April 7, 2010

Belin insists ILBs toe the line

A slip of the tongue by a reporter was quickly corrected by inside linebackers coach Warren Belin Tuesday at the Butts-Mehre Building.

Ironically, the reporter was right all along.

"You're right, it is the (Todd) Grantham way," Belin said, interrupting the question regarding the status of his linebacker corps before it was completely asked. "But yes, the linebackers are working extremely hard as a corp. We've got some work to do fundamentally, continue to work on our stances and starts, footwork, tackling, ball drills and all those things but I'm excited about the little details that the guys are picking up.

"Having been with them now for 12 practices, they're getting to know me better as their position coach; they're getting to know their scheme better and Coach Grantham as their leader every day, what our expectations are and they're starting to be very, very productive linebacker corp."

Belin maintains that perspective even after Darryl Gamble was moved from his position at Mike to the outside, where he's currently working as the No. 2 Sam linebacker behind Cornelius Washington.

Part of that reason is due to the development of redshirt sophomore Christian Robinson, who moved into Gamble's former spot as the starter at Mike during Tuesday's practice.

"Christian's a hard worker, works really hard to try to be the best that he can be from both a physical and mental standpoint as far as doing things the right way," Belin said. "As he continues to grow, he's going to make a great contribution to our defensive package."

Belin didn't rule out Marcus Dowtin pushing Robinson for the starting job.

The junior from Upper Marlboro, Md. finished fourth on the team in tackles last fall with 57, but has yet to demonstrate the consistency Belin requires.

"Marcus is very talented and excited what he brings to the table as a student athlete. As he said, and I would agree, we've got to consistently get him to be the best, to know his assignments and physically do everything we ask him to do. Mentally, he's very, very close to where we need him to be right now," Belin said. "There are a few mistakes here and there, but as his linebacker coach there are a few things that I'm going to insist that he does right ALL THE TIME. There are no excuses for missed assignments and missed alignments. There's just none. You get beat if you don't do things the right way."

But Dowtin isn't the only one who needs the occasional reminder.

"Every now and then I'll catch them reverting back to some old habits, but I'll correct that on film, but overall the guys are working and being very conscientious doing the little things the right way," Belin said. "I like that, whether it's Gamble or Dent, Christian Robinson or whomever, I'm very pleased with the progress we've made."

Michael Gilliard and Akeem Hebron also continue to be in the mix.

Gilliard has been slowed the past two weeks by a sore hamstring, although he was back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon.

Hebron, meanwhile, appears to finally be healthy after the myriad of injuries - including a torn Achilles - that have hampered the senior's career.

"Gilliard is just getting back but its good getting him back and breaking him in a little bit (Tuesday)," Belin said. "Obviously, he's a little bit behind since he hasn't been able to take any physical reps, but he's got Thursday and he needs to be able to show with our base stuff that he does know for Saturday and then starting preparing himself for summer to get in the best shape then be ready to go."

Hebron, Belin said, "is coming along."

"It's still a work in progress but excited about the little steps that he's taking," Belin said. "We've still got to work at the bigger things."

But working is something Belin feels he does best.

Although his title is "Coach," Belin feels he's more of a teacher at heart.

"To me, coaching is teaching and I consider myself being a teacher," Belin said. "I consider myself as somebody who is very strong at fundamentals, somebody who is going to do things the right way to try and get to the bigger picture. If we can do the little things right, we're going to have success."

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