The Ducks won't be lacking in experienced linebackers in 2012 with the return of one starter and several others who got good playing time last season.
Senior starter Michael Clay comes back to man the weak-side (or Will) position with Kiko Alonso in the middle (or Mike) and Boseko Lokombo on the strong-side (or Sam). Alonso played back-up to Dewitt Stuckey in 2011 and Lokombo rotated in with Josh Kaddu.
Backing up Clay last year was red-shirt freshman Derrick Malone Jr. who appeared in 13 games, totaling 14 tackles, including one for a loss.
"I'm more prepared," explained Malone. "I have more knowledge of the defense and the scheme. I'm getting bigger and stronger. I feel like if I play my cards right, stay healthy, keep learning and keep progressing each day, then I should be on the field."
Malone played safety in high school which he believes helps him in pass coverage as a linebacker. This spring he's focusing on improving in order to get more playing time and defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has noticed.
"He's learning the defense, but he doesn't have it all the way down," said Aliotti. "I always like to see him run faster and be stronger, but he has improved. He really has improved."