Nope. I don't have any stupid, cheesy titles for this one. But no truer words have ever been written. I absolutely love watching good linebackers. Personally, I don't think there is anything more entertaining in sports than watching a great linebacking corps. I probably enjoyed watching Ray Lewis and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens more than any pro team in recent memory. And if KU had a competent offense in 2005, that might have actually been their break out year. Lest we forget that Colorado "represented" the North in the Big XII championship that year. Though if memory serves they lost that game 70-3, so perhaps the Hawks were better off waiting. But I digress.
Nothing beats watching a good linebacking unit. And this year's Jayhawk trio is widely considered to be the best in the league. Part of that is the relative strength, or lack thereof, among the league linebackers. But even in the SEC this would be one of the top units, despite its overall light pigmentation. All three are seniors and not only started all of last year (in position), but also started in 2006 as well, when they went through a few growing pains (see: Bowman, Adarius). But all of that is now in the past and these three are back to anchor a defense that returns 9 starters and, more importantly, 20 of 22 on the two deep.
In the middle is Crazy Joe Davola (or Mortensen) and he is out to do one thing; put the kibosh on you. It matters not who you are. Seriously though, he probably wants to kill you. In fact, after football he wants to join the Marines. To kill people. This is exactly the type of mindset I want from a guy anchoring the middle of my team's defense. And as long as he is really fully recovered from his off-season knee surgery, that's probably all I need to say about him.
Next up is his slapping-mate, Mike Rivera. For those of you unfamiliar, Davola and Rivera like to get ready for the game (and the second half) by slapping each other repeatedly across the face. Again, I like this. And this is what makes good linebackers fun to watch. Whereas Joe is the perfectly suited for the middle, Rivera is absolutely perfect for the outside. Not only is he huge (and also a bit nuts), the guy can fly. When he gets going downhill, get the fuck out of the way. Unfortunately, I don't think he's the brightest, because there are quite a few times where he simply doesn't do what he's supposed to. When he does, though, the results are quite favorable. (Note: There is something we may need to watch for early on though as he did suffer a minor injury to his knee over the weekend, but it's said to only keep him out two weeks. I'd be surprised if Mangino ever acknowledges it publicly.)
The third of this tripod is James Holt. As you can tell from just his size (6'3" 222), Holt is relied on more for speed than power. But despite the fact that he's probably more suited to be a big safety, Holt is a tremendous linebacker, because he always gets to the ball. This can be attributed to both his speed and his ability to read the offense, along with being assignment sound. Whatever the reason, he found his way there to the tune of 99 tackles (51 S, 48 A, 13.5 FL) and a couple sacks. We have no reason to expect anything but more of the same from him this year.
Aside from the three starters, there is actually some pretty good depth at linebacker as well. I would count on seeing plenty of Arist Wright, *EDIT: Justin Springer,** Drew Dudley, Dakota Lewis and Jake Schermer. Most likely in that order. But all can play a good linebacker and if it were not for the three in front of them would be seen as legitimate starters (Schermer aside).
All in all, this is a definite strength of the team, if not THE strength. All three are seniors. All three are talented. And all three know that for the defense to be successful they have to fly around the field and knock some people the fuck out. Personally, I can't wait to watch them do exactly that.
P.S. Here are a couple links of interest...
Apparently last season's success has inspired some new band interest at KU. Splendid!
Secondly, Dan Steinberg has spotted Judo's version of the Big Man over in Beijing.
And lastly, are you kidding me?!