Six more long days left till kickoff 2013 and we’re breakdown each side of the ball by position group. Today we’ll concentrate our focus on the linebacking corp.
Matt Wallerstedt, Texas Tech’s fifth defensive coordinator in five years, makes it perfectly clear every chance he gets that his defense will attack and blitz constantly, and that these blitzes will come from “everywhere.” When he says “everywhere,” it’s a safe bet he means the linebackers, because this season the Red Raiders have some very athletic guys playing this position.
But athleticism alone isn’t everything. You also need experience, leadership and instinct on every football team, especially in position groups like the linebackers. The good news for Tech’s defense, all four potential starting linebackers share these qualities. Every player but one on the potential two-deep has experience playing in a major college football game against some of the best offenses in the country.
Pete Robertson and Branden Jackson are splitting time at Bandit, a sort of hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end type position. Both these guys are very athletic and will probably be asked to do a lot of different things in this defense. True sophomore Micah Awe, solid contributor on special teams a year ago, is currently beating out junior Blake Dees for the starting job at the Mike linebacker position. Awe is aggressive and a very instinctual football player, and he’ll be the guy relaying the plays on defense if he wins the job at Mike. Will Smith and Sam Eguavoen, both starters last year in the 4-3 alignment, are battling for the Will linebacker spot. Eguavoen is a freak athlete and two-year starter with 82 total tackles to his name, but Will Smith is the bigger, more prototypical middle linebacker. Both are excellent options and both should see some playing time this season. Fifth-year senior Terrance Bullitt rounds out the starting line up at the Raider spot, a sort of hybrid safety position, and is probably the only guy to have his job locked down going into the season. Depth is a factor at Raider after some attrition this summer, but there’s no denying Bullitt is a talent. Starting his career at safety and switching to linebacker last season, Bullitt has 19 starts and 98 tackles to his name.
Pete Robertson, sophomore/Branden Jackson, sophomore
Andre Ross, sophomore
Micah Awe, sophomore
Blake Dees, junior
Will Smith, senior
Sam Eguavoen, junior
Terrance Bullitt, senior
Austin Stewart, junior
Backups Ross and Stewart, both junior college transfers, are question marks at the two outside linebacker sports, but beyond that there are seven guys we know can play. 2011 was a disaster in terms of tackling and run defense, but playing young guys like Dees and Eguavoen should finally pay off this year. Athleticism, experience, leadership and instinct; this group has it all.