Spring Blitz: Linebackers

With the Horned Frogs beginning spring ball on Feb. 24th we continue to get an early look at individual position battles and how each position we at HornedFrogBlitz.com feel will turn out. Up next, we look at the youth of the Frogs linebackers.


Deryck Gildon | 6-2, 235 | Sophomore
Joel Hasley | 6-1, 215 | Sophomore
Laderice Sanders | 6-1, 230 | Redshirt freshman
Marcus Mallett | 6-1, 216 | Sophomore

Kenny Cain | 6-1, 210 | Senior
Danny Heiss | 6-1, 220 | Sophomore
David Stoltzman | 6-0, 210 | Senior

2011 STATS (Returning leaders)
Cain | 72 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL
Gildon | 21 tackles, 2 blocked kicks

Unit Ranking: B
Strengths: Speed, Speed and more speed
Weakness: Inexperience

Without question, this was the hardest hit position in the off-season. Not only did Tank Carder and Kris Gardner graduate, the Frogs have also lost Tanner Brock and Greg Burks. That leaves only two linebackers on the team who saw action at linebacker in 2011; Kenny Cain and Deryck Gildon. Cain has been a steady cog in TCU's defense for each of the past two seasons and led the team in total tackles a year ago with 72. Gildon made his name mostly on special teams but did get some action in reserve duty. He is expected to fill the void left by Carder. Behind Cain and Gildon is a list of players who have made most of their plays on special teams. Included among the players competing for playing time are walk-ons and former Aledo teammates Joel Halsey and Danny Heiss. Laderice Sanders redshirted in 2011 and is one of the bigger linebackers on the roster. Marcus Mallett is another player who came to TCU with high expectations and will be a player to watch this spring.

What to watch: Everything

It's pretty simple, the linebacker unit will likely be the most watched and scrutinized positions this spring. All eyes will be on Deryck Gildon; the sophomore has high expectations to be the one to replace Tank Carder. Gildon is built like Carder and is very good sideline to sideline. There's a reason he played as a true freshman in 2011, he could've played more but was behind a talented group of linebackers.

The unit with the exception of Cain is young; five of the seven players competing for playing time are underclassmen. Aside from Cain and Gildon, the rest of the five linebackers combined for 15 tackles.

Breakout player: Laderice Sanders

Sanders came to TCU as one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the country. He spent his first year at TCU getting bigger and faster and he currently is the second heaviest linebacker on the roster at 230. Sanders is also one of the biggest hitters on the team and could be the backup at either linebacker spot. This is a player who had more than 150 tackles (in 11 games) his senior year at Arlington High so he obviously has a nose for the ball.

More walk-ons contributing

Out of the seven linebackers on the depth chart, three of them are walk-on players; Halsey, Heiss and Stoltzman. All three have played major roles on special teams, especially Halsey who recorded nine tackles in 2011. Between Halsey, Heiss and defensive end Jon Koontz, there is the potential that three former Aledo players could make the Frogs two-deep by the end of spring.

The new guy on the block

We mentioned him in the runningback breakdown, but also noted he could have a chance at linebacker. Coaches love his versatility and want him on the field. He needs to be on the field. That player, sophomore Antonio Graves. Graves blends excellent size at 6-foot-2, 222-pounds with 4.5 speed. A perfect blend of size and speed for a Patterson-built linebacker. The plus for Graves is with his two years on campus, he spent one year on offense and one year on defense. He knows how to play each side of the ball. He's also perhaps the Frogs' best punt and kickoff coverage man, totaling 16 tackles on special teams. He has already proved that he's not afraid to hit the opposition and once he learns the defensive scheme at linebacker, Graves is a guy that could seriously push for a starting position or at worst, add some quality depth as a second teamer.

Spring prediction(s): - My way too early post spring depth chart

- Gildon becomes a leader on defense
- Graves ends up behind Cain at sam linebacker

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