This unit hasn't been a real strength for many years now, and while it could be very soon, it may be too much to ask for it to be this season. Especially since there are only three veterans, and two of them play the same position.
Junior Matt Galambos is strong and tough at 6'2" and 245 pounds, but the returning starting middle linebacker doesn't appear to have the speed needed for a Pat Narduzzi defense. His backup for most of the season, 6'2" 230 pound redshirt junior Bam Bradley does have that speed so he could be the man to beat in the middle this year. The only other veteran is 6'1" 220 pound redshirt senior Nicholas Grigsby, and he has speed to burn.
Then comes the underclassmen, many of whom are talented, but who are also very inexperienced. Reggie Green, Jamal Davis, James Folston, and Quintin Wirginis have been in the program for at least a year now, and now is the time that at least half of them have to become productive. Green, a 6'2" 230 pound redshirt sophomore, is a converted wide receiver so he has good speed and athleticism. It remains to be seen if he has linebacker skills, though. Davis, a 6'2" 220 pound redshirt freshman, has the speed and athleticism that Narduzzi loves so he could be a factor this season. Folson, a redshirt freshman, has good size at 6'3" and 235 pounds, but he's also athletic. Wirginis, a 6'2" 230 pound sophomore is the only linebacker from last year's class to letter, and especially on special teams he proved to be a playmaker. He seems to be an ideal fit at middle linebacker and could push the veterans at that spot this year.
Two wildcards are true freshmen Anthony McKee and Saleem Brightwell. McKee is only 6'2" and 200 pounds, but he can flat out fly. If he can get to 220 pounds by the time the season starts, it may be impossible to keep him from playing. The same goes for Brightwell who is currently 6'0" and 200 pounds.
Bottom line- Of these top nine contenders, only three are veterans. That's the bad news. The good news is that the younger players have a ton of potential, and that includes the players former head coach Paul Chryst brought in. Still, I expect that the new staff will bring in at least two more big time linebackers with the next class, and there's every reason to believe that very soon this group will be a major factor for years.