Spring Breakdown: Linebackers

Texas Tech wrapped its first season under coach Kliff Kingsbury with a Holiday Bowl win over Arizona State, signed a promising 2014 recruiting class and now spring ball takes a hiatus for Spring Break. RaiderPower.com senior writer Joe Yeager breaks down the roster and highlights position battles to watch at linebacker.

Probable Starters
Pete Robertson | 6-foot-3, 225 | Junior | Longview, Texas
Micah Awe | 5-foot-11, 225 | Junior | Arlington, Texas
Sam Eguavoen | 6-foot-1, 220 | Senior | Garland, Texas
Dorian Crawford | 6-foot-2, 200 | Senior | San Diego, California

Probable Backups
Andre Ross | 6-foot-3, 220 | Junior | Calvert, Texas
Kris Williams | 6-foot-1, 210 | Sophomore | Dallas, Texas
Zach Winbush | 6-foot-1, 215 | Senior | Shertz, Texas
V.J. Fehoko | 5-foot-11, 225 | Senior | Honolulu, Hawaii
Caleb Woodward | 6-foot-0, 200 | Freshman | Leander, Texas
Malik Jenkins | 6-foot-2, 205 | Sophomore | Ennis, Texas
Kahlee Woods | 6-foot-0, 220 | Freshman | Sherman, Texas
Collin Bowen | 6-foot-3, 200 | Freshman | Amarillo, Texas
Austin Stewart | 6-foot-0, 210 | Senior | Matthews, North Carolina
Jacarthy Mack | 6-foot-3, 190 | Freshman | Lithonia, Georgia

Most intriguing Battle: Who emerges at the Raider outside linebacker position?

Position Power Rating: 82

Texas Tech's defensive coaches are confident and pleased with three prospective starters in the linebacking corps: Pete Robertson at Bandit outside linebacker has All Big 12 potential; Micah Awe at middle linebacker has experience, explosion and speed, and Sam Eguavoen at weak inside linebacker is very steady and consistent. It's a good trio.

But two concerns loom large as the Red Raiders continue to go through their spring paces. First, who will come to the fore at Terrance Bullitt's old spot at Raider outside linebacker? And second, which players will emerge as quality backups at all four posts?

The second question is arguably the more important of the two. As Tech's coaches, players and fans discovered quite dramatically and traumatically last season, lack of defensive depth can be a fatal weakness.

As 2013 wore on, the competition improved, and the team was forced to play with backups or severely degraded starters (Bullitt being a prime example), the defense's performance deteriorated to shockingly low levels. A defense that was one of the best in the Big 12 early on, quickly became one of if not the worst group in the conference.

And to prove even more conclusively how important defensive depth really is, the Red Raider defense healed in the weeks prior to the Holiday Bowl, and stunned the college football world by putting a serious hurt on an excellent Arizona State offense in the bowl game.

It's really quite simple: when Tech's defense is healthy and relies on its starters, it is very good. But when the nicks and dings accumulate, that defense becomes very vulnerable indeed.

Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt and linebackers coach Mike Smith think they have some nice pieces with which to work among the backup linebackers, but the fact remains that they are rather inexperienced, and in many cases, light in the britches.

Behind Robertson at Bandit are Andre Ross, Kris Williams and Zach Winbush. Ross, who is currently nursing an injury, has terrific athletic ability, but needs to mature emotionally to the point that the team can rely upon him. Williams, who is recuperating from knee surgery, is a physical backer somewhat in the mold of Robertson, but has very little experience. Winbush is a veteran letterman who could very well emerge as the number two guy here.

Behind Awe are V. J. Fehoko and Caleb Woodward. Fehoko is cut from the same cloth as his brother Sam, who played at Tech a few years ago. He is physical and intense, and he may carve himself some meaningful snaps in run defense packages.

Malik Jenkins figures to be the primary caddy for Eguavoen at the other inside linebacker spot. He played some as a true freshman—mostly on special teams—and the coaches believe he will develop into a very good player.

The Raider position is entirely up for grabs. Crawford is currently penciled—and I emphasize, penciled—in as the starter, but he'll have to fight off Collin Bowen, Austin Stewart and Jacarthy Mack to record his starting status in ink.

The primary threat here may well be Stewart. He has seen the field plenty in his time at Tech—often at safety—and has made many a play. His athleticism may be the best of any linebacker on the team, and he plays bigger than his 210 pounds. The coaches also love Mack, but at 6-foot-3 and only 190 pounds, he figures to be strictly a pass rusher early in his collegiate career.

There are multiple variables in play which will determine whether or not Tech's backup linebackers are up to the job in 2014. Wallerstedt really needs those variables to become solid prime numbers upon which he can count.

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