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May 18, 2012

Seniors hold down the top spots at whip, with the young guys coming on

By: Jimmy Robertson

The performances by his players this spring had whip linebackers coach Cornell Brown in a good mood.

“Maybe they’ll let us play a little bit this year,” Brown joked.

The whip linebackers certainly saw little action in 2011, as Jeron Gouveia-Winslow went down with a Lisfranc injury early in the season and then Alonzo Tweedy missed three games late in the year with an ankle injury. That forced defensive coordinator Bud Foster to play more nickel defense – five defensive backs – than he originally planned.

Gouveia-Winslow saw limited action this spring while still recovering from his fall injury, but Tweedy showed no ill effects of his ankle injury and played great this spring. In fact, it was a continuance of his great play from the Sugar Bowl game against Michigan.

“The light is coming on for him,” Brown said of Tweedy. “He’s understanding what we need from the position. He’s had a lot of reps through the years, and it’s time for him to take the next step and become the player we thought he could be. He showed his playmaking ability coming off the edge on blitzes and in coverage, and I’m really encouraged and impressed with him.”

The third whip coming out of spring was Ronny Vandyke, an impressive-looking young player who appears to be the heir apparent at the position. Vandyke not only looks great at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, but also finds himself around the ball a lot.

“He’s a heckuva player,” Brown said. “He’s a player like no other player really that I’ve seen. He’s 18, 19 years old, he doesn’t drink sodas, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t date. He’s about school and football. That’s his focus. Everything you say, he’s writing down and taking notes. For a coach, that’s exciting.”

Nick Dew rounds out the position. Dew probably figures in more on special teams at this point, though Cornell Brown hopes Dew continues to develop.

“He’s a lot like Tweedy when Tweedy was that age,” Brown said. “He has a lot of tools, but it all doesn’t translate right now for him. It all isn’t in place. He’s a smart kid. He understands in the meeting room. But it’s a confidence thing. We’re trying to get him to be confident in his abilities, and once he gets that, he’ll be a better player.”

The battle for the starting job will continue in August and figures to be a good one between Gouveia-Winslow and Tweedy. But expect Vandyke to get the occasional series as well, along with some work on special teams.


43 Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (6-2, 212, r-Sr.)
28 Alonzo Tweedy (6-2, 189, r-Sr.)
37 Ronny Vandyke (6-3, 215, r-Fr.)
27 Nick Dew (6-2, 197, r-Soph.)