Monday, April 16, 2012

Spring Questions revisited: #4

Linebacker, as it has been for years now, was not supposed to be a major question mark for the Horned Frogs. Kenny Cain, the team's leading tackler in 2011, would be back- as would 2010 leading tackler Tanner Brock. The only real question was who would join them in the 2012 rotation and become leading candidates to start in 2013. Then obviously Brock was dismissed from the team, and linebacker shot up to #4 on my list of pre-spring questions.

As if linebacker depth weren't already strained enough, we learned very early on in spring practice that Greg Burks' career was ending early due to medical reasons. The special teams ace will not get the chance to take his bone-jarring hits to the defense as a senior this fall. Two other prospective linebackers will be plying their trade at other positions this coming season. Sophomore Antonio Graves, the high school quarterback turned safety/turned wide receiver/turned linebacker...has moved BACK to safety. Redshirt freshman Laderice Sanders has moved over to offense where he'll fill the void left at fullback by Luke Shivers' graduation.

With all of those departures and Kenny Cain being sidelined with an ankle injury (he's ok now, folks) early in spring practice, some of the younger guys got their chance to shine. Sophomore Deryck Gildon, who performed admirably on special teams as a true freshman last year after graduating from Arlington Martin a semester early, figured to be the favorite to win a starting job alongside Cain- whom Patterson called "the closest thing" to a leader for this defense.

Gildon, though, did not apparently do enough this spring to cement his status as a starter. He remained running with the first team in practices, but Patterson would not officially grant him the #1 middle linebacker job. Could this be a motivational tactic to get more out of what we all viewed as a future star, or is Gildon simply not progressing? I suppose time will tell.

The two names we kept hearing coming out of spring practice over and over were the pair of sophomore walk-on linebackers from Aledo- Danny Heiss and Joel Hasley. Patterson seemed to be praising these two guys quite often, and they look to comprise the second team for now, and the possibility remains for one of them to challenge Gildon to start.

Here's another place for a clear delineation between optimistic Frog fans...and those that constantly think that the sky is falling. Should we be worried because TCU's linebacking corps has been reduced to depending on non-scholarship players? Or are Heiss and Hasley's ascents up the depth chart another example of Patterson & his staff finding hidden recruiting gems and developing walk-ons into contributors like Jared Kessler, Ryan Christian, Bart Johnson and Robert Deck before them?


SnK said...

I worry about walk on linebackers playing in year 1 of the Big 12. I could be wrong though, but yeah it scares me.

Cowtown Food Junkie said...

I think Gildon is definitely a starter with Cain. Just typical CGP smokescreen. Can't forget about the freshmen coming in the fall. AJ Hilliard was one of the Top 20 LB's in the country on Rivals and ESPN. I think he will jump at the chance to contribute some snaps. James McFarland is also rumored to want a chance at LB, and I would think he'll get his chance with the losses. He would give us that "big" LB that so many seem concerned we don't have, as he's around 245 lbs. I don't think the ones saying that realize that Gildon is up to about 235 pounds though.