Texas Tech Fall Camp Position Battles: Strongside Linebacker

Tale of the Tape

Malik Jenkins vs. Sam Atoe
6-1/220 Ht/Wt 5-11/231
Junior Year Senior
7 Tackles 7
1.0 TFL 1.5
0 Sacks 0

Staking The Plains Staff

MeestahRogers: In the spring game, if you can call it that, we saw Malik Jenkins take the field as the starting weakside or Will linebacker, with Sam Atoe starting opposite him as the strongside backer. Fast forward to a couple of weeks back when the coaching staff released the depth chart, we see that Jenkins and Atoe are listed together as possible starters for the strongside linebacker position. With neither player having too much notable game experience up to this point, my evaluation is really based on what I saw in that open spring practice in Midland. We saw Atoe miss a ton of tackles by diving at the ball carrier’s feet, while Jenkins had a relatively quiet practice. I’m torn here because I can’t decide if I like that someone quietly takes care of business, but doesn’t make any big plays, or if I like to see someone going all out and failing sometimes in the process. Based on what I know right now and my reading way too much into a post-spring depth chart, I’ll pick Jenkins. He moved over from a different position and is still listed as a co-starter. Plus, he’s listed ahead of Atoe on the list. VERDICT: Jenkins

Brian: With roughly equal production last season between Jenkins & Atoe, I’m giving the nod to Atoe based off of his proven production at the College of San Mateo. Yes, there’s quite a difference between JUCO & FBS play, it’s typical for JUCO transfers to take a year to get acclimated so I feel we’ve yet to see the best he has to offer. Given that the SLB will probably be coming off the field in nickle packages, I’m hoping that Atoe’s few extra pounds will help be a boon in stopping the run. Furthermore, I think there’s a potential for us to see quite a bit of flux at LB for the first few games at least. With Jenkins’ move over to SLB and Mitchell’s move to Bandit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gibbs continue to tweak and experiment. VERDICT: Atoe

Seth: Not a lot of stats to pour over here and make a solid choice based on the small sample size on the field. Most of these tackles, I’d bet, came off of special teams. Atoe is really just a whirling dervish on legs and if I had it my way, I think I’d as that Atoe be my special teams ace. He can be “the guy” and the leader of that group because there are times where I think that group lacks serious leadership. Atoe just hasn’t played a ton at linebacker, even at the JUCO level, while Jenkins played there in high school and played there for the past two years, unable to get past some more senior players. I’d ultimately say that although I’m going with Jenkins, David Gibbs ain’t gonna mess around and just settle for a guy. He’ll find another player if this doesn’t work out for him. I think Gibbs said earlier this spring that he’s cross-training the linebackers, which means he’s getting these guys ready to play any position. VERDICT: Jenkins


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