|The Frogs are extremely light at the linebacker position with only two linebackers on scholarship. All Big 12 linebacker Joel Hasley returns as the leading tackler.|
|Returning Statistical Leaders|
|Tackles: Hasley; 79|
|SACKS: Hasley; 2|
|TFL: Hasley; 8.5|
UNIT RANKING: C
STRENGTHS: Good against the run
WEAKNESS: Depth, inexperience, overall speed,
The Frogs have to overcome the loss of Kenny Cain, an all-conference performer and senior leader and the team's leading tackler from last season. They also lost freshman A.J. Hilliard in the off-season with his transfer to Texas A&M. That leaves just two scholarship players on the unit; Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett. It's unknown if walk-on Joel Hasley has been put on scholarship yet.
With the loss of Cain, the Frogs return just two players with experience; Hasley and Mallett. Hasley played in 12 games last season, starting in 10 of those. He finished second on the team behind Cain with 79 tackles, including a career-high 12 tackles and 2 sacks against Kansas. He was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his effort and was named Honorable-Mention All-Big 12 last season. Mallett finished with 18 tackles on the season and made starts against Kansas State and Texas. Dawson saw most of his action on special teams in 2012 leading the team with 7 special team tackles. He did add depth at linebacker early in the season picking up 5 tackles against Grambling. Keep an eye on Jonathan Anderson, who is rumored to of made the switch from safety to linebacker. It's a good move considering Anderson is a good tackler and boasts 4.3 speed.
What to watch: Who lands the starting positions at the end of spring?
History tells us that under Patterson, he likes guys that can run and hit, but most importantly he wants a guy that doesn't get caught out of position and bust assignments; especially at linebacker. This is why it's a safe bet for now that Hasley will nail down one of the two spots. He's not the fastest and did show signs of trouble trying to cover quick slot receivers, but he rarely makes mistakes and is a force against the run. If he continues to show the best awareness of the linebackers, he's a no-brainer pick to win one spot. The other spot, now that's a big question. Mallett came in for Hasley late in the year and performed well, but with depth a big question, is it best to have your two top linebackers playing the same position? Maybe, but only one man knows that answer and he gets paid millions to come to that decision. Dawson is a player who drew praise early on in fall camp and then fell to basically being a special teams contributor. When it comes to speed, Dawson has it, and it's his biggest asset. He's also one of the bigger linebackers on the roster. It's his chance to shine and nail down a spot.
Breakout player: Paul Dawson
Keep an eye on: Jonathan Anderson
Anderson is the most intriguing player to watch here. Patterson hasn't come out and said Anderson will work at linebacker, but open up your history books again and see that he's done it in the past with bigger safeties who can run; Antonio Graves and Jordan Moore most recently. While those projects were incomplete, Anderson's move to linebacker is one to watch. He is certainly big enough to play the position and currently there isn't another linebacker on the roster who has 4.38 speed and weighs 210 pounds. But, can he pick up the scheme? It's not a slam dunk that he will, Graves and Moore didn't. But, as athletic as he is, you've got to give him every opportunity to learn and allow that athleticism on the field.
- Hasley gets the most praise
- Anderson makes a move
- Mallett and Hasley are your starters at the end of camp