Roster Stew: Texas Longhorns Linebackers

While waiting for OSU's games against Houston and Baylor to download, let's continue with the midseason Roster Stew. Part 1 on the DL is here.

Linebackers

Senior Rod Muckelroy leads Texas with 45 tackles, including 7 for a loss (2 sacks), in addition to 7 QB hurries and 5 passes broken up, but consistency -- learning to better channel his energy and aggression -- is the name of the game from here forward. Muck's fierce love for the game and desire to make plays unquestionably is a strength, but at times this year it has worked against him, leading him to over-run plays and abandon assignments. That, of course, is an easily correctable flaw, and if he can tighten his play down the stretch and add some strength before the combine, he can be a first day draft choice.

Sophomore Keenan Robinson -- one of "My Guys" this summer -- is having a strong breakout season, now third on the team with 30 tackles, 1 for a loss. (Worth noting: 2 of Texas' top 3 tacklers are linebackers, with E. Acho not far behind at number five -- this, of course, from a 4-2-5 defense. It wasn't long ago that our top tacklers in a 4-3 defense were all DBs.) Back to Robinson: he's a beast physically, with superior strength and good-not-great speed. His ability to shed blocks is a real asset; right now he needs to work on being in the right place every time. The coverage skills have been spotty, with some good flashes offset by multiple late reactions. By this time next year, he can be a run-destroying force. If he improves some within this season, he'll be an important player against any potential bowl opponent with a power rushing game.

Fellow sophomore Emmanuel Acho has been special in part-time action, with 8 of his 27 tackles going for a loss (1 sack), to go along with 3 forced fumbles. Projecting his long-term upside is difficult because he's something of a tweener -- depending on how much strength he can add (and how quickly), he might be someone Muschamp employs as a pass rusher. Judging from his frame, linebacker looks like his proper home, though, and he can be a great one. It's not hard to imagine him having a junior-senior run at the position like Derrick Johnson did.

If two years ago you'd told me Dustin Earnest would be playing 10-15 snaps a game as a junior, I'd have told you that you're... well, hey, two years ago Scott Derry was playing 40 snaps a game. But if you'd told me last year that Dustin Earnest would be playing this year, I'd have been awfully skeptical. But there he is, and though he's nothing special physically, he's a reflection of his position coach, Will Muschamp. Earnest gives us some needed depth and solid play we can count on as needed. That's tasty roster stew.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Roberson has been making cameos on special teams and mop-up defensive duties (7 tackles on the year), while true freshmen Tariq Allen and Patrick Nkwopara are redshirting. Jared Norton will be taking a medical redshirt season and will be a welcomed addition of depth next season when Texas loses Muckelroy to graduation. Looking forward to the 2010 class, Texas has a pair of signees I'm excited about -- Cedar Hill's Aaron Benson and Garland's Tevin Jackson -- with a potential commitment from Ohio's Jordan Hicks potentially making this a devastating LB class for Mssr. Muschamp.

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