28 Aug

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Expect Roach to be a pest against Maryland

Malcolm Roach plans to be a pest for opposing offenses all season long. (Photo courtesy texassports.com)

Third-year LB has become one of Texas’ vocal leaders

By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – There are plenty of big, strong and fast men on the Texas football team’s roster of extraordinary players.

And then there’s Malcolm Roach. A linebacker who stands out as 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 at the starting “B” linebacker for the Longhorns on their depth chart for the season-opener Saturday at Maryland.

Yet expect to see Roach play a bit at the other linebacker spots as well, especially on the first half as middle linebacker Anthony Wheeler sits out a suspension from a targeting penalty in the Texas Bowl last December.

“We're talking about a 6'2", 282-pound middle linebacker,” said Texas coach Tom Herman about Roach. “So, we have no hesitation putting him there because he can run around, he can bend, he can move, he can shed blocks.

Roaring and roaming over the entire field, Roach has played in every game since he’s been on the 40 Acres. During his time the linebacker has racked up 70 total tackles — 42 of those solo. He’s also recorded 12 total tackles for a loss, five of which were sacks.

“His versatility is off the charts,” Herman said. “(Roach) 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.”

Herman added that it’s almost unfair to have a running back trying to block Roach when he blitzes up the middle.

“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.”

Roach has emerged as a legitimate NFL prospect. His physical gifts and full-out motor are a given, but Herman said the junior 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."

As he blossoms into a leader for this year's Longhorns, Roach's relatable charisma extends to all aspects of his life making team-building a natural role for the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll honoree.

“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," Herman concluded. "That’s been the biggest area of improvement for him.”

Steve Habel is a senior contributing writer for Horns Illustrated. He has covered Texas sports since 1989 and was this magazine’s senior editor for 24 years. You can follow him on twitter @stevehabel .