Fall Camp Preview: Linebackers
For the better part of two seasons, UTSA has struggled with depth at the linebacker position. In the offseason, the coaching staff added two Juco players, a graduate transfer, and moved over a freshman defense end. Will the new-look group of linebackers pay dividends for UTSA in 2016?
- Drew Douglas: Graduated. Was a key contributor on UTSA’s defense the last two seasons.
- Marcos Curry: The most experience LB on UTSA’s roster, Curry has seen action in 22 games, having started 13 of those contests. He played in all 12 games last season and is one of UTSA’s top returning tacklers. He was listed as backup OLB to La’Kel Bass on the post-spring depth chart.
- La’Kel Bass: A Juco transfer from the 2015 recruiting class, Bass is listed as the starting outside linebacker on the post-spring depth chart. He redshirted last season.
- Steven Holman: Walk-on who saw some time last season due to injuries.
- Kevin Garcia: Walk-on who saw some time last season due to injuries.
- Josiah Tauaefa: A member of the 2015 signing class that redshirted last season, Tauaefa climbed up the depth chart to starting MLB on the heels of a strong spring. He was originally recruited as a defensive end and has transitioned to LB.
- Dalton Miller: A consistent contributor in a backup role on defense, Miller has made the most of his abilities. Also plays on special teams.
- Ronnie Feist: A graduate transfer from LSU, Feist played in 14 games over four years on offense, defense, and special teams for the Tigers. He has one year of eligibility remaining and should push Tauaefa for playing time at MLB.
- Les Maruo: A Juco transfer from Hutchinson JC in Kansas, Maruo came to UTSA in January and participated in spring practices.
- Anthony Hickey: Another early-transfer Juco transfer, Hickey came to UTSA from Saddleback JC in California.
- DE Eric Banks: A former QB who also played DE, Banks joined UTSA as part of the 2016 recruiting class. He’s listed on the roster as a DE and LB. Is a candidate to redshirt.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ronnie Feist and Josiah Tauaefa. As a graduate transfer, Feist comes to UTSA for one last hurrah. The former four-star recruit is big, fast and strong. All traits you want out of a middle linebacker. Fighting it out with Feist for playing time will be redshirt freshman Josiah Tauaefa. The North-Texas native made a splash this past spring by seamless making the transition from defensive end to linebacker. Tauaefa performed so well in the spring that he received the Most Productive Defensive Player Award following the spring game.
1. Experience. If more than one injury was to occur at LB in past years, UTSA would have to rely on walk-on players. But this group of linebackers is a little different. The additions of Feist, Maruo, Hickey, and Tauaefa to the group has somewhat alleviated depth concerns. So what steps to the forefront is experience. Outside of Marcos Curry, there aren’t a lot of players who have seen consistent action on UTSA’s defense. Fortunately Tauaefa, Maruo, and Hickey, were able to go through an entire set of spring practices. And Feist has been on campus since earlier in the spring. Nothing replaces game experience but UTSA has done a good building depth as best they could this past offseason.
KEY TO SUCCESS
Be fundamentally sound. UTSA’s defense will likely be multiple in nature. So they’ll be a lot of moving parts. The two linebackers will need to cover a lot of ground. At the same time they’ll need to be sure not to over peruse and/or get themselves out of position. It’ll be important to read the plays and react according. Working as a unit with the entire defense will be critical on blitz plays and other situational instances. And when the time comes to tackle, wrap up. Consistent, fundamentally sound play should equate success at the linebacker position in 2016.
MLB Starter: Josiah Tauaefa or Ronnie Fiest
OLB Starter: La’Kel Bass
OLB Backup: Marcos Curry