Gary Patterson and linebackers coach, DeMontie Cross, will be looking for more veteran leadership from the linebacker position this year, as the TCU Horned Frogs continue to use the unique 4-2-5 defense. The key names that are returning this year are seniors Jonathan Anderson, Marcus Mallet, and Paul Dawson. All three are very similar is size and stature, weighing in at about 230 pounds and each a few inches above 6 feet.
Anderson was named the starter for the middle linebacker position for fall camp, and he looks to be a strong candidate to continue to hold that position for the start of the season. Anderson's conversion from safety to linebacker has been a beneficial move for the defense as a whole. Anderson started 10 games last season and recorded 66 total tackles last season, which was fourth most on the team, according to gofrogs.com.
There is a strong battle going on for this position, as Dawson and Mallet with both be fighting for the starting spot. Dawson was named to the Butkus Award Watch List earlier this year, which honors the nations top linebacker. While leading the team with 91 total tackles and placing second in tackles for a loss (10), I believe Dawson will beat out Mallet for that starting spot.
Mallet should not be titled as a second string linebacker though. With 12 stops against Baylor to finish the 2013 season and 70 tackles overall, Mallet is a force in the middle of the Horned Frog defense. After only recording 21 tackles in his first two seasons, Mallet showed a lot of growth in his 7 starts last year.
The Young Guns:
TCU prides themselves on being able to shuffle in a lot of personnel in and incorporating their young talent into their defensive schemes. So look for the younger linebackers to see some playing time in the fall as well. Sophomore Sammy Douglas and redshirt freshman Paul Whitmill will add depth to the roster. Douglas primarily contributed on special teams in 2013, while Patterson decided to have Whitmill redshirt.
The newest recruit to the linebacker corp is Ty Summers. Summers is a 6'2" and 211 pound true freshman out of San Antonio, Texas. While playing at Reagan High School, Summers played both sides as a quarterback and safety.
Even though there are only two linebacker out of the eleven on this 4-2-5 TCU defense, there is a lot of ground in the middle of the field for these players to cover. As the Horned Frogs thrive on making the playing field smaller and "suffocating" their opponents, the linebackers will need great vision and quickness to fill those open spaces.