August 30, 2007

LB experiments contine for Rebels

There wasn't much to worry about when it came down to the middle linebacker position the last few years. Patrick Willis was going to be there, and he was going to have to be dealt with.

But with Willis now wreaking havoc for the San Francisco 49ers, the Rebels and head coach Ed Orgeron had big shoes to fill.

And after spring practices, individual summer workouts and fall camp, there are still questions about who will roam the middle of the field for the Rebels.

Jonathan Cornell came into fall camp as the logical choice to play the position, but he moved to the outside when Orgeron and the Rebels got Chris Strong in camp.

With Strong in the middle, it appeared he'd be flanked by Cornell and Ashlee Palmer (an ex-safety). But, Orgeron announced Monday that Strong was taking reps with the defensive line and Fein moved to the weak side.

The experiment was short lived, Fein said.

"I was in and out," Fein said. "I don't think you'll see it again."

"You're out in the open field dealing with receivers. I'm more tackle to tackle and sideline to sideline. That's where I need to be."

Then on Tuesday, Orgeron said Strong moved back to middle linebacker.

All the jockeying has had a big impact on Strong's diet.

"They say I'm a d-lineman and I start gaining weight," Strong said. "Then they move me back to linebacker, and I have to start losing it. It's pretty easy to gain or lose it."

Fein said Wednesday that he's been working behind Strong at middle linebacker, but it hasn't affected his focus.

"It is what it is I guess. I'm just going to prepare like a starter, and when I get my shot, I'll perform and do the best I can," Fein said. "I feel like I got the defense down and I'm moving a lot faster and making plays. It's just a matter of time before I'm completely comfortable."

Regardless, Fein's excited to finally got on the field in a big-time college football game.

"It's a long time coming for me," Fein said. "I'm just excited to get it started and get out there and make some plays."

Linebackers coach Dave Corrao said he's got clear expectations for his inexperienced middle linebackers in the Rebels' season opener at Memphis Saturday.

"I'm looking for those two guys to come downhill and set the tone," Corrao said. "We've got to smack some people in the face. Everyone knows who we lost and what we're trying to do.

"I feel like they're going to attack us there, and I want us to hit back."

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