OXFORD, Ohio – Chris Wade seemingly came out of nowhere last season to lead the Miami University football team in total tackles with 128. He also tallied eight tackles for loss and started in 11 of 12 games in 2012.

“Chris is a veteran football player, a fifth-year senior, who we expect to pick up right where he left off,” MU defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jay Peterson said. “He was a very productive player, has great instincts and runs very, very well.”

Wade will likely continue to play outside linebacker, while Kent Kern is the front-runner to start at middle linebacker.

Kern didn’t record a start last season, but the sophomore did play in all 12 games. The Toledo native had 39 total tackles, including three tackles for negative yardage.

Josh Dooley was another young player who saw extended playing time last season. Like Kern, Dooley wasn’t a starter but he did see action in all 12 games. The Mason native tallied 29 total stops.

“They are hungry, hungry football players,” Peterson said about Kern and Dooley. “They love the game, they’re students of the game and it was baptism by fire last year. I truly believe that if a dog is going to bite, they are going to bite as puppies. Kent and Josh did that.”

Other players in the mix for regular playing time are Collin Boucher, Tyler Tucker and Nate Gerbus.

Boucher had 13 tackles in his junior season, while Gerbus red-shirted in what was his freshman season. Tucker, who missed the entire season due to a torn labrum that required surgery, is back and hopes to make an impact at the outside linebacker position.

“It’s good to have Tyler back,” Peterson said about the redshirt sophomore. “He’s a young player, but he’s also an experienced player.”

Tucker played in 11 games as a freshman, recording 18 tackles.

Overall, Miami’s linebackers are much faster and more athletic as a group this season, Peterson said. His linebackers also are working on becoming more physical. Improving their tackling has been a main focus this spring.

“We tackle every day,” Peterson said. “We’ve got to be better and that’s been an emphasis. The kids are responding and so far this spring we are much improved.”

The RedHawks lose converted linebacker Pat Hinkel and Jaytee Swanson, the team’s fourth- and seventh-leading tacklers, respectively, to graduation.