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Texas Spring Preview: LBs

Loaded with upperclassmen, the linebacking core at Texas has the potential to blossom under Charlie Strong. Here’s our Spring preview breakdown of the linebackers at UT. 
LINEBACKERSPersonnel:Demarco Cobbs, 6-foot-2, 225 lbs, Senior: Cobbs was always the perfect Big 12 linebacker on paper, but has routinely struggled with health and fulfilling assignments. Is he healthy and back to form? Can he master the Strong D in an offseason?Dalton Santos, 6-foot-3, 243, Junior: Santos has steadily improved over the last two years and provides Texas with their best bet at having a big middle linebacker who can handle playing in the Big 12.

Peter Jinkens, 6-foot-1, 230 lbs, Junior: Jinkens was always an athletic playmaker who’s questions were mostly about whether he could get big enough to play inside. He’ll be a big part of the Spring plans.Timothy Cole, 6-foot-2, 232 lbs, Sophomore: Cole’s presence on the roster was largely to guarantee that Brenham teammate Malcom Brown was also present. His lack of open field quickness put him in the middle linebacker glut also occupied by Santos, Edmond, and Beck.Steve Edmond, 6-foot-3, 253 lbs, Senior: Edmond is a likely candidate for a pass-rushing role and may struggle to hold off Santos at middle linebacker.Kendall Thompson, 6-foot-3, 222 lbs, Senior: Thompson struggled mightily with Diaz’s complicated schemes and then struggled with health in 2013. Finally healthy, will his athleticism shine through in the Strong D?Naashon Hughes, 6-foot-4, 231 lbs, RS Freshman: Hughes’ tremendous size and growing body suggest he might be a candidate to spin down to DE. Where the coaches see his athleticism fitting on the field will say a lot about the direction of the defense.Deoundrei Davis, 6-foot-3, 228 lbs, RS Freshman: Davis’ length and athleticism make him a great fit for the Strong D, but will he survive the Spring and culture change?Andrew Beck, 6-foot-3, 233 lbs, Freshman: Already at 233 pounds with a skillset that seems like a more natural fit in the B1G, Beck will need to demonstrate the ability to play against spread sets.Jordan Hicks and Tevin Jackson are supposed to miss the spring.Questions heading into Spring Practice:Can Jean-Mary coach this group up to the point that another early season Hicks injury wouldn’t mean that effective linebacking at Texas would be an impossible dream? Where does Jinkens’ athletic playmaking fit into Strong’s vision for a dominant Big 12 defense? Are there any surprise contributors in this big group? – Ian BoydIf this group can’t play well with this coaching, from Jean-Mary, to Bedford to Strong, who could make it productive? Who are the first three out there and who are the two that play in nickel? Can Jinkens play consistently regardless of where he lines up? Does Andrew Beck stick on defense by the end of spring (curiously he didn’t hold a Louisville offer)? Who takes advantage of reps that Hicks and Jackson would be receiving? – Eric NahlinExpectations exiting Spring Practice:Santos and Jinkens will lock down major roles on the team while Edmond will become a weapon in Fire Zones, Hicks will be counted on to get healthy and bring leadership and playmaking to the unit. The coaches will move some of the younger players to other positions and redouble their recruiting efforts to bring more athletes in to stock the position for the future.– IBIan nailed it. This looks to be one position that will get a major makeover as soon as it can take place. Cole will be Santos’ back-up, only on the depth chart. If Edmond moves who will really back-up Santos? Tevin Jackson, if he’s healthy? Hicks’ previous tape will ensure he’s a starter simply because I don’t see a player who is better when Hicks is even semi-healthy. – ENBest/Worst case scenario:Best case is that all of the athletic players have a light come on and thrive in the new defensive scheme so that they can play fast and aggressive every snap. Santos is healthy and moving well and forgotten players like Cobbs and Thompson are able to become contributors. Worst case is that everyone freezes up when confronted with a new scheme and re-wiring their brains is a process that extends into the season. Texas lacks healthy athletes who can handle the system and Strong spends every available minute outside of practice making calls to JUCO programs. – IBHe nailed it again. Best case to me, come fall, is a healthy and mentally fast threesome of Santos, Hicks and Jinkens. Hopefully Santos and Jinkens take the steps necessary to get to that point. We also start to hear talk of Deoundrei Davis having a fantastic camp, because he should be a future multi-year starter. Worst case is the inverse of the above and I’ll add in that Naashon Hughes looks like a tweener and Andrew Beck is too stiff to play Mike in this league. – EN

History major, football theorist.