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2023 TCU Football Preview: Linebackers

The Horned Frogs return a mix of upperclassmen and new faces to the middle of their defense.

Last season, TCU moved away from its longstanding, traditional 4-2-5 defense and shifted to a 3-3-5 defense under new defensive coordinator Joseph Gillespie.

Clearly, it was a success. The linebacker corps was deep last season, but with Dee Winters drafted to the San Francisco 49ers, the depth will need to rise more than ever this season if the Frogs hope to meet expectations. Fortunately, TCU has several veterans and underclassmen returning along with a handful of new faces.

Leading the way should be Johnny Hodges, who after transferring from Navy last season had an incredibly strong year, and became quite a fan favorite. The 6-foot-2, 240 pounder led the Frogs with 87 tackles last season, and had 9.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Hodges should be the focal point of this linebacker crew, alongside Jamoi Hodge, Marcel Brooks and Shadrach Banks.

Simply because of his athleticism, former LSU transfer, wide receiver and five-star recruit Marcel Brooks could nag another starting spot next to Hodges this season. With the potential of him starting last season, he was sidelined for the opening three contests before returning to play in three games and then suffering a season-ending injury. He’s been impressing in camp, from what I heard, so don’t be surprised if Coach Sonny Dykes lines Brooks up next to Hodges.

All-Big 12 Honorable Mention Jamoi Hodge as well as Shadrach Banks and Namdi Obiazor are the other notable names in the linebacker room. These three will compete against each other, and Brooks, for the second and third starting spot. Like Hodges, Hodge should have his name etched onto the depth chart already — he was an All-Big 12 honorable mention last season and had 82 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He had an interception in the win against Kansas, and played outstanding in the Fiesta Bowl win over Michigan.

He’ll be a huge piece of the Frogs’ defense this season. But, the ceiling of the Frogs’ linebacker crew could depend on Banks, who didn’t start in all 15, but played in all 15 games last season. With Winters gone, he’ll really have to step up, and if he can provide throughout the season like how he provided in the Big 12 Championship game (10 tackles), this linebacker crew should be really, really good again.He finished the season with 39 tackles and 4 tackles for loss.

Lastly, Obiazor should see significantly more playing time. The 6-foot-3 senior played in all 15 games, with two starts, and placed eighth on the team with 49 tackles. Like Banks, he’ll hope to step up in the absence of Winters. Additional upperclassmen back in the fold include seniors Thomas Armstrong and Zach Marcheselli. Redshirt sophomore Terrance Cooks Jr., who the Frogs added through the transfer portal before last season, should see some time as well. TCU also welcomes freshman linebackers Jonathan Bax and Max Carroll.