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2017 TCU Football Position Preview: Linebackers

What was once a major question-mark is now arguably the strongest unit on defense.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first of several posts analyzing each position group for the Horned Frogs team in 2017. Check back Thursday for the preview of TCU’s defensive line.

TCU’s linebacking unit was far and away the best defensive unit in 2016, due to injuries and a lack of depth at other spots on the field. While the rest of the units on defense (sans DE, possibly) have started to catch up, the linebacker corps has the potential to be a dominant force this season.

Just as growing pains in 2015 provided the necessary experience for a productive 2016, a productive 2016 coupled with almost everyone returning hints that 2017 could be something special from this group.

Post-Spring LB Depth Chart

1st String Ty Summers Travin Howard
2nd String Montrel Wilson Sammy Douglas
3rd String Arico Evans Alec Dunham

The Starters

Travin Howard | Sr. | 6-1, 213

Howard enters his senior season as the first Horned Frog in 12 years to have strung together back-to-back 100+ tackle seasons. Over the past two years at linebacker, the converted safety has blossomed into an incredible leader on the field. It helps, too, when you back up your talk with impressive play. He’s accumulated 235 tackles over those two seasons, including 130 tackles during his junior campaign. That number is good for the third most tackles in a single-season during the Patterson era.

It’s easy to look at Howard and point to the kind of coaching leadership TCU has under Patterson, that they’re able to continually ask kids to switch positions and be as productive as they can be. This can’t be done, though, without also pointing to Howard’s work ethic, as he’s clearly put in the time on and off the field to get where he is.

Now, the returning first-team All Big 12 linebacker will look to lead TCU in tackles for the third consecutive season, as he closes the book on his collegiate career.

Ty Summers | Jr. | 6-2, 235

As a sophomore, Summer recorded the fourth most tackles in a season in the Patterson era, with 121. Appearing in all 13 games last season, Summers started 10, making a name for himself on the way to two Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors, and a second-team All Big 12 nod at the end of the season.

Summers is the thunder to Howard’s lightning. He hits people hard. That will be critical in a season where TCU has to re-earn their reputation as a hard-to-run-against defense. While rumors are swirling that Summers could flex down to defensive end at times, a testament to his versatility, as long as he’s at linebacker, he’s going to have a positive impact on the game.

The Depth

Sammy Douglas | Sr. | 6-3, 215

Douglas was TCU’s opening-day starter in 2015, before an ACL injury ended his season. His injury, plus the departure of Mike Freeze, opened the door for Travin Howard to slide down from safety to linebacker. Make no mistake about it, Douglas is a beast when healthy.

Montrel Wilson | Jr. | 6-3, 225

Wilson, like Howard, is a converted safety. He saw significant playing time in 2015, but had his season cut short by injury last year. When healthy, he can be an impact player.

Alex Bush | Jr. | 6-2, 230

Bush is a JUCO transfer from Cerritos College in California. He was rated as the No. 1 JUCO linebacker in California during the 2017 recruiting cycle, and he is a step-in-right-away kind of depth player. His combination of speed and strength will make it tough to keep him off the field.

Alec Dunham | Jr. | 6-1, 227

Dunham is an experienced special teams guy who adds another layer of depth to this linebacking core.

Arico Evans | Jr. | 6-2, 215

Like Dunham, Evans makes most of his impact on special teams, but is a quality depth guy. Of note, Evans was the kid who forced a fumble during an Oregon kickoff return, in the midst of TCU’s incredible Alamo Bowl comeback.