Some would argue this group had a lot to prove in 2017. Most of the time we only play with two of them in the game at the same time. With that style of defense and with most offenses in the SEC going to spread concepts, finding linebackers that can play the run and the pass has been crucial.
With seven games in the books, two of our top three tacklers come from the linebacker position. Not only has Tyrel Dodson and Otaro Alaka combined for 60 solo tackles, they have come up with 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Dodson has also added three interceptions which is two away from tying for the lead in the country.
What we all wanted to know during the spring and fall camp who would be backing these guys up? And when we decided to play with three linebackers in the game, who would be that guy? The answer has been Anthony Hines and Buddy Johnson. Hines has been what we thought he would be, highly productive. The problem is how do you take Dodson or Alaka off the field? I guess we could play him more, but his natural position isn’t the SAM linebacker. I will take what he gives us when he is on the field.
In his seven games, he’s come up with four tackles for loss and two sacks and he alone disrupted a critical series late in the game against Florida. If his production can continue and if we can find ways to get him extra snaps the defense can continue to be a bright spot down the stretch.
As for Johnson and the rest of the backups, they need to continue to make plays on defense and special teams because you never know when you’ll be called upon.
Second half notes
The grade could be better but there’s still been a play or two in every game where the linebackers are out of position. We’ve survived up to this point, I believe this unit will get better.