- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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Competition will be intense to fill the critical “Raider” outside linebacking spot occupied by the productive Terrance Bullitt last season.
Departed: The Red Raiders bring back starters Pete Robertson at the “Bandit” linebacker position. Sam Eguavoen and Micah Awe will man the spots inside in defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt’s 3-4 scheme. But the Red Raiders still have to figure out how they will replace Bullitt at the “Raider” on the outside. Bullitt led all Big 12 linebackers with nine pass breakups, despite playing with a bum arm for most of the season. He won’t be easily replaced.
Summer contenders: None
The skinny: Wallerstedt has indicated that he’d like to audition several players at the “Raider” this spring.
Crawford will get the first crack after playing safety last season. Crawford sprained his ankle last preseason, and only appeared in four games. But Wallerstedt likes the potential of Crawford bringing speed to both man up slot receivers and also blitz off the edge.
Stewart will be another player to watch on the outside. Stewart played more than any of the other contenders last season, registering 39 tackles and two sacks last season. But Stewart was up and down at times, and could be used elsewhere on the field or as a spot player.
Mack has plenty of athleticism, too, but might be a year away from being ready to be an every-down player.
The dark horse to watch here is Bowen, who was part of last year’s walk-on class that produced starting QB Baker Mayfield and starting safety Tanner Jacobson. Bowen, a former high school QB, brings intelligence and toughness to the position that has impressed the coaching staff so far.
Prediction: Provided he’s not also needed at safety, Crawford will hold the starting job. But Wallerstedt will rotate in an array of players like Stewart and Bowen in certain situations at what could turn into a deep position for the Red Raiders.
23hMax Olson and Matt Fortuna