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Vanderbilt Football 2023 Position Preview: Linebacker

A surprisingly deep position group.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Like a lot of places, Vanderbilt’s linebacker corps looks better than it did when Clark Lea took over two years ago.

Granted, the top-end talent might be less than it was last year. That’s what happens when you lose the star of your defense (Anfernee Orji.) But the depth? It’s actually pretty impressive. Vanderbilt has two former four-stars, transfers from Clemson and Notre Dame, and they might not even be starters. Linebackers are Clark Lea’s specialty, and it shows.

Kane Patterson, fifth-year senior: The 6’1”, 221-pound Patterson, who transferred from Clemson prior to last season, impressed in his first season at Vanderbilt. He had 39 tackles, with 6.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks. This season, he could step into the role vacated by Anfernee Orji, though a starting role isn’t guaranteed.

Ethan Barr, senior: The 6’3”, 245-pound Barr moved into Vanderbilt’s starting lineup as a true freshman and has started every game for the last two seasons. Last year, he did see his production drop off, going from 85 tackles in 2021 to 42 in 2022; that might have been an indication that Vanderbilt was having other players step up. He should start again at middle linebacker, though that isn’t set in stone.

Prince Kollie, junior: An impressively-built 6’1” and 221 pounds, Kollie played at Notre Dame prior to transferring in, though probably not as much as he would have liked. It’s not clear that he’s going to start in his first season at Vanderbilt, but he should be in the rotation.

Errington Truesdell, redshirt sophomore: A mysterious year for the 6’0”, 230-pound Truesdell, who saw the field quite a bit as a true freshman and then only appeared in four games last season, taking a redshirt. He did make six tackles in the four games he appeared in.

Langston Patterson, sophomore: The 6’1”, 230-pound Patterson — younger brother of Kane — got into all 12 games a season ago, mostly on special teams though he did see some time at linebacker. Expect a bigger role for him this season.

Bryce Cowan, redshirt freshman: The 6’4”, 225-pound Cowan, a high school teammate of running back Chase Gillespie, is another Clark Lea recruit who should find his way onto the field this season after not playing at all as a true freshman. He has good size and athleticism.

Bryan Longwell, freshman: The lone true freshman at the position is the 6’1”, 227-pound Longwell, a late addition from Lipscomb Academy who will likely redshirt this season.

Carson Casteel, redshirt sophomore: Casteel is technically a walk-on — he was a scholarship player at Michigan State — but he’s worth a mention. He transferred in after playing in eight games at Michigan State last season; he’s also from Florence, Alabama, and how one ends up at Michigan State from Florence is a mystery.

Nicholas Rinaldi, redshirt freshman: Another walk-on who gets a mention, because a walk-on getting on the field as a true freshman is not something that usually happens. The 6’3”, 232-pound Rinaldi is just depth, but he seems to be an unusual quality for a walk-on.