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Houston Cougars Spring Position Previews: Linebacker

New positions provide unique challenges for an inexperienced group.

Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

If you didn’t know by now, the defense is going to look a lot different in 2019 than it did last season. Joe Cauthen’s scheme will change things up, and no one experiences more of a change than this group. Houston utilized four linebackers last season, and could go down to two assuming Cauthen’s running a 4-2-5 again. He does use a “Bandit” position, which is a pass rushing linebacker, so that could give another linebacker a chance to see the field. Either way, there will be less reps to go around, so guys will have to adapt.

POSITIONS: QB, RB, WR/TE, OL, DL, DB, S/T

Returning Production

Leroy Godfrey
42 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended

Derek Parish
21 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks

David Anenih
20 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks

Elijah Gooden
14 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2 forced fumbles

Zamar Kirven
8 tackles

Donavan Mutin
7 tackles, 1 pass defended

Jordan Milburn
6 tackles

Player Previews

NCAA Football: Arizona at Houston
Godfrey returns as the most experienced player in the group.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Leroy Godfrey, Senior

In his final season, Godfrey faces his toughest challenge yet. Playing outside linebacker last year, he might have to learn how to play inside this year. With both Austin Robinson and Roman Brown (both 100+ tacklers last year) gone, someone has to man the middle. Godrey is the most experienced returner, but can he move inside? He has good instincts and speed to bring him to the ball, and he’s certainly not afraid to lay a big hit. If his technique improves as much as it did last year, he won’t leave the field.

David Anenih, Junior

Anenih’s abilities make him a candidate for that Bandit position. He relies on his speed to get past slower offensive lineman, and that also allows him to be sent into coverage to guard a receiver. His long frame helps him take up space and deflect passes come is way as well as keep blockers off of him. He may not be a candidate to play in the middle, but he should still see the field this year.

Elijah Gooden, Junior

Potentially the hardest hitter on the team for his size, Gooden doesn’t shy away from contact. Even if the man he’s hitting has 100 pounds on him, Gooden delivers a blow that snaps the blocker’s neck back. Coaches will love him because he plays fast when he trusts his reads, which could make him a candidate for one of the open spots. Getting stronger and more experience will only make him a better player.

Derek Parish, Sophomore

Arguably the most disciplined player on this team, Parish is great at reading plays and using good technique. He understands leverage better than almost anyone, and uses that to his advantage to get in good positions to make plays. Houston even lined him up as a defensive lineman when injuries depleted that position, and he thrived there as well. Speed isn’t a big strength for him, but he makes up for that in physicality and leverage. His instincts bring him to the ball, and there isn’t a blocker that will get in his way.

Jordan Milburn, Senior

In the rare occasion that Robinson or Brown weren’t in the game (which wasn’t often), Milburn took their spots. That explains his low stat numbers more than anything. Milburn will compete for one of the inside spots, and should finally get to show what he can do. He’s not afraid to take on any blocker, and appears to have good instincts to read plays.

Others listed on roster: Jacob Daulong, Sophomore; Melvin Larkins, Redshirt Freshman; Dekalen Goodson, Redshirt Freshman; Alexander Duke, Sophomore; Amaud Willis-Dalton, Sophomore; Zamar Kirven, Sophomore; Donavan Mutin, Sophomore

Recruiting class additions: Nelson Caeser; Terrance Edgeston

Outlook

Honestly, your guess is as good as mine. If I had to pick, I’d probably go with Godfrey and Parish at the Mike and Will, with Anenih playing the Bandit. This competition will be intense mostly because the spots are limited. Depth will be a concern until players prove themselves, so this could be a group to watch. A new scheme and new positions will provide challenges for nearly everyone, so this will be a position to watch in the spring.

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