It's been a while since Ike Spearman got an opportunity to lay a hit on somebody. After leading the Eastern Michigan Eagles in tackles in the 2013 season, Spearman was redshirted during Chris Creighton's first year as a head coach because of a leg injury.
The six-foot, 221-pound linebacker will be entering this season as a redshirt-junior, having played in 18 games in Spearman's first pair of seasons as an Eagle. By 247Sports.com, Spearman received the second-highest grade of the 2012 signing class as a three-star prospect.
In 2013 as a sophomore, Spearman made 11 starts in 12 games and had a team-best 83 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Against Western Michigan that year, Spearman recorded 13 total tackles (6 solo) in the 35-32 win. Spearman also recorded ten tackles on the road against Army that year, followed up by another ten-tackle game against Ohio the very next week. He was also able to record an interception in both of those games against Ohio and WMU too.
There hasn't been a ton of reason to pimp out the EMU defense the past few seasons, with or without Spearman, but the fact that he and the 2014 leading tackler Great Ibe are both going to be back on the field together makes for a lot of creativity with the linebackers. Spearman came into the program with Ron English at the helm with mediocre linebacker coaching in a 4-3 system. With over a year of studying the new 3-4 system with the new coaching staff, Spearman is expected to be a big help on the EMU defense, which was the worst in the MAC last year.
Looking at the entire group of linebackers, I'd say Spearman helps create depth for having some other returners as upperclasman. Ibe and Anthony Zappone, who both made Phil Steele Preseason All-MAC teams, can take care of the middle linebacker spots, while Spearman, JUCO transfer Anthony Brown and senior Hunter Matt are all likely to get the bulk of the outside linebacker snaps this season. Brown will also see time at safety to clear more room for Spearman.
The rebound off of a leg injury is worth raising the eyebrows, but there's still reason for optimism. I think if you're leading a Division-1 football team in tackles as a sophomore when you didn't even start the first game of the season, no matter the surrounding situations, that's still great experience to carry over onto the following seasons. A year off the field, but it wasn't a year of not studying. If he's gotten a good grasp of the defensive playbook, then this could be one of the best group of linebackers in the MAC.