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Spring Football Preview: Linebackers

Taking a look at the linebacking core heading into spring practice

Seth Jacobs and Ryan Simmons headline the linebacker group for 2015
Seth Jacobs and Ryan Simmons headline the linebacker group for 2015
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One of the major question marks for the 2014 OSU Football season was the linebacker unit that was full of inexperience. The Cowboys were forced to play several freshman, and the young contributors were exposed at times in big games early. However, there were several players that emerged as stars toward the end of the year against OU and Washington, which set the stage for the Cowboys to be extremely deep at the position in 2015. Za'Carrius Green is the lone linebacker in this year's recruiting class that will join the team in the summer. Coach Spencer and staff have a very important spring ahead to see who will step up and take the spots on the depth chart for next season.

Departing Players

Josh Furman
Career Stats
Tackles Def Int
64 29 93 14 7 1 1 5

Furman transferred to OSU after playing three seasons at Michigan. The Cowboys were in desperate need of experience at linebacker last season, and getting Josh to come to Oklahoma State was huge for the defense. Furman seemed to struggle with the new defensive scheme early on, but quickly adapted to Coach Spencer's game plan and became a leader for the linebacking unit. Furman finished 4th on the team with 64 tackles (46 solo), and was 2nd on the team in sacks with 7. Josh also had an interception against Kansas, and was credited for 3 passes defended throughout the year. Fortunately for the staff, OSU returns a handful of experienced players at the position to replace Furman's production.

Returning Players

MLB Ryan Simmons

Senior | 6-0 | 235 lbs

Career Stats
Tackles Def Int
135 54 189 24.5 3 1 1 7

Simmons has been a key fixture at linebacker the last two seasons. After playing in 3 games his freshman year and recording 3 tackles, Ryan suffered a season-ending injury and was given a medical redshirt. In 2013, Simmons led his class with 23 tackles including a season high 7 tackles against Texas Tech. Ryan also forced a fumble against OU, and had 3 tackles for loss in the bowl game against Purdue. Simmons moved into the starting roll his sophomore year at outside linebacker, and ranked 4th on the team with 67 tackles (50 solo) and 9 tackles for a loss. Ryan also had an interception against UTSA, and had a season high 11 tackles against Iowa State. Last year, Simmons finished 2nd on the team in tackles with 96 (66 solo) including 11.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks. Ryan came up huge in the 4th quarter against OU with several key stops in the final stretch that gave OSU the opportunity to tie the game and come out victorious. Simmons will undoubtedly be one of the captains on defense next season, and should be among the team leaders in tackles once again as a starter in middle linebacker.

WLB Seth Jacobs

Junior | 6-2 | 220 lbs

Career Stats
Tackles Def Int
66 37 103 6 2 2 5

Jacobs was a highly recruited player out of high school, and he has certainly lived up the hype the last two seasons. After redshirting his freshman year, Jacobs played in 6 games 2013, recording 11 total tackles including a season high 4 tackles against Lamar. In 2014, Jacobs' roll increased dramatically, finishing 3rd on the team in tackles with 64 (6 for a loss) and recorded 2 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles. Seth did all of this while playing through a nagging shoulder injury, which earned him a ton of respect from the coaches and fellow teammates. Expect Jacobs to start next season at weakside linebacker, and produce even better numbers as a junior.

WLB Kris Catlin

Senior | 6-1 | 225 lbs

Career Stats
19 5 24 1 1

After redshirting as a freshman, Catlin logged 9 total tackles (8 solo) and added a forced fumble as a sophomore. In 2013, Catlin saw an increase in playing time and totaled 13 tackles (10 solo) and played in every game except Texas. Catlin was expected to be a key contributor in 2014, but was ruled ineligible for the entire fall semester. Catlin worked hard in practice, and earned some playing time in the bowl game against Washington recording 2 tackles. Look for Catlin to reinsert himself in the spring as a candidate for significant playing time at weakside linebacker next season.

WLB Justin Phillips

Sophomore | 6-0 | 215 lbs

2014 Stats
10 8 18

Phillips was thrown into the fire immediately as a freshman, and held his own finishing 14th on the team with 18 tackles. Justin had an unbelievable game against OU, logging a career high 10 tackles (7 solo) and was a big part of the 2nd half defensive performance that helped spur the comeback. Look for Phillips to be in the mix to compete for a starting spot at weak side linebacker next season.

Star LB Gyasi Akem

Sophomore | 6-1 | 210 lbs

2014 Stats
8 1 9

Akem was another highly touted 4-star recruit, holding offers from Oklahoma, Clemson, Tennessee, Kansas State, TCU, Mississippi, Missouri, Baylor and Texas Tech, among others. He saw immediate playing time as a freshman last season, contributing at the star linebacker and on special teams. Gyasi logged 9 tackles in 6 games including 2 against TCU. Akem will be another player looking to improve his position on the depth chart at star linebacker during the spring.

Star LB Kirk Tucker

Sophomore | 6-2 | 190 lbs

2014 Stats
11 4 15

Tucker was one of several linebackers in the 2014 recruiting class, holding scholarship offers from Oregon, Ohio State, Stanford and Wisconsin, among others. Tucker was asked to contribute as a freshman, and finished 17th on the team with 15 tackles. The spring competition for playing time will be intense this year, and Tucker will be a player who is very capable of earning a spot on the two-deep rotation at star linebaker.

MLB Devonte Averette

Junior | 6-0 | 235 lbs

2014 Stats
2 1 3

Averette transferred from Ellsworth Community College in the fall of 2014, and was expected to help fill the void of experienced players at linebacker. Devonte tore his ACL in the spring however, and it was determined by the medical staff that he needed to sit out the remainder of the 2014 season after playing just two games to avoid aggravating the injury. Averette looks to bounce back this spring and reemerge as a contributor at middle linebacker next season.


Star LB Jordan Burton

Junior | 6-3 | 210 lbs

JC Stats
Tackles Def Int
88 94 182 6.5 3 1 1 5

Jordan Burton comes to Oklahoma State after spending the last two seasons at Kilgore College. Burton chose OSU over Memphis, Minnesota, Troy, Southern Miss, Louisiana, among others. Jordan was named to the 2014 All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference first team, and was ranked as the 84th overall JC prospect according to Scout. Burton will be the favorite to start at star linebacker with his experience and 4.5 forty speed this spring.

MLB/WLB Josh Mabin

RS Freshman | 6-2 | 227 lbs

Sr. HS Stats
47 17 64 5 1

Mabin was the only freshman from last years' class that redshirted in 2014 due to injury. Josh held offers from OU, Baylor, Mississippi State, Boise State, and Iowa among others. Mabin was a 4-star recruit, listed as the #21 outside linebacker according to Scout. Josh will finally get his shot this spring to earn playing time for next season.

MLB/WLB Josh Whitener

Sophomore | 6-1 | 240 lbs

2013 Stats
4 2 6 1 1

Whitener is a transfer from California, and had to sit out last season due to NCAA rules. The coaching staff has raved about his abilities in practice, and he looks to finally get his shot to compete for playing time this spring.

Star LB Brian Ciszewski

RS Freshman | 5-11 | 188 lbs

Ciszewski is a walk-on who redshirted last season, and will look to compete for playing time in the spring.