This topic has been covered a lot recently; I wanted to give my opinion on the matter.

We have all been wondering who our SAM linebacker is going to be. Now I don't consider myself and expert, not by a long shot, however my reading comprehension is excellent. Now figuring out who will play SAM for America's team is like the stock market. Of course you have your Google and Mac stocks but who can afford those on our budget? We need to find something that will produce those returns without having to spend that kind of money.

When I think Linebacker.. I think big guy that can run faster than a DE but slower than a DB. Yes speed has a lot to do with it but there are different things you look for depending on which linebacker you are talking about. For example.. Mike linebacker - just think Sean Lee. Will linebacker - just think Bruce Carter. Sam linebacker - well if you're like me and only follow the Cowboys then just think - Darren Hambrick, or Markus Steele, or Kevin Hardy. If you are also like me then you do not remember much about these guys at all; but in fact the last time we ran the 4-3 these were the guys manning the SAM side. (Fun fact Dexter Coakley was the Willy and ran 4.28 40.. WHAT!?)

So the responsibilities of the SAM are as follows.. Run with the TE and stop the run. Something that has been becoming a harder and harder to do since these dang Basketball players are deciding to play Football. Kiffin stresses speed, speed and speed above all else. During his tenure with the Buccs Kiffin's SAM role was a revolving door with 8 different players in 13 years. This fact alone should make us feel better about our situation. Mainly because SAM isn't the motor that runs the engine, nor is it the steering wheel, or the horn....

We currently have three players (Albright , Wilber and MsSurdy) who will/should be competing to play SAM for us this year. I'm putting my money on the fact that in Kiffin's defense, SAM isn't THAT big of a deal as stated before. Don't get me wrong you can't just grab a guy off the streets and having him be productive.. you just SIMSply can't... or can you? Never mind that.

There were two players last year who went to the Pro Bowl playing the SAM position. Granted these teams don't play the exact defense as Kiffin... but they are SAM linebackers non-the-less. Chad Greenway and Von Miller. Here are their scouting reports that give you an insight to their skill set.

Chad Greenway (vis SI) 6'2 242 (4.8 sec 40)


POSITIVES: Consistent, playmaking linebacker with outstanding instincts. Quick diagnosing plays, immediately locates the ball and consistently positions himself to make the play. Gets adequate depth on drops, solid in zone coverage and stays with assignments. Can run with tight ends or backs in coverage. Solid special teams player who has blocked kicks in the past.

NEGATIVES: Lacks an explosive break to the pass. Does not display great speed to the flanks moving laterally.

ANALYSIS: A high-character prospect with great work ethic, Greenway is a well-rounded linebacker with a complete game. Not flashy yet a three-down defender who could quickly move into a starting lineup at the next level.

Greenway recorded 148 tackles and 3 sacks. Obviously playing more of a run stopping role coverage role.

Von Miller (via SI) 6'3 237 (4.53 sec 40)


Positives: "Explosive and athletic linebacker with a tremendous amount of upside. Breaks down well, fluid moving in every direction of the field, and displays a terrific burst of speed. Rarely off his feet, immediately alters his angle of attack, and makes a lot of athletic plays. Shows the ability to pursue and catch the ball carrier from the backside, relatively instinctive, and flashes ability as an open field tackler. Smooth turning his hips, gets depth on pass drops and shows skill in coverage. Explodes up the field rushing the passer, fast off the edge out of a three-point stance and makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage."

Negatives: Lacks great bulk and tends to take wide angles around blockers rather than fight them head-on. Does not always play with a physical nature.

Analysis: "Coming into the season many considered Miller one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers available in the draft. But after his off-season performance at the Senior Bowl and combine, most now grade Miller as the best linebacker for any system at the next level. He's a three-down defender with a complete game who just needs to fine tune the details of his position but should be an immediate starter at the next level."

Miller recorded 68 tackles but 18.5 sacks! Playing more of a rushing SAM linebacker than anything else.

Here is a chart of the production Kiffin had from his SAM linebackers throughout his years.






Lonnie Marts




Lonnie Marts




Jeff Gooch
















Al Singelton




Ryan Nece




Ian Gold




Ryan Nece




Ryan Nece




Cato June




Cato June



13 years

0 Pro Bowlers



The average production from Kiffin's SAM in his amazing tenure with the Tampa Bay is an astounding 60 tackles and 1.5 sacks. No pro-bowlers have came out of playing the SAM for Kiffin. However, Derrick Brooks, his Will went to the pro-bowl 11 times in 13 years. Kiffin's Mike went to the pro-bowl 5 out of the 13 years (Hardy Nickerson x4 and Shelton Quarles x1). And just for fun - Lynch went 5 out of 8 years, Sapp went 7 out of 8 years and Rice went 2 out of 6 years.

Okay back to what we have on our roster - Albright, Wilber and McSurdy

Alex Albright 6'5 240 (4.75 sec 40)

Positive: Competitive lineman with limited upside for the next level. Plays with good lean, gets leverage on opponents, and works his hands throughout the action. Displays a good head for the ball, slides down the line to make plays, and relentless in pursuit of the action. Displays effective pass rushing skills.

Negative: Possesses a minimal burst. Small and struggles getting off blocks once engaged at the point of attack.

Analysis: Albright is an undersized college DE who gets the most from his skills and plays hard until the whistle blows. He’s an average athlete yet his approach on the field could help him catch on as a pass rush specialist/ST player.

Kyle Wilber 6'3 240 (4.75 sec 40)

Positives: Hardworking, versatile college defensive end expected to stand up at linebacker in the NFL. Effectively diagnoses the action, plays with leverage and works hard. Slices through blocks to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, fluid changing direction and displays speed chasing the action in pursuit. Easily moves down the sidelines and plays smart, disciplined football. Productive and gives effort on special teams.

Negatives: Struggles in coverage and displays poor ball skills. Slowed by blocks.

Analysis: Wilber was productive in all aspects of the Wake Forest defense and has the skill set necessary to be a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He'll need to polish his game and improve his skill making plays in reverse, but he possesses the ability to eventually break into a starting lineup at the next level.

Caleb McSurdy 6'1 250 (4.8 sec 40)

Positives: Smart football player who quickly diagnoses the action and rarely makes mental mistakes. Breaks down well, effectively uses his hands to protect himself and flows well to the action. Aggressive, consistent and hard hitting. Forceful up the field, efficient and keeps the action in front of him. Takes good angles to plays and consistently wraps up when tackling. Remains disciplined with assignments. Flashes skill in zone coverage.

Negatives: Lacks overall quickness in his game. Lacks speed in pursuit or out to the sidelines.

Analysis: McSurdy was incredibly productive the past two seasons and displayed great development in his game. He's a two-down defender for the next level who could eventually develop into a starter at inside linebacker in a 34 alignment. He also plays with a special teams mentality, which increases his value.

It has already been said that Wilber is the favorite to win the job over the "experienced" Albright. But I would love to see McSurdy get a shot to play the SAM considering he's extremely similar to Greenway in the sense that he's smart and can cover a little. With Kiffins style you would need a smart SAM who knows what to do. Which is more than I can say about Wilber. Albright could turn into a Von Miller type of SAM in that he'll rush more than try to stop the run - he's also better in coverage than Wilber. I would like to see Wilber back up Carter at the Will instead. Given that he's a little more athletic than the rest of the bunch (unless we resign that guy off the streets). But it's already been rumored that we won't.

Go McSurdy!

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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