Spencer had junior college All-American Devante Averette, who came on and played well but then tore an ACL before the end of spring. There was the later news that veteran backup Kris Catlin was going to miss the fall due to academics.
The freshmen linebackers could not arrive soon enough and Spencer knew he was going to have to play several of them, if not all four of them. He wasn't sure he had a star linebacker that would be ready and that was why Michigan "super senior" transfer Josh Furman became so valuable.
Now Spencer is walking around smiling this spring. Averette is back and he has shown the ability to play weak-side and middle linebacker. He will help with giving Seth Jacobs (pictured above) a breather, or if Jacobs needs to play some "star" then Averette can jump in.
Catlin is back to help and Cal transfer Chad Whitener is proving to be a big help behind Simmons at middle linebacker. Kilgore C.C. transfer Jordan Burton arrived at mid-year and he has been fantastic at the "star" position, relieving some pressure on sophomores Gyasi Akem and Kirk Tucker, who were both pressed into duty last fall.
Sophomore Jordan Phillips is a big hitter, and after a knee injury last preseason redshirt freshman Josh Mabin is getting back to where he was, and he looked good prior to the injury.
"We've got a good group," Spencer said. "We have a long way to go but these guys, many of them have been around and know what to do. They help the younger guys and they all work hard. It's not the finished product, but we are a long way from where we were last spring."
"We've got a lot of people out here that compete. Wherever Coach Spencer wants to put me is where I'll go," Catlin said adding he is just so happy to be on the field and able to play. "Jordan Burton has been coming in, competing and working his butt off. Seth Jacobs has been playing to start as well, so it's up in the air. Everyone is just out here competing."
Catlin spent last season on the practice field as a scout teamer and also helping all he could with educating the younger linebackers. It was tough to practice every day and then be in the stands on game day or just watching on television.
"It was tough," Catlin said. "Guys were competing and I was proud of them, but it was tough just watching them and knowing that I could've been out there with them making plays for my team.
"It feels great to be back. Missing a whole season and being on the scout team for the whole year makes this really mean a lot to come out here and get everything right."
Catlin is from Madison High School in San Antonio. Middle linebacker mainstay Ryan Simmons is also from the San Antonio area, coming out of Cibolo Steele. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor is also from Madison High, safety Tre Flowers is from Converse Judson, cornerback Ramon Richards is from San Antonio's Brakenridge High School, and Jordan Sterns is also from Cibolo Steele.
That is six defensive players and two of the linebackers out of the San Antonio region. Guess what? A region Spencer first started mining for players when he got the area as a recruiting territory. Simmons said it is still a good place to go looking for players.
"I tell them that this is one of the places where you want to be," Simmons said of what he tells recruits. "You have coaches that really care about you as a person and you have a group of guys always there for you. Everybody's reppin'. People know where we come from and that's something that you want to have. You always want to have a group of guys you know on the team, especially from our hometowns."
Based on what we've seen and what we are about to see then the advice would be continue recruiting that San Antonio region, and if they have some linebackers down there then put the big push on those guys. They seem to have worked out well.