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Football: Molbert continues long road back

Kevin Foote, Daily Advertiser, August 17, 2013

The August drills in preparation for the 2013 regular season opener two weeks from today in Fayetteville, Ark., have certainly been challenging for UL junior linebacker Jacob Molbert.

For starters, it’s hot, even for a native of South Louisiana.

Then there’s a new defensive coordinator in James Willis to both get to know as well as try to impress.

And as each year passes in the Mark Hudspeth era, the competition for playing time gets tougher and tougher.

With all of that said, camp this August couldn’t be as tough for Molbert as the spring was.

Molbert will take the mental and physical challenges of practice football in August over the mental anguish of watching his teammates practice from the sideline.

“It (spring practice) was miserable,” Molbert said. “I hate sitting.”

After somewhat injurying his knee earlier last season, Molbert “tore it for sure” in the 52-30 home win over South Alabama last Nov. 24.

As a result, Molbert had to watch this past spring while the rest of his defensive colleagues began the on-field process of learning the new system under Willis.

“I was able to take mental reps and that helped me, but you want to be on the field,” Molbert said. “It was a very humbling experience.”

The catch-up process continued between spring and summer workouts with more rehabbing of his knee. But once the beginning of August arrived, it was time to put both his knee and his mental preparation from the spring to the test.

“You have to practice to get it,” Molbert said. “Once you learn it, it becomes second nature and then you can be very successful.”

Prior to his injury last season, Molbert had five games with five or more tackles. His top performance was a season-high nine tackles along with a forced fumble in the 37-24 road win over Troy.

For the season, the former Notre Dame High pass-rushing defensive end was sixth on the team in tackles with 49, including two stops behind the line, an interception, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.

That came after a freshman season in which Molbert played in all 12 games, collecting 65 tackles with a sack and five stops behind the line.

A combination of recovering from an injury and the new coordinator and increased competition has Molbert fighting to get back on the playing field to add to those career numbers.

Molbert’s role remains unclear. He’s got 15 career starts under his belt, so starting games this season certainly wouldn’t be unprecedented.

Playing a reserve role is also a possibility behind preseason All-Sun Belt linebacker Justin Anderson.

While everyone wants to start, Molbert is ready to accept whichever role he lands this fall.

After all, just about any option beats sitting on the sidelines, injured and not able to physically do anything about not playing.

“The team comes first,” Molbert said. “Whatever job they need me to do, I’ll do.”

In each of the past two seasons, it’s been outgoing defensive coordinator Greg Stewart doing the asking. These days, it’s a new coordinator in Willis.

“I think everything has been a positive,” Molbert said. “Coach Willis does a good job of teaching. He’s very organized. He knows the game very well and does a good job of explaining things.

“I think he knows what all the players can do.”