A consequence of signing one of the country's top recruiting classes is that your depth chart could experience a serious upheaval between early August when the blue chippers arrive, and the season-opener in early September. Extremely talented players have the potential to overcome lack of experience and make impacts early in their careers.
Tommy Tuberville and his coaching staff will be faced with this problem very shortly. It is, as they say, a nice problem to have.
In this series we will take a look at the incoming recruits most likely to see the field in 2011, try to project where they will fit in the depth chart, and what they will bring to the table for the Red Raiders in the upcoming season.
The Texas Tech defense looks to be in very good shape at middle linebacker with Cqulin Hubert and Blake Dees holding down the position. Strong linebacker is a bit iffier. The current depth chart has Daniel Cobb, Zach Winbush and Tyrone Sonier one, two and three at the spot. All three of those players have some ability, but some liability as well.
Cobb is cat-quick and is difficult to block, but when a blocker locks onto him, the Killeen product struggles to disengage. Winbush shows promise in coverage, but at little more than 205 pounds, is probably not ready to play much on running downs. Sonier had a few moments as a junior, but was injured for most of the spring. His durability and upside are at issue.
All of the above presents an inviting opportunity for incoming freshman Branden Jackson. A 6-foot-4, 220-pound prospect from McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Jackson was rated by Scout as the nation's ninth best outside linebacker prospect and it's easy to see why.
Jackson has a stride that eats up lots of turf in a hurry. He can run down skill position players in pursuit and has no trouble dropping deep into coverage where his rangy frame presents problems for opposing quarterbacks. Jackson is athletic in every respect. In addition to his speed, he has unusual acceleration from an upright and down position. He also has excellent change of direction and lateral movement.
But what's most unusual about Jackson is that he is equally adept against the run and pass. His ability to cover has been noted above. But Jackson does not shy away from contact, takes on blockers forcefully, and is comfortable playing in the box. In short, he could be the complete linebacker that the Red Raiders may currently lack on the strong side.
If Jackson hits it big with the Red Raiders, he'll be the first linebacker 6-foot-4 or more to do so since Dwayne "Hook" Jiles, a 6-foot-4 brute who played five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants from 1985-89. But Jiles played between 235 to 240 pounds, and the slight Jackson will need to beef up as well to reach his tremendous potential. As is, he looks good enough to contribute immediately.