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Lebbie and linebackers taking shape

Troy University senior linebacker Sam Lebbie is becoming a leader both on and off the field for the Trojans.

After the season’s first nine games, Lebbie has accumulated 42 tackles, which puts him behind only Cedarius Rookard and Tron Folsum, who both have 51. Seven of Lebbie’s tackles came Saturday against Idaho.

“I think Sam … he has more ability than probably most of the guys on defense,” said Troy defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. “If you just said’ prototypical mike LB’ etc., he could fill that role for anybody in the country. He needs to show. I (pass) rushed him a good bit the other night, but that’s what we needed him to do.”

The Trojans entered the season with a bit of a void at the linebacker position after losing Terris Lewis, Justin Lucas and William Lloyd.

Through nine games, the linebacking core is starting to come into shape. Along with Lebbie, the Trojans have gotten production from Kevin Whisenhunt and Tron Folsum and the defense is benefiting from it.

“On our side of the ball, we have played – with what we can control – better than what people expected,” Lebbie said. “Of course there are some drives and plays that we want back. Other than that, on both sides we have performed and won the games we were supposed to win and we won games that a lot of people didn’t think we were going to win. We lost games that we thought we were going to win too; that’s football.”

After defeating LSU, Lebbie and the defense learned a valuable lesson against South Alabama.

“After the LSU game, we kind of got ahead of ourselves and that kind of hurt us,” Lebbie said. “I wouldn’t say we overlooked South, but we didn’t play like we should have. Now we know we can be beat by teams. You can lose any given week, so our preparation has gone to the next level. So focusing on each opponent each week I think has been good for our whole team.”

Along with his seven tackles, Lebbie picked up half a sack and he credits his performance to him going back to his roots defensively.

“I went back to what I did last year,” Lebbie said. “My whole goal was to affect the quarterback. We knew he was a pretty good quarterback. We kind of got to him, but getting him down, we had an issue with that. We tried to affect him as much as we could.

Lebbie has been through his fair share of ups and downs during his time with the Trojans, one reason why he is looked upon as a leader on defense.

“I have been in a lot of situations where we were losing 60-0 and then we beat LSU,” Lebbie said. “I know how to handle adverse situations. It’s keeping calm. I see some younger players get rattled. (I) calm them down and tell them to just keep doing what they’re doing. Routine plays win you the game. When people try to get out of character and try to do too much, that’s when mistakes happen. That’s when big plays happen for the offense. Just trying to keep people level headed is something that I like doing the most.”

This Saturday, Lebbie and the Troy linebackers will have to stay disciplined when they go up against the option attack of Costal Carolina.

It’s hard. Reading your keys is going to be big this week,” Lebbie said. “They throw the ball. Georgia Southern was a running team, but they throw the ball a little bit.  I think they (Coastal) throw the ball better than Georgia Southern. We have to be prepared for that and for the ground game. It will be a tough task for us this week.”