Texas linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson were first and second in tackles, respectively last season.
Now they are both gone.
And they took not just their athleticism and leadership with them, but also the knowledge about the inner-workings and intricacies of defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's defense. It took both of those seniors several games to understand where they needed to be on the field, how they needed to position the defensive line as well as defensive backs and which of the 180 blitz packages to execute.
Now Texas has to start over.
What Texas has …
Jordan Hicks is the only consistent starter back from last year's linebacking corps. The rising junior battled through a hamstring injury and finished with 65 tackles. But even then, Hicks was considered a disappointment, considering the hype with which he entered Texas.
This spring will be Hicks' chance to emerge as the leader of the defense primarily because he is the most experienced player at the most viable position.
Alongside Hicks, Demarco Cobbs and Steve Edmond should contend for starting spots. Cobbs is healthy after dealing with a forearm injury throughout 2011. Edmond made his mark on special teams in 2011 and appears ready to take over at the linebacker position.
What it needs …
As with most of the positions on defense, the Longhorns need to develop some depth at the linebacker position. Tevin Jackson, Kendall Thompson and Chet Moss are all players who need to contribute, especially given that Texas was unable to keep all three linebackers healthy in 2011. Robinson dealt with a thumb injury. Hicks had hamstring issues. Cobbs had a broken forearm. Moss had back issues.
Texas did sign several linebackers, but Diaz's system is so complex that it is not likely those newcomers will be able to come in and make an impact.
Diaz will concentrate on building depth from what the team already has on the roster.