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Monday, June 24, 2013
Burnt Orange Breakdown: LB Thompson

By Carter Strickland

During the summer, HornsNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Texas roster -- excluding the Longhorns' 2013 recruiting class -- in our Burnt Orange Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Mike Davis, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 99 Desmond Jackson.

No. 35 Kendall Thompson
Junior linebacker

Expectations for 2013: Thompson is coming off a solid season in 2012. He started seven games and was fifth on the team in tackles. But as Texas moved into spring, it became apparent that Thompson would have an uphill fight for playing time. Although Thompson is versatile enough to play either inside or out at linebacker, there is really not a starting spot for him. Both outside spots appear to be locked down with Jordan Hicks and Peter Jinkens. The inside is going to go to either Dalton Santos or Steve Edmond. That doesn’t rule out Thompson for playing time. Hicks has had injury issues, and if those crop up again, Thompson might be the first guy pulled off the bench. He and Tevin Jackson are also likely to be the first two reserve linebackers Texas uses.

Best-case scenario for 2013: Texas likes the depth that it has at linebacker this year and is not afraid to go to the bench and use some of those guys. Thompson will be one of the first used. He became a reliable tackler and his versatility allows the Longhorns to plug him into various holes. He also was a standout on special teams and should continue in that role in 2013. Thompson is very good at making plays behind the line of scrimmage and, while not blessed with extraordinary speed, is crafty enough to be deployed in some blitz packages against pass-happy teams such as Baylor. If he registers between 30 and 40 tackles in 2013, it should be considered a solid year.

Worst-case scenario in 2013: If Thompson plays a lot in 2013, it means one of the starters has been hurt. While losing a starter would not exactly be devastating for Texas because the backups are so strong, the Longhorns do not want to start mixing and matching linebackers, as they did last year. That method caused myriad missed assignments, gaps and tackles. For Texas to be at its best at linebacker it needs the three starters to be healthy and players like Thompson to be ready to spell those starters on a defensive stand or two during games.

Future expectations: Because of the youth movement at linebacker -- two of the expected starters, Santos and Jinkens, are sophomores -- there is not much hope that Thompson can bide his time eventually move into the starting spot. Plus Hicks appears as if he will stay for an additional year in 2014, so that means Texas is set to return all its starters in 2014, Thompson’s senior season. Thompson can continue to be a strong backup and special-teams player but he might never start seven games in a season, as he did in 2012.