This is not a position that is top-heavy in terms of upper-classmen or so young that there aren’t proven players that can step in and play. The biggest problem that this group has is that they just haven’t been all that great. I think that you can pin some of that on the idea that the guys that aren’t so young are that way because they all played when they were way too young and simply being steam-rolled. For the past two years, it has felt like the linebackers were too young and too small and too inexperienced to really be productive.
The thought was that Smith might be a guy that would be able to make a significant difference last year at middle linebacker, a cautionary tale about the immediate impact of JUCO players. Now, he’s been bested by Eguavoen through the spring. I think that Smith can and will fit in somewhere, but this is actually a pretty tight race in terms of who plays where.
The biggest adjustment for the spring was where players will play and playing in 3-4 that has similarities to a 4-3. I think that both this staff and the prior staff had/have the same vision for Jackson and Robertson, which is that outside player that can stand up and rush the passer.
I think the Raider spot is by far this team’s weakest position in that I don’t know about the depth.
I suppose this is as good of a time as any to state that anything past the two-deep on the positions is a complete and total guess on my part. My projections are based on size more than anything else, i.e., a guy seems like he would be a weakside prospect, so I’ll put him here and this guy seems like a Bandit, so he’ll go there. Truthfully, other than the first two listed, it is a complete guess. Also, pay no attention to the order after the first two at each position. Totally made up on my part and in no particular order.
It’s time to make a significant difference. No more making excuses for players that need to add weight or need more time or need something else. This group has had time to do something positive on the field. You need to see these guys as the leaders in tackles. They need to be the ones that can fight off an offensive lineman and still make a play.
Only seeing one spring game, I think that happened. I think I saw significant improvement, but I really need to see it over the course of the year. This group should be deep enough, maybe the deepest position on the team besides receiver, and strong enough to withstand most, if not all injuries. There are a lot of options here.
The purpose of this chart is to demonstrate the depth and eligibility remaining for returnign players. Any year marked black is a year that the player has available. A true freshman has five years of eligibility to include a possible redshirt year.
|Linebacker Eligibility Remaining
|Bandit Branden Jackson
|Bandit Pete Robertson
|Bandit Tyler Scalzi
|Bandit Zach Barnes
|Bandit Malik Jenkins
|Bandit Andre Ross
|Raider Terrance Bullitt
|Raider Chris Payne
|Raider Garrett Carter
|Raider JaCarthy Mack
|Mike Micah Awe
|Mike Blake Dees
|Mike Zach Winbush
|Mike Bobby Esiaba
|Mike Kahlee Woods
|Will Sam Eguavoen
|Will Will Smith
|Will Kris Williams
A couple of notes about the three walk-ons here. First, Tyler Scalzi is a walk-on from Flower Mound and the only highlights I could find of him are from his senior year and his last wrestling match. He won.
Next is Garrett Carter, who is from Sundown, Texas. I had no idea that a town called Sundown existed. There are only 1,500 or so people that live in Sundown according to Wikipedia. It is almost in New Mexico, but it is actually in Hockley County, not far from the Texas/New Mexico border. In any event, Carter was a running back and outside linebacker for Sundown and you can watch his highlights here where he actually displays some pretty decent athleticism.
Last, but not least is Bobby Esiaba. Esiaba is from Dallastown, Pennsylvania. This is not a codename for Dallas, but a small town in the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania that has about 4,000 or so people there. That’s a long ways from Lubbock and I wish someone would ask him how he ended up in Texas. You can watch his highlights here. Esiaba was probably very much an undersized defensive end in high school, but he’s now listed at 230 rather than the 195 in his film. Again, like Carter, it’s not bad, just maybe suspect competition.
KEY TO 2013
I think it is dumb for me to really write this, but this group just has to be better. I don’t know if it is going to happen as a result of better coaching, although I don’t think that Kaufman did a bad job at all in coaching the linebackers, or maybe a better way to write this is that it is a continuation of the coaching that Kaufman provided in that they have to fill the gaps, shed blockers and make plays.
Really though, it comes down to the last part. The linebackers have to start making plays. Did you know that last year, the linebacker that had the highest tackles for a loss was Blake Dees and he had just 2 tackles for loss last year. I find it perplexing to think that the as a unit, this group only had 8.5 tackles for a loss for the entire year. As an entire linebacking corps. For comparison purposes, Kansas St.’s Arthur Brown had 7 by himself. Only 2 forced fumbles by the linebackers last year (Jackson and Robertson) and only 3 for the entire year (one of which was Doege).
It’s really about making plays and I think this has been a meme for two years running, but it has to start sometime if this group is going to help the defense make a significant stride forward.