Spring Position Previews: Linebacker

ORLANDO (UCFKnights.com) – One of the mainstays of the UCF defensive unit for the past four seasons has left a hole in the middle of the Black and Gold defense. But there is plenty of talent remaining, along with some newcomers to provide depth at the second level.

Pat Jasinski started the last 26 games of his UCF career and saw action in all 51 contests, dating back to 2015. He led the team in tackles with 104 as a junior and ranked No. 4 on the team last season with 71 total stops.


But rising senior Nate Evans returns. He and Jasinski saw the lion’s share of the snaps last season, as the Knights were often in a 4-2-5 look, starting a nickel-back, as opposed to a traditional 4-3 look. Evans started 10 games and saw a great deal of action in all 13 contests. He racked up 99 tackles to rank No. 2 on the squad. He also ranked third on the team in tackles-for-loss with 10, while also racking up 2.5 sacks. Evans was instrumental in the Knights’ prowess at takeaways. He forced a fumble and recovered two others, including a 94-yard return vs. ECU to seal the victory.


In addition to Evans, rising sophomore Eriq Gilyard was thrust into duty in some key moments during his true freshman season when Jasinski battled some injury issues. Gilyard played in 11 of 13 games and tallied 38 tackles, including 5 tackles-for-loss.


Despite being listed in the same spot on the depth chart as Evans, rising junior Eric Mitchell was also a key cog in the Knights’ defense last season. Mitchell saw action in 11 games with three starts, ranking No. 9 on the team with 44 stops. He also tallied 4.5 TFLs and a pair of sacks. Mitchell hauled in an interception vs. FAU.


Despite the experience of Evans, Mitchell and Gilyard, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, who works closely with the linebackers, says it’s too early in spring to know who will step up and shine heading into next season.


“Don’t know,” Shannon said when asked about the linebackers recently. “Springtime is springtime. You put guys there and we’ve got some guys playing different positions right now, because we’re trying to build depth. Spring time is a fun time to find out who can do it at this point in time and then, when that fall camp comes, you start back from scratch again and keep going. It’s going to be fun this spring.”


Along with those three, Kalia Davis and Shawn Burgess-Becker both saw duty in 2018. Newcomers Tatum Bethune, Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste and Aundre Kearney all enrolled in January and will look to make an impression on Shannon and the coaching staff through spring ball, as they look to jockey for playing time come fall.


Next up in the spring position preview series: Running Backs (March 21).

2019 Returnees / 2018 Stats:

Shawn Burgess-Becker (r-Sr.) / 13 tackles - 2.0 TFL - 1 INT

Kalia Davis (r-So.) / 17 tackles - 2.5 TFL - 1 pbu

Nate Evans (Sr.) / 99 tackles - 10.0 TFL - 2.5 sacks - 2 fr - 1 ff

Eriq Gilyard (So.) / 38 tackles - 5.0 TFL - 2 qbh

Eric Mitchell (r-Jr.) / 44 tackles - 4.5 TFL - 2.0 sack - 1 INT

Stephon Zayas (r-So.) / 5 tackles - 1.0 TFL - 1 qbh

Lyston Barber (r-So.)

Isaiah Brown (r-Fr.)

Darious East (r-So.)

Tye Farmer (r-So.)

Austin Kearney (So.)

Monterious Loggins (r-Jr.)

Steven Moss (r-So.)

CJ Reeves (r-Fr.)

Randy Shannon (r-Jr.)