When your name is Mike Freeze, it's almost expected that you have ice water in your veins. The true freshman will need all that and more to step in to some pretty big shoes this fall, replacing the void left by the graduations of Paul Dawson and Marcus Mallett. But Freeze, along with fellow freshman Alec Dunham and junior Sammy Douglas, certainly has the athleticism and football smarts to do just that.
Linebackers in 2014
Marcus Mallet and Paul Dawson were absolute machines in the middle of Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 defense. Dawson had one of the best seasons ever for a Frog backer - and that's saying something when you consider the studs that came before him. With 136 tackles, 20 of which that came for a loss, six sacks, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles, Dawson earned All-American status and selection in the third round of the NFL draft. Relatively unknown outside of Fort Worth coming in to the 2014 season, the former JuCo player and high school wide receiver burst on to the scene with this play against Oklahoma:
(that still gives me chills)
While the INT return against OU may be his signature moment of the season, it was the only time he starred. A sure tackler and smart football player, it seemed no runner escaped his grasp. If he hit the hole the same time you did - you probably lost. And his on field chemistry with Marcus Mallet was unparalleled - the two seniors worked in harmony to absolutely dominate the middle of the football field. While neither is the exceptional athlete of say a Darryl Washington, both had great feet and better instinct. While the INT return gave the Frogs a lead they would never relinquish, a few minutes later, Mallet would make a game saving play of his own. After a B.J. Catalon fumble, OU was driving, and had a fourth and one inside the TCU 25. With Dawson not on the field, Mallet found the gap behind the defensive front and absolutely speared Samaje Perine behind the line for a turnover on downs.
These were the kind of plays Mallet and Dawson seemed to make game in and game out, and their success as a tandem helped TCU's defense maintain a high level of play - and keep the explosive TCU O on the field.
Linebackers in 2015
The thing to remember is, no one knew much about Paul Dawson or Marcus Mallet this time a year ago, right? Dawson was a major project who was actually listed behind Mallet in the spring, even after leading the team in tackles in 2013. So the thought of a relative unknown stepping in to those shoes isn't completely out of the realm of possibility. TCU only has two guys that made the cut on the spring depth chart that have seen playing time - junior Sammy Douglas and sophomore Paul Whitmill. Douglas had 11 tackles in 2014, and Whitmill five - but both players compiled the bulk of their stats on special teams.
"Mike Freeze does some things naturally that you can’t teach," Patterson said. "And he was a safety in high school, never has played linebacker, so every day is a new day for him." - Dallas Morning News