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Veteran middle linebacker and face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher, returned in 2012 following a knee injury that kept him out of the majority of training camp and all of the preseason—he clearly did not look like the same player he had been for the previous 12 seasons.
His sideline-to-sideline mobility decreased, and the speed that was once his strong suit appeared to be half of what it used to be. His season ended in early December when he suffered a Grade-2 hamstring tear and missed the final three games of the season.
New head coach Marc Trestman was not willing to commit one way or another on Urlacher's return for the 2013 season, saying (h/t ESPN Chicago):
I've watched the man (Urlacher) play for a lot of years. He exemplifies what being a Chicago Bear is all about, and we all know that. When I step out of this room we'll begin to study, and I'll talk to (general manager) Phil (Emery) about where personnel fits on this football team and how it works. I need to be educated on that and I can't wait to get started.
Veteran Nick Roach filled in nicely for him at middle linebacker in his absence, but with injuries to Geno Hayes and Blake Costanzo near the end of the season, it was evident that the Bears linebacking corps lacks depth and will need to look to the draft to improve it.
South Carolina's DeVonte Holloman spent the first three years of his collegiate career as a safety before being moved to the Gamecocks' "spur" position, a safety/linebacker hybrid similar to the "lobo" position Urlacher played at New Mexico before being drafted by the Bears in 2000.
At 6'2" and 241 pounds, Holloman has the frame of an NFL linebacker and the speed to match up with some of the best tight ends and running backs in the game. He has excelled in pass coverage given his experience as a safety, and has six career interceptions.
Projected by many as an outside linebacker, Holloman had a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game practices last week, and according to NewEnglandPatriotsDraftcom editor Mike Loyko, Holloman excelled at reading plays while on the sidelines, calling them out to his fellow linebackers and safeties on the West squad.
He likely would not be an immediate starter as a middle linebacker, but if he was able to put on some weight and maintain his speed, he could grow into a middle linebacker in new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's 4-3 scheme.