If there's one position on the roster that should get significantly better for 2014, it's linebacker. Because no other position on roster had the combination of injuries and talented youth sitting out the season that linebacker had.
Case in point: Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond were two of the starting linebackers before getting knocked out for the year, and Demarco Cobbs was a 2012 starter who missed the 2013 season recovering from an injury there. Then, there was Tevin Jackson, who tore his ACL, talented true freshman Deoundrei Davis who didn't play at all this season because he tore his ACL in high school, and Kendall Thompson, who missed the Baylor game after suffering a head injury.
All that, and arguably the top overall freshman in the class, Naashon Hughes, redshirted this year as he became more acclimated to a position that he played for just one year of high school.
This isn't to make excuses. It's simply to note that the Longhorns will be in a much better position next year at linebacker. Who starts? Dalton Santos emerged as an excellent player in the middle, and Edmond grew into his role on the outside as the season went on. But could the new coaching staff decide to let it ride with Cobbs, Peter Jinkens, Hughes or Davis on the outside to add a bunch of speed to that mix? What about Hicks, who was putting together an All-Big 12 type season on the other side before suffering his injury? He would seem to be the no-brainer starter if he could go. Timothy Cole started one game in 2013, and the Longhorns are adding a nice linebacker class that includes the instinctive Andrew Beck and athletes Cameron Hampton and Otaro Alaka.
Because of all the returnees, none of the freshman figure to be thrust into major roles. And even if the starting lineup remains as expected — Hicks and Edmond on the outside, Santos in the middle — the Longhorns should be much better thanks to the availability of versatile, athletic depth.
Hicks, Aaron Benson, Edmond, Jackson and Thompson will be seniors in 2014 (though Hicks could possibly get another year), which makes 2015 an important class to re-stock with some top-end talent. And 2015 just so happens to have those kinds of pieces in Malik Jefferson, the state's No. 1 overall prospect, dynamic outside linebacker Cameron Townsend and big athlete Anthony Wheeler. All have Texas offers, and all appear very interested in what the new coach will have to offer.