews and Kaivia). It was a task that was never seen. This year, with a year under their belt the group should be very much improved along with thei new Coach Joe Barry taking over for Ken Norton. Depth is still a question mark as well as health. Smith was out for a few games last year and of course Gallipo has had issues with his back. He did play well without any injuries to his back last year but had no real back-up to let him get any rest. Late last year D. Kennard, who was playing DE was moved back to playing OLB and then in the spring was moved to MLB. It was amazing to see how well he developed there. He is very smart with good movement running downfield but still needs some work moving laterally. Coach Barry was very impressed since he mentioned that you usually see a player move down while in college (safety-linebacker-defensive line) but not backwards. In fact Kennard's move was the first time in his 13 years of coaching that he has seen this happen.
Some transfers and unfortunate injuries still leave this area with some depth issues. Transfered were Jordan Campbell and J. Jones (although with Jones he left because he could not get medically cleared by USC) and F, Telfort (enlarged heart).
At the strong side you have M. Morgan, quick and fairly strong and fast. Gallipo and Kennard in the middle. There will be some heavy competition going on here in Spring. I believe that Kenaard may get the nod and Gallipo may move over to the weak side. M. Samith is your WLB. He is very fast, very smart and comes off the edge very well.
There will be a lot of room for the reserves to get some playing time and they will need to step up. Guys like U. Kaveinga,R. Cummings, M.Simmons, N Garratt,D.Deckas will surely get their chances. In-coming freshman Hayes Pullard will be someone to watch.You may even see a safety playing in the box to put even more pressure on the opposing defense. With Joe Barry and Monte Kiffin I am sure that they will add some interesting wrinkles to the line-backing position.
I believe that you will see a lot of movement from this group that have great instincts, fly to the ball and don not miss to many gap responsibilities. They will be a big addition to that fast and aggressive front 4 making this front 7 a very formidable group.