Here’s how the Salukis will line up at linebacker this season

By Sean Carley, @SCarleyDE

SIU football lost four linebackers who combined for 32 games started and 243 tackles last season. 

Junior linebacker Chase Allen is the only returning linebacker with starting experience. He led the team with 95 tackles last season. 

Inside linebacker coach Todd Auer praised Allen for his energy and direction so far in the season.

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“He’s one of the most vocal guys,” Auer said. “He’s more familiar [with the defense], and he’s more mature … because of that he’s done a great job getting guys lined up.” 

Allen said because of his experience, he has become more of a leader this season. 

Auer knows Allen will be integral, but he does not know who will play beside him. 

Sophomore Markese Jackson also started at inside linebacker position Saturday against Indiana and finished with seven tackles.

Auer said redshirt freshman Tori Millender and true freshman Cody Crider will also see playing time. Each had two tackles in Saturday’s game. 

Last season inside linebacker Jordan Poole, who graduated, and inside linebacker Victor Burnett, who was released, combined for a total of eight games started and 114 tackles, finishing No. 4 and 9 respectively on the team in tackles. 

Outside linebacker coach Travis Stepps has no players with starting experience. 

To add depth, senior Calvin Belts transitioned from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Including Belts, only four of the nine outside linebackers — senior Blake Mattson and juniors Leonard Garron and Mike Cotton — have experience in a Saluki uniform.

Stepps said Mattson and Garron will be starters. Belts and junior transfer Deondre Barnett will play.

“It’ll be a growing process throughout the year,” Stepps said. “We’ll have some ups and downs, but I think we have a good group.”

Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @SCarleyDE

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