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Bears optimistic move to LB will help Shea McClellin thrive

SheMcClellapparently has transformed his body preparatifor his switch from defensive end linebacker. | Nay Y. Huh/AP

Shea McClellin apparently has transformed his body in preparation for his switch from defensive end to linebacker. | Nay Y. Huh/AP

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Updated: June 5, 2014 6:46AM



The Bears have drafted a linebacker before the draft even starts. Meet Shea McClellin, the lean, mean linebacking machine.

‘‘He looks like an extra from a Dolph Lundgren movie, doesn’t he?’’ general manager Phil Emery said last week.

The Bears only can hope McClellin’s move from defensive end comes with the same impact as a jab by Ivan Drago.

McClellin, whom the Bears selected with the 19th pick of the 2012 draft, finally has been moved to linebacker — not the 3-4 outside linebacker many envisioned he would be but still off the line — as the team looks to get more from him after two so-so seasons with his hand in the dirt.

The ship truly hasn’t sailed on McClellin until the position switch plays itself out. McClellin spent the bulk of his offseason in California with noted trainer Scot Prohaska, who posted pictures on Twitter of McClellin’s physical transformation.

The Bears still must find a long-term solution at middle linebacker. It’s a need overshadowed by concerns at safety and defensive tackle, but it’s one that persists. Veteran D.J. Williams, 31, is back, but he hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and isn’t guaranteed a starting spot.

‘‘You’re looking at the big picture,’’ Emery said. ‘‘In the draft, you want to fill what your perceived needs are, but you also want to fill what could be needs down the road.’’

Emery said McClellin’s move hasn’t affected his view of the Bears’ needs at linebacker. But the 2012 buzz about McClellin being the possible successor to Brian Urlacher might begin again if the Bears don’t draft an inside linebacker.

The Bears see McClellin starting off on the strong side, but he and Jon Bostic also are expected to compete against Williams in the middle.

‘‘Nobody is going to be given a job,’’ Emery said. ‘‘It’s a full-on mix. The only person we’ve told has a job — the room has been told that — is Lance Briggs. The rest of it is the best player wins.’’

The draft isn’t teeming with top-tier inside linebackers. But Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, the consensus best in the middle, might be there when the Bears draft at No. 14. Wisconsin’s Chris Borland might be a compelling second-round option, and Stanford’s Shayne Skov and Florida State’s Christian Jones might be available in the third and fourth rounds.

A revamped defensive scheme under coordinator Mel Tucker will play a role in the Bears’ draft selections, but more is expected from inside linebackers nowadays.

‘‘Teams are looking for inside linebackers that can run, that can play against tight ends that can run,’’ NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said.

Can McClellin do that? It’s one of many questions he needs to answer when organized team activities begin this month. Emery said McClellin, Bostic and Khaseem Greene will get looks inside and outside during OTAs.

‘‘The OTAs are a long way from the season,’’ Emery said. ‘‘It is a little bit about experimentation — not only [about] your players and their best fits but [about] what you’re going to do offensively and defensively.’’

The NFL is full of stories about defensive players making successful position switches. Will McClellin be next?

‘‘The moment that we notified him that we’re moving him to linebacker, he found the right person, he moved out to California and he attacked it with a vigor,’’ Emery said. ‘‘And that’s what I would have expected out of Shea.’’

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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