TCU’s 4-2-5 defense requires the linebacking corps to possess great instincts and versatility. The success of Patterson’s defense against the run relies on the linebacker’s ability to read and react to what he sees instantly, while staying very gap conscious. Coverage demands, by design, are limited, but in the spread-dominated Big 12, the linebackers are asked to cover often as well.
#54 Marcus Mallet, #41 Jonathan Anderson
The senior linebackers were in a difficult position battle this fall when Mallet got the nod in the first official TCU depth chart. After ending last season with 70 total tackles, eight and a half tackles for loss, and two sacks, Mallet is primed to take on a leading role. Mallet saw a lot of game action for the Horned Frogs last year and set a career-high 12 tackles against Baylor.
Anderson, on the other hand, lost out on the starting job to Mallet after starting fall camp as the starter. He finished the year with 66 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss. The demotion of Anderson leads to some questions about the senior’s play, but Anderson and Mallet will be expected to spell each other. Both seniors are experienced in the defense and will be key parts of TCU’s run defense.
#47 Paul Dawson
Senior Paul Dawson, named to the watch list for the Butkus Award for the nation’s top linebacker, topped TCU with 91 total tackles in 2013. His 10 tackles for loss placed second on the team. Dawson has great instincts that often finds him in the right place at the right time. He was a playmaker last year and is poised to be an impact player for the Frogs this year.
The Breakout Star
#42 Ty Summers
The true freshman has been impressing coaches in the fall and has passed Sammy Douglas on the depth chart. Summers, a dual-threat quarterback that moonlighted at safety coming out of San Antonio, has done well in his transition to linebacker for the Frogs and is pushing for playing time in 2014. Patterson said that we could look for Summers to get his head around the defense by mid-season. If he sees the field, expect Summers to make some plays and be primed for playing time next season.
#44 Paul Whitmill
The redshirt freshman was highly touted out of high school, ranking as the fifth best linebacker in Texas by Scout.com. Redshirting last year should have helped Whitmill understand the defense inside and out. His physical style of play is fun to watch, and if he gets time on the field he will stand out.
#35 Sammy Douglas
Douglas was mostly a special teams player last season, although he was ranked the third best outside linebacker in Texas by Scout.com. The sophomore player made enough of a name for himself in 2013 to keep from redshirting. We’ll see if he has improved enough to get some playing time on defense this season.
This unit has been trying to find stability since Joel Hasley suddenly walked away from the program before the start of the 2013 season. The senior trio of Dawson, Mallet, and Anderson should provide that stability alongside a healthy dose of playmaking. The Horned Frogs will be looking for more big plays out of the linebackers this year. With young talent coming up through the ranks this should be a strong unit for years to come.