GONE: are Brandon Watts and Daniel Drummond. Watts came to the flats as a wildly athletic young LB who was equally as undisciplined. Whether it was his problem or CAG's, I really don't know. In any case, a chronic getting out of position and failure to remember assignments problem plagued Brandon in the early part of his career and kept him from being one of the "career leaders" at his position. Brandon blossomed his last two seasons to become a versatile force on the defense. His uncommon speed and agility allowed him to cover slot guys and TEs quite well and relieved the DC of having to make as many substitutions on the fly. In my estimation, Brandon will find a home in the NFL somewhere. His speed and size will get him a look. Most NFL teams will have their eyes on more punishing and reliable tacklers for their draft picks, but Brandon's speed cannot be ignored. I look for him to land an NFL job as a FA for his abilities on special teams and work his way through second string and possibly be a situational LB. Replacing him on the flats will be difficult. Drummond, on the other hand, never really got it going at GT. His career started with all kinds of hype, given his physical stature, but soon, a PAD suspension loomed, followed by a sobering realization that he just wasn't that athletic. His inability to move laterally, read plays, and stay low would push him down the depth chart. He was good at filling a running lane, but that isn't enough for a LB in this day and age. Replacing his scholarship with a younger player has to be seen as a positive at this point. RETURNING WITH PLAYING TIME: Qwayshon Nealy R-SR, 6-1, 232, Tremaine McNair, SR, 6-2, 230, Jabari Hunt-Days, R-JR, 6-3, 245, Tyler Marcordes, R-JR, 6-4, 232, Anthony Harrel, R-JR, 6-2, 230, Paul Davis, SO, 5-11, 215. Qwayshon has been a steady and reliable LB for a couple years running now. While not an elite level performer in any phase, he is pretty good at everything. He can fill the hole, chase players down, and cover in space. He will probably not be discussed for ALL ACC honors in the coming season, but he will be awfully difficult to unseat given his experience and consistency. McNair has been a bit of an enigma to me. He arrived to campus with a pretty good rep and high expectations, but it simply hasn't materialized. He saw time with the second unit in 2013 and projects to do the same in 2014. He still has not used a RS. Could it be the case for 2014? Hunt-Days has started since his R-FR campaign. On the surface, he looks to be an ALL ACC type player, but hasn't yet sustained a level of consistency in effort and focus to make that happen. In fact, he was beaten out by Harrel temporarily before an injury sidelined him. JHD can run and tackle. He combines prototype size and speed for his position, but so far the heart appears to be lacking. Will he arrive in 2014 with more maturity and a fire in his belly? The aforementioned Harrel loves to hit and fly around. He is pretty much everything that JHD isn't. He might not be fast enough or big enough to be considered an elite contender, but he plays with his ears pinned back. I feel sorry for him because returning in 9 months to fall practice after an ACL repair is going to be a huge challenge. At this time, it is hard to expect a meaningful contribution from Anthony in the first half of 2014, if at all. I dearly hope to be proven wrong. He has used his RS, so the pressure is on. Paul Davis was like a breath of fresh air as a true frosh. In my estimation, he is the most instinctive and natural defensive football player we have put on the field since Morgan Burnett. It is rare that I would feel that level of confidence with a freshman in the game at crunch time. He is a great tackler and has very good closing speed while taking extremely good angles. He rarely found himself out of position. Only his size makes him a little vulnerable trying to cover in space. I have often wondered about trying him at safety instead of LB. In any case, he was so good at LB it hardly calls for a move. OTHER RETURNING PLAYERS: are Chaz Cheeks, R-JR, 6-4, 240, and Beau Hankins, R-SO, 6-1, 232. I am not really sure what has happened with these two, especially Cheeks. Initial reports were all very optimistic. It is not unusual for a kid to see little time in his first season, as is the case with Hankins, but Cheeks has found himself buried a little in the depth chart. I seem to remember some talk of Cheeks going to DE as a pass rusher. I don't really know where this stands at the moment. If it is at all possible, I would like to see him try because, frankly, it is a position of greater need. IN SUMMARY: I see this position group as being a strength. We are highly likely to improve next season. You can pencil in Nealy at one spot. He will have a strong desire to show the NFL what he can do his last year, as he is probably a bit of a long shot at the next level. He will be a captain on the field. I am going to go ahead and say that JHD will blossom next year. He has been good, but yet, below his potential for the first couple of seasons. Hopefully Harrel will return to provide meaningful competition for him. With PJ Davis having a year under his belt, he will make the loss of Watts unnoticeable. I don't know if you have noticed, but Marcordes has been a steadily improving player who will seriously push the OLBs for a starting role. My one concern is depth. Will Harrel return? Will Hankins and McNair be able to sub without TECH suffering a drop off? Will Cheeks still be a LB?