The 2013 Texas Longhorns linebacking corps will be the most scrutinized unit on the entire squad after a 2012 that was, to put it buntly, horrid. In spite of the talent on paper in the unit, the linebackers failed time and again to prevent routine runs and passes in the flats from turning into explosive gains.
There’s been plenty of debate on whether this was due to coaching, poor execution and gap control, or a combination of the two. Without improvement from the linebacking corps this fall, a Texas defense which must improve as a whole will have a difficult time doing so, regardless of the root cause of last season’s struggles.
If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the unit is does not lack experience and returns two of the top five tacklers from 2012 in seniors Steve Edmond and Kendall Thompson. These two guys, along with senior Jordan Hicks and junior Peter Jinkens must lead by example and hope the remaining bit players follow their lead.
Second only to Dallas Cowboys draft pick Kenny Vacarro, rising senior linebacker Steve Edmond must play with consistency and a new-found level of intensity of 2013 to set the tone in the Texas second-level. Edmond tallied 103 tackles (6 TFL) in 2012 and was dependable in large part, but had moments of mental lapse which were a concern.
The six tackles for loss out of 103 total tackles says all it needs to say about the overall lack of success Texas had in creating chaos and pressure in offensive backfields last season, and needless to say, Edmond will be charged with making sure this doesn’t happen again in 2013.
According to several Texas writers, Edmond has been focused on shedding weight to increase his quickness and increase confidence that he is dedicated to playing linebacker and shouldn’t actually move to the defensive line, or even to tight end — where Texas has a desperate need — as some have suggested.
The talent has always been there, but now is the time for Steve Edmond to turn that talent into production, with consistency.
Kendall Thompson is the most confounding of the Texas linebackers. At times he looks like a world-beater, flying all over the field to make open-field, shoestring tackles that suggest a high degree of athleticism and at others he completely disappears from the action for long stretches without a peep.
Thompson must improve on his 60 tackle (8 TFL) performance from 2012 if he expects to keep competition from rising underclassmen Tim Cole, Deuondrei Davis and Dalton Santos at bay.
In short, Thompson must be the No. 2 to Edmond’s No. 1 and take on the role with a refined combination of aggressiveness and technical savvy to ensure a major role with Texas in 2013.
The Jordan Hicks saga has been a complex one since the Columbus, Ohio born 5-star prospect arrived on the Forty Acres in 2010. Hicks started as a true freshman in 2010, was sixth on the team in tackles during his sophomore season in 2011, and played only three games in 2012 due to a hip injury which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Hicks’ reputation as a good student and team leader took a hit when he and backup quarterback Case McCoy were involved in a bizarre incident in San Antonio during the Alamo Bowl weekend, from which no charges were filed.
The Texas coaching staff will be looking for Hicks to put his money where his mouth is. To step up and again lead by example while staying healthy. If he can do this, the Texas linebacking corps will see a huge jolt as a result.
The Supporting Players
Sophomore Peter Jinkens leads a talented group of underclassmen who could have a big impact on the Texas linebackers unit in 2013. Jinkens finished 2012 with 29 tackles, several of the bone-jarring variety, and is a fan favorite on the Forty Acres.
Sophomore Dalton Santos has slimmed down some and promises to see more snaps in 2013. Redshirt freshman Tim Cole has a ton of athletic promise and along with impressive freshman Deoundrei Davis, could have a surprising impact this season in case of injury, or pure exhaustion which can require depth rise to the occasion in the brutal Texas heat.
In short, the Texas linebacking unit will have the weight of the world on its collective shoulders this fall. How they handle that weight could well be the difference between a 10-win season and something more special for this year’s Longhorn squad.
Kris is also featured in the print publication, Lindy’s In the Huddle – Texas Edition which hits stores on July 16th.