With the dismissal of LB Dakota Allen, the defense takes a fairly significant hit. Allen was the team’s leading returning tackler and was an emerging leader of the defense, merely from the standpoint that he was speaking to the media after practices and generally appeared to be a big part of the team. At the very least, he appeared invested, as did the team in Allen.
Allen was occupying the middle linebacker spot with Johnathan Picone his primary backup. Alongside Allen was D’Vonta Hinton at the weakside linebacker spot and Malik Jenkins at the strongside linebacker spot.
Move Malik Jenkins (6-1/220) to Middle Linebacker. I think the likely scenario would be for Jenkins to move to the middle linebacker spot. He’s got the most experience and he has the requisite size to play the middle I think, but his frame is limited. Plus, the coaches mentioned all spring how Jenkins had cross-trained at every linebacker spot, so if the coaches deem the middle linebacker spot more important than the strongside spot, then this makes sense. You’ll have to shuffle some additional spots.
Move D’Vonta Hinton (5-9/225) to Middle Linebacker. The other option would be to move D’Vonta Hinton to the middle, but I worry a bit about Hinton playing two positions, not the physicality aspect. It might be best to keep him where he is and let him be great there at the weakside spot.
Johnathan Picone (6-1/220). It would be really tough to envision David Gibbs trusting Johnathan Picone to step into that middle linebacker spot after only having played for a semester. It’s ridiculously impressive that he’s come so far in that semester and has earned that second team spot. Plus, at only 210 or 220 and maybe not having the strength that someone older might possess.
Luke Stice (6-0/230). Stice was Hinton’s back-up at the weakside linebacker spot, but Stice has very little experience playing linebacker. He mostly played fullback while at Houston, so this is somewhat of a brand new thing for him. If the coaching staff wanted an experienced player that has some good size.
Jacarthy Mack (6-2/197). Kingsbury mentioned toward the end of the spring that he wanted to find other ways to get Mack on the field because he simply makes plays. Despite Kingsbury saying that, Mack still didn’t make the two-deep but he’s really a guy that doesn’t have a position. He’s too small to play on the line and he’s really too small to play linebacker too. Maybe the staff figures out a way to shuffle things to so that Mack gets a shot at the strongside linebacker spot.
Jamile Johnson (6-0/210). Johnson was talked about prior to the spring about playing linebacker but we really didn’t hear much of anything from Johnson and I really don’t know if he’s at safety or at linebacker. His 4-star status would lead you to think that he might have the ability to cover the field better than some of these other options as a former safety, but I just don’t know where he is at this point of his career.
Kahlee Woods (6-1/227). Woods has never gotten much of a shot at linebacker. Woods was a tackling machine at Sherman but that hasn’t panned out at all at Texas Tech.
Jordyn Brooks (6-1/232). Brooks is the true freshman from Stratford in Houston that is the most college-ready in terms of size. The problem is that Brooks is more green than Picone and hasn’t had any time in the system.