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Merriweather, Moore look to lead the talented, but unproven, linebacker group

The third position group preview on the defensive side of the ball takes a look at the inside linebacker position that will look to make plays all over the field this year

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past four years, Texas Tech has had both Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks taken in the NFL draft at the inside linebacker position. This position has become one of the staples of the Red Raiders football team and is looking just like that this year. Krishon Merriweather returns after leading the team in tackles last year and is looking to help this new defense get ready with his leadership and presence on the field.

Merriweather does everything right on the field. He was on the field a lot last year due to his ability to play the pass just as good as he does the run, which was a scarcity for the Tech linebackers. He truly has a chance to make a Jordyn Brooks-type of leap up the draft boards this season if he can continue to show that versatility and make his presence known in all aspects on defense.

Filling in next to him is likely the transfer from Missouri State Dimitri Moore, who was coached by our very own Joey McGuire at Cedar Hill. Moore played safety at Vanderbilt to start off his collegiate career but transferred to Missouri State and started playing linebacker there.

As a safety, he had great awareness with both the run and the pass and flew to the ball once he read the play. He was in situations on the outside where he had to guard tight ends and receivers and seemed to hold his own even as a freshman. This bodes well for us in that department as well, because as I mentioned our linebackers were constantly being torched last year in pass coverage.

A few guys that are in the mix for playing time are Jacob Rodriguez, Tyrique Matthews, Matthew Young, Bryce Robinson and Derrick Lewis II. Rodriguez is an interesting story as he transferred in from Virginia as a quarterback but has seemingly made an easy transition into the linebacker position. He played quite a bit as a true freshman for the Cavaliers as a quarterback but also contributed as a wide receiver, tight end and running back.

He was getting reps with Merriweather and Moore during the Spring game and looked as if he had been playing his natural position when he was out there. It’ll be interesting to see if the Sophomore will be able to make that quick of a turnaround for the Red Raiders and contribute early in his career.

Matthews and Young saw some time last year in the rotation at linebacker, but Young has more experience at the position having been at New Mexico State for four years prior. Both guys have an opportunity to add valued depth at the position and should be on the field quite a bit on special teams and defense.

Robinson and Lewis are probably a tier below Matthews and Young due to being younger and having much less experience on the defensive side of the ball. Both have been special teams contributors and have worked hard to earn playing time that could come their way if someone goes down with an injury or they just exceed expectations. Given that a majority of the guys ahead of them will likely be gone next season, these two could be auditioning all season to be able to replace that production.

Patrick Curley and Trent Low are in a tier of their own where they will be relied upon heavily on special teams but won’t see much action at all on the defensive side of the ball.

The five Freshman on the team include Ty Kana, Ben Roberts, Wesley Smith, Drew DeArman and Gage Elder. Elder is the only Redshirt Freshman of the bunch, as he was on the scout team last season. Of the remaining four Freshman, I could see Kana and Roberts avoiding the redshirt and finding some playing time whether it be on special teams or on defense. These are two guys that I’m excited for in the future and should be a solid pair when they get to that point in their careers.

I’d expect Smith and DeArman to be redshirted and contribute to the scout team.

This position group will have a strong core with Merriweather and Moore, with a few guys that have experience to get in the rotation. In this new look defense the inside linebackers are going to have to be able to fly to the ball with the big guys up front taking up the offensive lineman and creating that space to make plays. They will also need to be sound in their pass coverage and not get beat to the spot on a consistent basis.

I have a lot of faith in this position having an impact on games that will be noticeable on the score sheet. If healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of the starters making first or second team All-Big 12.