When Audie Cole left to sign with Jacksonville in free agency, he took his linebacker-leading 275 snaps on special teams with him.
Only safety Anthony Harris (277) saw more time on special teams for the Vikings last season. That’s where undrafted linebacker Eric Wilson, a tackle machine out of Cincinnati, sees an opening.
“I played a lot of special teams in college, that’s huge in the league,” said Wilson, one of 38 players on hand for early camp practices in Mankato. “That’s something I don’t take for granted.”
Wilson’s relationship with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, built over the course of the draft process and a pre-draft visit to Winter Park, led the linebacker to Minnesota.
Only four college football defenders had more tackles per game than Wilson (10.8) last year for the Bearcats. However, the converted safety went undrafted and that’s when he became a wanted man.
“You’re going to compete wherever you go, but for me it was down to the Colts and Vikings,” Wilson said. “But I felt more, not comfortable, but a better opportunity here with the Vikings.”
Wilson (6-2, 225 pounds) has worked at every linebacker spot during practices, but could be best suited for the weak-side linebacker role vacated by the retired Chad Greenway. Veterans Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur figure to be the frontrunners in that competition.
The Vikings kept seven linebackers on the 53-man roster a year ago and currently have just eight under contract. That leaves room for a young player like Wilson, or fourth-round pick Ben Gedeon or seventh-round pick Elijah Lee, to make a name for himself.
“Things are going really good,” Wilson said. “I’ve been able to learn multiple positions and try to take advantage of the reps I do get. To not make the same mistake twice, really, is huge.”