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March 12, 2013

Spring Ball Progress Report: Outside Linebacker

Chase Thomas and Alex Debniak are gone, but Stanford's outside linebackers are still expected to be a strength of the team in 2013. The return of Trent Murphy, a healthy Blake Lueders, an emerging Kevin Anderson, and a physically gifted former top recruit who might now be playing his natural position, James Vaughters, combine to create a potent quartet at the position.

"Alex Debniak and Chase have both been there the last three years at that position, the SAM linebacker, so it's a little different having those guys gone," Anderson said. "Miss both of them, they were great players, but I think James Vaughters and Blake Lueders are going to do a nice job stepping in. We've been real pleased with them this first half. I guess sometimes I've got to back up and realize that they have not played very many snaps at that position and there's a lot of little things they have to learn still, but overall they're doing a good job."

Vaughers and Lueders are currently in an equal rotation at the linebacker spot opposite starter Trent Murphy.

"Pretty much doing every day (we're) alternating those guys with the ones and the twos," Anderson said. "So one day Blake goes with the ones, the next day James goes with the ones. It's a real close, tight competition right now. They're both doing a lot of positive things. They both have little areas they can improve in and we hope that continues in the second half of spring ball."

Cardinal Sports Report asked Anderson to break down the players in his position group.

  • Trent Murphy: "I think the places where he continues to improve is just his consistency," Anderson said. "And that's from two years ago to last year, that has his biggest jump, just his consistency. And we expect even another jump there. I think still in the offseason he has a chance to get even bigger, stronger, even more physical, so he can be an even more dominant force for us, but overall it's just that consistency... He has some big goals for himself and knows that he has areas he can improve. He's really focused on doing that this year."

  • James Vaughters: "James is very physical, very athletic," Anderson said. "(He) bends really well. He's done a really good job in pass rush this first half of spring. He's probably even more of a physical presence there on that edge than even Chase and Alex were. Places he's got to improve are just understanding the defense better, understanding all of the little things, because he hasn't been there and that stuff takes time. He has to get better in pass coverage because he doesn't understand it as well as he should yet. But he's getting there, he's making good progress."

  • Blake Lueders: "Blake is very strong, very physical," Anderson said. "He plays very hard. Again, he's played the position longer so he probably has a better understanding of it, but I have to realize he hasn't taken a lot of snaps there. So he's going to improve his pass rush ability and still just little nuances of the defense he has to get better with, but he's done a solid job as well."

  • Kevin Anderson: "Kevin again is doing a really good job," Anderson said. "I think last year was really his first time getting on the field, getting playing time, just like Trent and Chase and Alex, the other guys when they were in that position, I expect significant gains this year just in terms of consistency now that he's got his first taste of getting on the field and having some experience. He'll be more consistent this year and be more productive because of that."

  • Noor Davis: "The biggest thing is just gaining a better understanding of the defense, playing faster, playing more physical," Anderson said. "That's what he's got to do, and that's typical of a lot of freshman. But he has to make gains in all of those areas. In the offessoan he has to get stronger so he can play more physical, then when he's on the field he has to let it go and play fast, play physical, and get that strong understanding of the defense so you're not doing a lot of thinking when you're out there, you just let it go and play fast. He's not quite at that point yet, but he's pushing towards it, he's getting better all the time."

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