We’re answering 50 of the biggest questions entering the Texas A&M football season, and one of the biggest on defense is replacing two linebacker starters.
Texas A&M football didn’t have much of an issue at linebacker over the past couple of seasons — the position was held down by two guys who would go on to be signed to NFL rosters prior to this 2019 season. Otaro Alaka and Tyrel Dodson gave Jimbo Fisher a mountain of experience as a luxury in his first season at the helm, one he will have to figure out how to replace in year two.
With both linebackers and safety Donovan Wilson moving on to the NFL, the natural leadership positions will be replaced. Someone will have to step into those roles with so much of the experience gone from a season ago. So, Fisher has the unenviable task of not only replacing two of his most productive defensive players, but also two of the leaders on defense.
Are Buddy Johnson and Anthony Hines III up to the task?
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Johnson has been a regular in the rotation over the past two seasons. He was technically named a starter in each of those years, but the Aggies mostly deployed two-linebacker formations. It wasn’t until he started in place of an injured Alaka in the Gator Bowl did he get a true sense of playing full time. He did not disappoint with seven tackles, helping slow down one of the nation’s top pass defenses.
Hines was going to be a contributor on the 2018 defense but suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the season and this spring. It won’t be until fall camp rolls around when we will actually know if he’ll be available for the start of the season, but the expectations are that he will.
In limited action, Hines put up some impressive numbers as a true freshman. He had 33 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks backing up Alaka and Dodson. Hines is expecting a lot from himself and the defense this season.
Fisher was recently asked about these two while speaking in front of the Texas High School Coaches Association.
"“Buddy played pretty well outside when he did but the steps he took in the bowl game (seven tackles, three solos) were very refreshing” said Fisher. To go inside and play against a quality opponent like he did in NC State and play as well as he did…I think he’s had a good spring and developed. He’s learning how to lead.Anthony Hines…it’s great to get him back. He is an excellent athlete, big time player. It was a shame that we didn’t get to play him all year. Those guys provide a lot of leadership and a lot of athleticism and hopefully they’ll get a little bit of experience in there. They’ll be needed because they’ll big years for us to be successful.”"
While the two have limited experience in their careers, this moment has been a long time coming for both of them. They are ready and capable to continue the example set Alaka and Dodson.