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Texas Longhorns Football: Brian Jean-Mary Explains Why Malik Jefferson Is Better Suited Playing Inside Linebacker

Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary explains why he feels Malik Jefferson is better off playing inside linebacker as opposed to outside.

Malik Jefferson ranked as the nation's No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class, but he has played middle linebacker since arriving at Texas. 

The staff's decision to play Jefferson inside has been questioned time and again by both media members and UT faithful. 

When linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary addressed the media Friday, it resurfaced: What's the reason behind playing Jefferson at inside linebacker as opposed to his "natural" position outside?

Only this time, Jean-Mary's explanation may finally help put the question to bed.

"Him being on the inside poses more of a threat for offenses because now he can line up in the middle of the formation, but then he can go to either side," said the assistant coach.

"When you limit a really talented player to one side - especially at linebacker - I think you play to the offense's hands.

"We are going to put him where we think we have an opportunity to win."

He continued.

"If you watch football nowadays and you look at teams that are good on defense, you see teams that have inside linebackers that were able to dominate the game because they are playing inside and can go from sideline to sideline - not just line up outside and rush the passer."

Jefferson is not the first player to be moved from outside to inside linebacker in college. One of the more recent players in a similar situation is former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith, who's move to inside linebacker helped changed the course of his future.

"(Jaylon Smith's) freshman year he lined up outside and he did one thing. His last two years, he lined up inside, and a lot of people thought he was the best defensive player in college football last year. 

"The game has evolved where you can't line up a kid on one side of the ball if you think he's that great of a player. All (offenses) are going to do is run the other way or slide the protection to him, and now you just eliminated a kid that can be a dominant player.

"When you line him up inside, now he can do so many more things to help you out."

Some people will disagree with the coach's decision to play Jefferson at inside linebacker because of his talent as a pass rusher. While BJ agrees Jefferson is a talented pass rusher, he feels one of the linebacker's biggest strengths is often overlooked by the general public.

"I think (rushing the passer) is one of his strengths and is something he showed a little bit last year," Jean-Mary said.

"But another big strength that people don't really pay attention to is he's a big, strong kid and is physical enough to take on the run inside the plays that people don't see, where he's forcing the ball to an unblocked player. I don't think he gets enough credit for that."

A move to the outside does not seem to be in the plans for Jefferson, but his pass rushing talent will not go to waste. BJ looks to expand Jefferson's role in blitz packages this season to give him a chance to utilize his superb ability.

"We're a blitzing team, and that's one of the reasons why some of the kids have come to us over the last two years. They have seen that we are willing to blitz those guys, not just on third downs. We like to get them into the backfield and try to create some havoc.

"We did a certain blitz package with him last year, and we're planning to expand on that this year." 

 

 


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