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May 16, 2018

Positional Breakdown | Linebackers

Between now and the start of training camp, bclions.com rolls out positional previews for each group that will hit the field at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops on May 20th. We continue the series with a look at the group of linebackers.

Continuity is king in football and the BC Lions have a couple key members of their linebacker squad returning for the 2018 season.

Solomon Elimimian is back for his ninth season with the Lions and Chris Tormey is returning to coach the linebackers. Tormey is entering his fourth season with the Lions and is excited to be back.

“I’m really looking forward to the season,” says Tormey. “We have some really good players coming back. I’m excited about working with Solomon again and we have some really dynamic young guys.”

Prior to joining the Leos, Tormey had successful stints at the NCAA level. He spent many years as an assistant with the Washington Huskies and was the head coach at Idaho and Nevada.

Solomon Elimimian is the best linebacker in the CFL and represents the heart of the Lions defence.

The Lions are once again led on defence by perennial All-Pro, Solomon Elimimian. The veteran linebacker had a remarkable season in 2017, setting a record by registering 144 defensive tackles, six special teams tackles and two sacks in 18 games.

“We are fortunate to have Solomon leading us again,” says Tormey. “He obviously has great physical characteristics, but he just processes so efficiently. He reads keys extremely well, he understands what the other 11 guys around him are doing and he plays fast.”

Elimimian is arguably the best defensive player in franchise history. He holds the team record for career tackles with 719 and also has 29 sacks, eight interceptions and eight forced fumbles in eight seasons with BC.

However, there is an obvious hole beside Elimimian heading into the 2018 season. The battle for the weak side linebacker job is likely to be a key storyline this year in Kamloops.

Micah Awe manned that spot a year ago and Adam Bighill starred playing next to Solly for six years. Both players are currently free agents, but the best bet to line up beside Elimimian this season might be Dyshawn Davis.

“Dyshawn has the length that you like, very good short-distance quickness and he has great explosiveness,” says Tormey. “He has been in the system now for two years and I really like his work ethic.

“This will be an important training camp for Dyshawn.”

Davis flashed promise towards the tail end of the 2017 season. The Syracuse alum appeared in four games last year, recording six defensive tackles and seven special teams stops. With excellent range and the ability to play a physical brand of football, Dyshawn appears primed for a breakout campaign.

Dyshawn Davis will have a shot to win the starting weak side linebacker position this spring in Kamloops.

Following a one-year hiatus, Bo Lokombo is back in Vancouver. The former Oregon Duck spent 2017 bouncing around the NFL, making stops in Baltimore, Oakland and San Francisco. Now that he is back in the den, look for Bo to make an impact rushing the passer and chasing down returners on special teams.

Keelan Johnson was an underrated free agent signing by the Lions this offseason. The former defensive back at Arizona State can do a lot of things for the Lions. Johnson figures to feature prominently on special teams, but expect to see him out on defence at times as well.

The Lions also possess a trio of talented and young Canadian linebackers. Jordan Herdman had a stellar rookie season for the Lions, serving as Elimimian’s primary backup for the bulk of the season and registering 19 special teams tackles. Frederic Chagnon was a physical presence on the Leos’ coverage teams. Mitch Barnett is the newcomer to the group having spent the past two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

THE LINEBACKERS

*newcomers in bold

Mitch Barnett (N) – UBC alum signed as a free agent on February 13 after spending 2017 with Hamilton.

Frederic Chagnon (N)

Dyshawn Davis (I)

Solomon Elimimian (I)

Jordan Herdman (N)

Keelan Johnson (I) – Signed as a free agent on February 15 after spending 2017 with Ottawa.

Bo Lokombo (N) – Bo returns to the den after spending 2017 in the NFL.

INTRIGUING NEWCOMERS

Keelan Johnson – The Lions lost defensive star and special teams ace Chandler Fenner, but Keelan Johnson led the CFL in special teams tackles in 2017 with 29 stops. Johnson will provide the Lions with versatility on defence, as he has experience playing defensive back in college and as a professional. He could serve as a rotational linebacker this season, primarily seeing time on passing downs.

Bo Lokombo is excited to be back home in Vancouver playing for the Lions in 2018.

Bo Lokombo – Although the name Bo Lokombo is a familiar one for Lions fans, May 20 will be the first time he dons the black and orange since 2016. Lokombo was a Western Division All-Star in 2015 and provides BC with a skilled pass rusher off the edge.

KEY NUMBER

144 – Solomon Elimimian broke his own record for defensive tackles in a season by recording 144 defensive stops.

QUOTABLE

“I don’t know if I have ever been around a player that understands the game as well as he does and that plays as fast as he does.” – Chris Tormey on Solomon Elimimian.

Check out the remainder of our positional breakdowns, and schedule for the remainder between now and the weekend:

READ: Breaking Down The Special Teams

READ: Breaking Down the Offensive Line

READ: Breaking Down the Running Backs

READ: Breaking Down the Defensive Line

Thursday, May 17th– Receivers

Friday, May 18th– Defensive Backs

Saturday, May 19th– Quarterbacks

Brian Helberg: bhelberg@bclions.com