AUSTIN, Texas - Pity the poor running back that’s charged with pass-protection duties when Texas’ massive linebacker Malcolm Roach blitzes into the backfield with a head of steam.
On a team chock-full of big, strong and fast men, Roach is a standout, a freak (in a good way) because of his combination of skills and the determination to inflict his will on opponents.
Roach, a junior from Baton Rouge, La., is listed as the starting “B” linebacker for the Longhorns on their depth chart for the season opener at Maryland on Saturday.
But expect to see Roach play some at the other linebacker spots as well, especially during the first half as middle linebacker Anthony Wheeler sits out a suspension from a targeting penalty in the Texas Bowl in December.
Texas coach Tom Herman singled out Roach as one of his most improved players during preseason camp. He added that it’s almost unfair to have a running back trying to block Roach when he blitzes up the middle.
“I mean, you should see, like, when Malcolm is the running back’s responsibility in pass protection and he blitzes and the sea parts and he’s coming at this poor running back full speed,” Herman said with a bit of a grin. “It’s like asking a running back to block a three technique in pass protection. You wouldn’t do that.
“We’re talking about a 6-foot-2, 282-pound middle linebacker. So we have no hesitation putting him there because he can run around, he can bend, he can move, he can shed blocks.”
Roach has played in every game since he’s been on the 40 Acres and has racked up 70 total tackles, 42 of those solo. He’s recorded 12 total tackles for a loss, five of which were sacks.
“His versatility is off the charts,” Herman added about Roach. “He can play middle linebacker. He can play our outside linebacker. He can, in a pinch, put his hand down and play defensive end. He can rush the passer. He can drop in zone.”
Roach has emerged as a legitimate NFL prospect. His physical gifts and full-out motor are a given, but Herman said Roach has also matured as a leader over the past year.
“Malcolm has said some things in team meetings and in front of the team out on the field that, I mean, he sounds like a coach,” Herman said. “Which is not surprising based on the fact that his dad is a coach, and he grew up in that environment.
“This is a guy that went from kind of the loveable jokester in the locker room to being the mature leader that deserves to be on our council. That’s been the biggest area of improvement for him.”
—Steve Habel, Field Level Media