2013 Position Previews: Linebacker

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It's Hump Day for the Baylor Defense! On this Wednesday afternoon, we're looking at arguably the most "known" unit on the team: Baylor's duo of returning starting linebackers (and their backups!).

Going into this, I prepared to include our nickelback position, the Bear, with our linebackers.  They do similar things and will have similar expectations.  Because, however, I realized that there is an entire week where we'll have naught to do at this pace, I'm going to push them off onto their own day.  The legions of Sam Holl fans will have to wait.

As for the linebackers, Baylor's typical 4-2-5 alignment means we start two, one inside and one outside.  Both of ours who saw the most time last year return, and they just happen to be the #1 and #5 tacklers in the Big 12 last season.

Eligibility Remaining
No. Player Year Ht/Wt. Position 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
5 Eddie Lackey
SR 6-0/220 OLB
15 Brody Trahan
SR 5-11/225 OLB
44 Bryce Hager
JR 6-2/235 MLB
55 Baylor Black
SO
5-1.5/180 LB
20 Aiavion Edwards
RS-FR 6-1/225 MLB
16 Kendall Ehrlich
RS-FR 6-1/225 OLB
45 Xavier Phillips
FR 6-1/205 OLB
52 Raaquan Davis
FR 6-1/205 OLB
51 Tyler Young
FR 5-9/215 MLB

Manning the middle for the 2013 Baylor Bears will be the same guy who ran things for most of last season: junior Bryce Hager.  He led the team and the conference in tackles with 124, an average of almost 10 per game.  Next to him will be one of the stars of Baylor's late-season defensive resurgence, senior Eddie Lackey, who took interceptions back to the house against both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.  They are both extremely capable players that form the backbone of our defense, and with an improved line in front of them, their numbers could be even better in 2013.

Eddie Lackey -- SR -- #5 -- 6-0, 220 pounds

I'll admit it-- I was a bit skeptical that Lackey would get it done in his first year at Baylor.  I thought he was undersized for the OLB spot and untested, having come from the JUCO ranks just one year before.  All he did was rack up 104 tackles his first year with 4 interceptions.  It wasn't always pretty, and he still suffers a bit against tight ends and when trying to cover slot receivers, but he proved me wrong.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR LB 71 33 104 10.5 2.0 4 110 27.5 2 5 0 0 0 1
Career Baylor 71 33 104 10.5 2.0 4 110 27.5 2 5 0 0 0 1

One thing Lackey probably won't ever do well for the Bears is blitz.  He's still going to be undersized against most offensive lineman, and even some running backs, and doesn't shed blocks all that well.  Still, if he can improve his coverage skills as he appeared to do toward the end of last season, he will be a tremendous asset against the wide-open offenses of the Big 12.

Brody Trahan -- SR -- #15 -- 5-11, 225 pounds

After starting 3 games for Baylor at the OLB spot in 2011, Trahan spent all of 2012 as a backup and special teams contributor.  He's second on the team in games played with an impressive 39, all of the games Baylor has played in the last three years.  He now enters his senior year as a reserve linebacker who will once again play mostly on special teams, having been passed up in the depth chart by two redshirt freshman on this list.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2010 Baylor Big 12 FR QB 3 1 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2011 Baylor Big 12 SO LB 19 13 32 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
*2012 Baylor Big 12 JR LB 16 10 26 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Career Baylor 38 24 62 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1


Bryce Hager -- JR -- #44 -- 6-2, 235 pounds

Hager's first year as a starter wasn't without controversy, as he saw himself benched for 3 games in the middle of last season under somewhat mysterious circumstances.  He still managed to lead the conference in tackles. Now, he's back in the saddle as the starter at MLB with expectations rising in his junior season.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2011 Baylor Big 12 FR LB 8 5 13 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
*2012 Baylor Big 12 SO LB 72 52 124 9.5 4.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2
Career Baylor 80 57 137 9.5 4.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 3

Hager's strength (he squat 610 pounds in the spring) and speed (4.49 in the 40) make him an athletic freak the likes of which we haven't seen at MLB in some time.  He's not perfect, though, and my guess is that his benching last season had more to do with his coverage skills than any supposed wrongdoing.  If he can improve in that area and in using his speed to get to the QB on designed blitzes, I see no reason he can't become the complete MLB our defense needs to take a huge step.

Baylor Black -- SO -- #55 -- 5-1.5, 180 pounds

A few things intrigue me about Mr. Black: 1) Did his parents name him Baylor because they were Baylor fans, or did they hope he might eventually play football here?  Did it have anything to do with the school at all? 2) How did a 5-1.5 linebacker even make it as a walk-on?  This is a very interesting story, indeed.  I know almost nothing else about him.

Aiavion Edwards -- RS-FR -- #20 -- 6-1, 225 pounds

Kendall Ehrlich -- RS-FR -- #16 -- 6-1, 225 pounds

No, Baylor doesn't have a secret lab somewhere that we use to breed 6-1 linebackers; it just seems that way.  These two, Edwards and Ehrlich, back up Hager and Lackey, respectively.  It's not easy to break into a LB rotation as a redshirt freshman, but they've done it.  I watched both play relatively well in a difficult situation Saturday against the first team offense, and if either Hager or Lackey gets hurt, you'll see them play.

It shouldn't surprise you, considering Phil Bennett recruited both, that Edwards and Ehrlich are both ridiculously strong-- squatting 710 (!!) and 605 pounds in the squat, respectively.  The former number was actually the highest on the team, including lineman.  They are also extremely fast -- Ehrlich ran a 4.59 in spring workouts with Edwards only slightly behind.  Those are great numbers from freshman with only a year in the program. I'm excited to see these guys in action.

Xavier Phillips -- FR -- #45 -- 6-1, 205 pounds

Raaquan Davis -- FR -- #52 -- 6-1, 205 pounds

Tyler Young -- FR -- 51 -- 5-9, 215 pounds

See, they don't get off the bus at 6-1, 225, some of them are 20 pounds lighter!*

*Also, I'm fairly certain Baylor is fudging these numbers a bit. Everywhere I've seen, Davis is listed at 6-2.  Who is right, Baylor or the recruiting services?

These are the three members of our 2013 recruiting class that should play LB for the Bears.  Davis and Phillips are, as far as I know, outside linebackers, specialists in rushing the QB.  Young is the reigning 5A Defensive Player of the Year in Texas.  Davis was the highest-rated of the bunch as a high-3* in last year's class.  All will redshirt this coming season to preserve their eligibility into 2017.

-----

With two starters coming back and two somewhat obvious candidates to back them up, there's not much intrigue at the LB position for the Bears in 2013.  I don't consider that a bad thing, though, since the guys we're bringing back are among the best in the conference.  2014 could be a bit dicey since we'll be choosing between a sophomore and a redshirt freshman at OLB, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there.  For now, linebacker is a clear strength of a defense looking to build on a strong end to 2012.

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