Mid-Spring Look: Linebackers

If there's one defensive position to feel good about, it's the Texas linebackers.

The Candidates: Emmanuel Acho, senior; Keenan Robinson, senior; Jordan Hicks, sophomore; Patrick Nkwopara, sophomore; Demarco Cobbs, sophomore; Aaron Benson, redshirt freshman; Chet Moss, freshman.

Returning Starters: Acho, Robinson

What It Looks Like: Acho and Robinson give the Longhorns arguably the best returning linebacker duo in the conference, and a pair of players who both have size and can run. Robinson has been banged up a bit in the spring, but has practiced a bit in the middle, as has Acho. Both can play any of the three linebacker spots. Hicks looked like a budding star before suffering an injury that will keep him out the rest of the spring. He'll be good to go for summer conditioning and will be fine in the fall. His absence, and the limiting of Robinson, has opened up the door for more reps for the speedy Cobbs and true freshman Moss, who enrolled early. Cobbs is a natural blitzer and an outstanding athlete for the position. Moss is arguably the only true middle linebacker in camp.

Ideal Situation: Just get healthy. Acho, Robinson and Hicks give the Longhorns a trio of future NFL players and an athletic group filled with all-conference talent. Depth will be harder to come by, with much of that coming in the fall. That's when a talented freshman class consisting of Steve Edmond, Tevin Jackson and Kendall Thompson will arrive. Both Edmond and Thompson can play either in the middle or on the outside, with Edmond ranking as one of the top incoming linebackers in the country. A second-team group of Cobbs, Edmond and either Jackson or Thompson would give some much needed experience to players who will be needed in a big way a year from now.

What We Would Like To See: A rotation. Building up young players like Cobbs and Edmond will be a must not just for next year, but also in case of injury this season. Other than that, we would love to see a healthy Acho, Robinson and Hicks. Hicks making a jump this year is vital in that he'll be the most experienced linebacker next year, and because he has arguably the most potential on the roster. A strong season this year could propel him to All-America honors a year from now.

What Will Probably Happen: The starting three appears to be set, and with defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's love for both versatility and blitzing, Cobbs figures to see some time as a nickel/outside linebacker hybrid at times. Edmond is somewhat raw, but as he showed at the Army All-American Game, he's a quick study and has rare athletic gifts for a player of his size. That means he'll also see time, at least on special teams, as he's groomed for a year from now.

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