There’s an argument to be made the linebacking corps is the strongest position group on the entire Texas Tech roster, and I’m going to make it.
Consequently, I’ll effectively be giving Red Raider fans something they haven’t had in a while: optimism about the defense. After all, linebackers are the anchors of that side of the ball. They always have the most tackles at the end of the year, they’re asked to rush the passer and come up with sacks, forced fumbles and tackles behind the line of scrimmage. And they obviously play a key role in coverage schemes, as well, playing man defense on running backs and tight ends or just sitting back in a zone.
The value of a good set of linebackers cannot be understated, and this year’s group is poised to have a phenomenal year. Take a look at some of the key players in the position:
Jordyn Brooks, 6’1 sophomore
One of the team’s top-three overall players as ranked by the Viva staff, Brooks is the anchor of this defense and the unit’s success will depend substantially on the play of the sophomore linebacker. He’s coming off a fantastic season in which he was named to the Big 12 Freshmen First Team by Athlon Sports and to the True Freshman All-America Team by 24/7 Sports.
Dakota Allen, 6’1 junior
How fortunate are the Red Raiders for Allen willing to return to the team that dismissed him two years ago? We know he was thinking about committing to Ole Miss after his standout year at East Mississippi Junior College, but ultimately he decided a return to Lubbock was best for him. And it’s certainly best for Tech. He immediately steps in as the best player on the defensive side of the ball, and imagining the lethal tandem of Allen and Brooks at the linebacker spots is thrilling for a Tech fan base that typically doesn’t have a reason to be excited about the defense.
D’Vonta Hinton, 5’9 junior
Despite being undersized at 5’9, Hinton is an animal in the box and a reliable run-stopper. He had a great freshman campaign, playing in all 13 games and starting five, followed by an underwhelming sophomore season hindered by injury. However, Hinton reportedly had an explosive spring as Jordyn Brooks was out with injury and Dakota Allen not yet on campus. He got all the reps he could ask for and made a positive impression on the coaching staff and fan base alike. He’s currently listed as Brooks’ backup, but expect Hinton to see plenty of action on the field, particularly in short yardage situations.
Those are the three linebackers that will see the most playing time, but expect to see appearances from Tony Jones (Junior College transfer who had 120 tackles, 18 for a loss, 5.5 sacks and four forced fumbles last year) Christian Taylor (redshirt sophomore, former three-star prospect), Jonathan Picone (played in 11 games as a freshman last year), Brayden Stringer (ranked No. 6 linebacker out of Texas in high school, recorded third-most tackles by a freshman last season) and Jamile Johnson (a redshirt sophomore, was a four-star prospect out of high school who chose Tech over Oklahoma, TCU and Arkansas).
It’s a young group, but the talent is certainly present. A lot of these guys are going to get plenty of reps in the fast-paced Big 12 Conference, but the two starters - Brooks and Allen - are the heart and strength of this unit. Things are looking up for this defense.