The Dotted Line: Texas possesses a young, talented linebackers core
The Texas defense is about to learn its third defensive scheme in as many seasons. Todd Orlando and his odd-man front was replaced by Chris Ash's 4-2-5 system before the 2020 season.
Steve Sarkisian replaced Ash in January with Washington's Pete Kwiatkowski, who utilizes a three- and four-man front in his defensive philosophy, sometimes even deploying a 2-4-5 with four linebackers.
Luckily for Kwiatkowski, he inherits some young, talented linebackers alongside a tandem of returning starters.
DeMarvion Overshown, junior
FYI: Four-stars, from Arp; ranked 52nd nationally, No. 6-ranked safety in 2018
Overshown was an oversized safety from a Class 2A school in East Texas. He was an Under Armour All-American who signed in the same class as fellow safeties Caden Sterns and BJ Foster. The trio arrived with much fanfare, but it took Overshown until his third year to find a home at linebacker.
Overshown started one game over his first two seasons, playing in 17 total, mostly on special teams. As a junior in 2020, he listened to the advice of Ash and moved to linebacker. He improved throughout the season, ending the year as the defensive MVP of the Alamo Bowl. Overshown started all 10 games, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors after recording 60 tackles and a team-high seven pass breakups.
Juwan Mitchell, junior
FYI: Three-stars, from Butler C.C. (El Dorado, Kans.); ranked 158th nationally, No. 6-ranked JUCO inside linebacker in 2019
Originally from New Jersey, Mitchell began his career at the JUCO level in Kansas. When he signed in 2019, he was the Longhorns' lowest-ranked signee for that cycle. He has overachieved in his two years. Mitchell started five games as a sophomore in 2019, recording 39 tackles and three sacks. He started all 10 games in 2020, leading the team with 62 tackles. He and Overshown should start at Texas’ two inside linebacker spots in 2021 unless one, or both, is moved outside to accommodate the new defensive philosophy.
Jaylan Ford, freshman
FYI: Three-stars, from Frisco Lone Star; was not ranked nationally, No. 81-ranked outside linebacker in 2020
Ford started the Alamo Bowl because Mitchell was serving a suspension for a targeting call in the finale against Kansas State. Ford, a two-time all-state selection, played in all 10 games. He finished the year with 14 tackles. Ford made seven stops against Kansas State and four against Colorado.
David Gbenda, freshman
FYI: Four-stars, from Katy Cinco Ranch; ranked 165th nationally, No. 11-ranked inside linebacker in 2019
Gbenda was a two-time all-district selection and an Under Armour-All American. He played in the maximum allotment of four games before taking a redshirt in 2019. His lone start came against Kansas in 2019. Last year, Gbenda finished with 19 tackles and an interception in nine games.
Other linebackers expected on campus for 2021: Cort Jaquess, Jett Bush, Marcus Tillman Jr., Jaden Hullaby, Prince Dorbah, Terrence Cooks (2021), Morice Blackwell (2021)
Trevell Johnson, inside linebacker, Arlington Martin
FYI: 6-1, 200; three stars; No. 21-ranked inside linebacker
Offers: Committed to Texas
Johnson was a second-team all-district selection as a sophomore in 2019, recording 99 tackles, forcing a fumble and causing a safety. He took another step forward in a strong junior season with 109 tackles, including 14 for loss and four sacks. He also broke up three passes and forced three fumbles. He was the District 8-6A special teams MVP for his efforts on a Martin squad that went 10-2 and reached the third round of the Class 6A Division I playoffs.
Justin Medlock, inside linebacker, Manvel
FYI: 6-1, 210; three-stars; No. 15-ranked inside linebacker
Manvel isn’t the hotbed of talent it was before the 2016 opening of neighboring high school Shadow Creek, which won the Class 5A Division I state championship in 2019. Medlock puts Manvel back on the recruiting map for the next cycle. His offer list is more impressive than his recruiting ranking, and I imagine he moves into the four-star range as a senior. Medlock moved to south Houston from DeSoto after his freshman year. His father, Jason, played linebacker at Texas A&M. His brother, Jayce, is a tight end at Connecticut.
Harold Perkins, outside linebacker, Houston Cypress Park
FYI: 6-2, 200; five-stars; No. 1-ranked outside linebacker
Perkins is the state's best linebacker prospect for the 2022 cycle. He’s a legit five-star outside linebacker who can run, tackle and cover. He's ranked 19th nationally by the 247Sports composite ranking. He was the District 14-6A defensive newcomer of the year as a sophomore in 2019, logging 46 tackles, including nine for loss and four sacks, and seven pass breakups. He was a first-team all-district selection at linebacker and running back in 2020. Texas A&M is the favorite.
Martrell Harris, outside linebacker, The Woodlands
FYI: 6-1, 205; four stars; No. 28-ranked outside linebacker
Harris holds 12 offers despite not playing varsity as a sophomore due to transfer rules; he played his freshman season at Conroe Grand Oaks before transferring to The Woodlands. Texas offered him back in February 2020. Coaches couldn’t watch him play as a junior because of the dead period. Harris is one of three in-state outside linebacker prospects to hold a Texas offer. Finding linebackers in Texas is increasingly difficult as defenses move away from normal schemes in favor of nickel defenses that are more effective against spread offenses.
Kip Lewis, outside linebacker, Carthage
FYI: 6-2, 200; three stars; No. 43-ranked outside linebacker
Lewis raised his recruiting stock with a defensive MVP performance in the 2020 Class 4A Division II state championship game. He was the leading tackle for the Carthage state championship squad, finishing the year with 140 tackles, including 17 for loss and four sacks. He also intercepted a pass and caused two fumbles. Texas offered on Jan 21. He’s picked up offers from Oklahoma, USC, LSU and Notre Dame over the past month.