Some of these previews have been tough to write due to the sheer number of players that need to be covered. Not so with the linebacking corps. No players graduated, but in the last few months E.J. Levenberry transferred out to UConn, Ukeme Eligwe was dismissed, Kain Daub elected to transfer and Reggie Northrup tore his ACL against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, putting his status for the season in doubt.
Not counting Jacob Pugh, who is an edge player covered in the defensive line section, FSU has just five healthy scholarship linebackers this spring, and that's including hybrid safety/linebacker Tyrell Lyons, who is undersized.
Luckily, the starters entering spring are very clear, and the starters leaving should be as well. Most of the time, FSU faces three- and four-receiver sets, which means that it plays its nickel defense (4-2-5) with just two linebackers. On the weak-side, senior Terrance Smith (6'3, 222) has been a very good player when healthy. Not the biggest, Smith does have good instincts, is a sure tackler and is the leader of the group. But he struggled in 2014 with a knee injury and was clearly hobbled. If Smith is healthy, he's one of the better linebackers in the ACC.
In the middle, it's Matthew Thomas, the former five-star recruit who has had an interesting, but unproductive career so far in Tallahassee. There were the rumors that the RSo. wanted to transfer to USC, there have been numerous injury issues, and the memorable mystery reason why Thomas was missing the first six games of 2014. But when Thomas has been healthy, which has not been often, he has made some plays, quickly finding the ball carrier. He's been over-eager at times, but that's understandable for a player trying to make up for lost time. The 6'3, 235-pound Thomas offers nice size in the middle and if he can stay healthy he might have a very nice spring which could roll into a good fall. He'll need to work on better reading his keys and not guessing at where the ball carrier is headed.
RSo. Ro'Derrick Hoskins (6'2, 233) and RFr. Delvin Purifoy (6'2, 237) will both cross-train at both positions due to the lack of bodies this spring. Hoskins has never shown much in his previous two years, and Purifoy came in highly rated as a strong tackler and a thumper against the run, but suffered a foot injury that cost him the season.
More answers for this position could emerge this fall, as Reggie Northrup might come back from his injury, JUCO LB recruit Lorenzo Phillips returns, and adds on freshman Sh'Mar Kilby-Lane.