- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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This week, we’re taking a closer look at one specific area each Big 12 team needs to improve before 2015. We continue the series with Texas Tech.
Position to improve: Linebacker
Why it was a problem: The Red Raiders didn’t have a dominating force in the middle of their defense. Sam Eguavoen (73) and Micah Awe (69) finished second and third in tackles for Tech yet neither guy was a unquestioned playmaker for a defense that allowed 259.5 rushing yards per game and 5.19 yards per carry. Arkansas dominating win in Lubbock in mid-September featured 438 rushing yards and was a early sign that the Red Raiders defense just wasn’t well-equipped to handle a strong running game and a lack of playmaking linebackers was a main culprit.
How it can be fixed: Awe is the Red Raiders' leading returning tackler at the position but Tech needs to add talent and depth at the position, which is losing several departed seniors including Eguavoen. Three-star linebacker D'Vonta Hinton is the lone linebacker on Tech’s commitment list so the answer will largely have to come from the players on campus. Thus, all eyes will be on Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell, who has the pedigree and talent to slide into the Red Raiders defense and start transforming the linebacker spot after spending the past season on Tech's scout team defense. A member of the ESPN300 in the Class of 2013, Mitchell can make plays from sideline-to-sideline and could develop into the dominant force Kliff Kingsbury's defense has been searching for during his first two seasons in charge.
Early 2015 outlook: Mitchell brings plenty of hope to the position as he provides an immediate talent upgrade. Tech is losing a lot at linebacker, which means they could be even worse in 2015 but Mitchell brings a combination of talent, upside and excitement to the position. He could become the face of the linebacker corps in Lubbock but he will need help from Awe and the rest of the Red Raiders' linebackers to make the overall unit a more productive group.