2013 NFL Combine: Jeff Fisher blames college football for lack of inside linebacker depth

USA TODAY Sports

Football has evolved and there's no denying it. However, college football and professional football have evolved separately, leaving the NFL lacking at a key position, according to Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

INDIANAPOLIS --- College and professional football can both trace their lineage back to the same place. However, over time, each has evolved in their own separate direction. While they maintain the same general theory, there are subtle differences that keep the two in their own worlds. That's why players often struggle to make the jump from college to the NFL. They know the game, but the small differences end up being very big.

While addressing the media at the 2013 NFL Combine, Saint. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher mentioned that one such position that is generally thin due to the subtle differences between college and professional football is inside linebacker.

"Because of the nature of the college game now, the physical characteristics of the linebackers that are coming out is not necessarily what we need," Fisher said. "You've got to develop. They're smaller. You see safeties now playing (linebacker) because of the speed and the multiplicity of the game. So when you talk about addressing the need at the linebacker position, there's typically not a lot of depth from year to year."

College defenses have to stop college offenses and college offenses are different. In college, some quarterbacks run more than they throw, offenses are spread from sideline to sideline and every play can be the option. NFL offenses just can't do that because of the investment they have in their players, namely quarterback. Most NFL coaches hold their breath when their quarterbacks have to run, and NFL teams don't usually run the option because the quarterback gets hit.

Due to the fact that college offenses are spread out so wide, college defenses have to cover the width of the field, meaning inside linebackers have a lot more ground to cover. That means they need to be fast and when they're fast, they're not nearly as big as NFL defenses want them to be.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some inside linebackers can be big and fast and those are the guys who are selected in the first round with hopes that they lead defenses for years to come. Those players are few and far between, though.

This year's draft class has several linebackers that have made the news and a few that are considered early draft picks. Guys such as Notre Dame's Monti Te'o, Georgia's Alec Ogletree, Kansas State's Arthur Brown, LSU's Kevin Minter, Oregon's Dion Jordan and Georgia's Jarvis Jones are likely to be taken off the board in the first few rounds. Whether those players can step in immediately and contribute at a pro level is a whole other subject, though.

In 2008, the Miami Dolphins and the wildcat offense took the league by storm. That year, the Dolphins rushed for over 1,800 yards and Miami finished with an 11-5 record and went to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The fact that the Dolphins haven't been back to the playoffs shows that NFL defenses have figured the wildcat out. In 2012, the pistol offense and the read-option kept defensive coordinators up at night. However, if the pistol and the read-option prove to be more than just passing fads, Fisher, and the rest of the league's head coaches, may want faster linebackers, even if they are smaller.

More in the NFL:

Chip Kelly wins Day 1 of the Combine

A new Wonderlic, measuring grown-ass adulthood

The worst performances of the Life Combine

Should QBs throw at the Combine? We asked an agent

The List: 20 sentences guaranteed to start an Internet argument

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.