For many in this Texas Longhorn linebacker group, this will be the first unit to have the same position coach for two straight seasons. The continuity at the position coach and the coordinator position should do wonders for the group’s cohesion and effectiveness. Outside the offensive line, the linebackers return one of the most experienced unit on the field as all three starters, Jared Norton, Sergio Kindle, and Roddrick Muckelroy all have logged significant minutes and each have at least eight starts on their resume. Those three combined for 219 tackles and were all in the top five in tackles for the ‘Horns. The unit does lose senior Rashod Bobino, who split starts in 2008 with Norton.
Given the abundance of spread offenses in the Big 12, this linebacker crew provides a very unique versatility that is well suited for the bulk of the schedule. Kindle, who worked primarily at defensive end in the spring, can create havoc from the end of the line in a two or three-point stance and can play a traditional strongside linebacker position. Both Muckelroy and Norton have both shown the ability to cover in space which is a requirement in the Big 12. When Kindle moves to the DE spot, look for a two linebacker set with a nickel backfield or at times, redshirt freshman Keenan Robinson to get more playing time.
Spotlight: Sergio Kindle
Sergio Kindle could also be the spotlight for the Defensive End/Line preview, but we had to pick a spot for him. Where ever Kindle lines up, it is safe to assume that he will be disrupting the offense. It is hard to imagine that Kindle’s ten sacks and 14 tackles for loss were overshadowed, but All-Everything end Brian Orakpo did manage to do just that.
In 2009, Kindle looks to break out of that shadow and post sack and TFL numbers that only Texas great Kiki DeAyala can best. DeAyala holds the single season-sack (22.5) and TFL (33) records for the Longhorns. Kindle also looks to better his 53 total tackles from last season.
Other key starters: Seniors Roddrick Muckelroy and Jared Norton
Who led the Longhorns in tackles last season with 112 total tackles?
If you said Roddrick Muckelroy, give yourself a gold star. The Hallsville star actually almost eclipsed all Texas defenders with his 71 solo tackles – only Earl Thomas’ 72 total tackles were more. Muckelroy preformed his best against the best when tackle totals of 16, 11, 9, and 12 during the four-game stretch when the ‘Horns faced top-11 opponents in successive weeks. He also posted double-digit tackles against UTEP and Colorado.
Muckelroy returns with his 17 career starts alongside Jared Norton. Norton split starts last season with senior Rashod Bobino (Norton got five) and notched 54 tackles in all 13 games. This year, Norton will not have to share snaps with Bobino so his numbers should be up substantially.
Key Contributors: Redshirt Sophomore Keenan Robinson and Sophomore Emmanuel Acho
Both Robinson and Acho gained some important minutes last season and both look positioned to be the key back-up contributors off the bench for Coach Muschamp’s LB unit. Robinson and Acho are both long (6-2, 6-3) and in the 235 range which allows them to rush the passer from the edge and fill holes in run support. The emergence of either of these youngsters could allow for Sergio Kindle to play more downs with his hand on the ground and his ears pinned back.
The 2010 outlook is a bleak one at first glance. Texas graduates three grizzled veterans in Kindle, Norton, and Muckelroy – all of whom will make a living in the NFL. The linebackers will have just one senior (Earnest) and two juniors (Acho and Robinson) on the roster.
Dustin Earnest, SR
Keenan Robinson, JR
Emmanuel Acho, JR
Tariq Allen, SO
Patrick Nkwopara, RFR or SO
Tevin Jackson, FR
Aaron Benson, FR
Other Longhorn Position Previews: