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2022 Football Position Preview: Linebackers

Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste leads a rebuilt linebacker room for the 2022 season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 UCF at Navy Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Between graduating seniors and outgoing transfers, it would be easier to name the UCF Knights linebackers that stayed with the team.

While the majority of production lost at the position comes with the graduation of Bryson Armstrong and the departure of Tatum Bethune to Florida State, several others also took the opportunity to enter the transfer portal or exhausted their final year of eligibility.

While one of the team’s defensive leaders at the position is back, some of defensive coordinator Travis Williams’ new additions will have to play a sizable role to match the unit’s production from last season.

Who Stayed?

Derek Warden

The Linebacker unit has its anchor in the form of senior Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste, its lone returner that tallied double-digit tackles last season (51).

Alongside his experience, Williams said the Florida City native is a “natural leader,” exhibited by his election as one of this season’s team captains.

“We’re going to actually do a lot of different things as far as quarterbacking the defense, getting guys lined up,” Williams said at UCF Football Media Day. “We may send him on different pressures and different things like that because he has a skillset of rushing the passer as well.”

While new faces will take up a vast majority of this season’s linebackers, Jean-Baptiste provides an anchoring presence to bring them into the fold.

Jean Baptiste is joined by fellow returners Quade Mosier and Derek Burns. While both players participated in a majority of last season’s games, the duo combined for only eight tackles.

Thus, unless Mosier and Burns undergo a drastic uptick in snaps, it will be the Knights’ new additions to the unit that will join Jean-Baptiste on the field.

Incoming Transfers

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 17 Maryland at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Williams said during Media day that he was a coach that likes to build relationships with his players. However, with such a large group of new additions to the linebacker room, some larger group activities were required, such as backyard fishing.

According to Williams, sophomore Branden Jennings caught his first fish at a get-together of the linebackers at the defensive coordinator’s home last week. Jennings arrived at UCF from Maryland (via Kansas State), where he recorded 23 tackles in his freshman season.

“The quickest way to my heart is to go get somebody,” Williams said last week. “I’ll teach you football, but I can’t teach you how to be tough, and he’s a natural tough kid.”

Jennings is joined by fellow Maryland transfer Terrence Lewis. While the redshirt freshman was limited during spring practice, he has been full-go in fall camp.

“He has a nose for the ball and a high football IQ as well, understanding the defense and picking up the defense,” Williams said.

While Williams describes redshirt junior Jason Johnson as quiet, the Eastern Illinois transfer is coming off a season where he was named to the All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team and led the conference with 112 tackles and 63 solo tackles.

“You don’t have to be the loudest person as long as he’s doing his job,” Williams said. “He had a solid scrimmage and we’ve thrown a lot at him on purpose.”

Others joining the unit from the transfer portal are Savannah State transfer Walter Yates lll, Army transfer Camden Vining, and JUCO transfer Tre’von Moore.

True Freshmen

In true symmetrical fashion, just as there are only three returning linebackers there are also three true freshman linebackers:

  • Kam Moore, the younger brother of former UCF defensive back Brandon “Bam” Moore, joins the Henderson brothers in the latest crop of Knights from Seminole High School.
  • TJ Bullard is the son of the WWE’s Titus O’Neil. O’Neil, then known as Thaddeus Bullard, played under Steve Spurrier at Florida as a defensive end from 1997-2000.
  • Stone Boss joined the team as a preferred walk-on alongside another fellow Lake Mary High School graduate, kicker Colton Boomer.

“They are hungry,” Jean Baptiste said. “All of them are hungry, eager. They want to play.”

“They want to play fast and make hits. None of them are scared at all.”

UCF Linebackers

No. Name Height Weight Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
No. Name Height Weight Year 2021 School 2021 Stats
10 Terrence Lewis 6-3 190 RS Freshman Maryland 5-star recruit and #1 LB in 2021. Missed 2021 with torn ACL.
11 Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste 6-2 230 Senior UCF 51 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble
15 Jason Johnson 6-2 200 RS Junior Eastern Illinois 101 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 0.5 Sacvks, 1 Forced Fumble, 4 Fumble Recoveries
16 TJ Bullard 6-1 190 Freshman Berkeley Prep 3-star recruit (247)
25 Camden Vining 6-0 225 RS Sophomore Army N/A
27 Walter Yates lll 6-1 219 RS Senior Savannah St. 2 tackles, 2 TFL (missed most of season with torn bicep)
28 Quade Mosier 6-2 225 Junior UCF 5 tackles, 1 TFL
30 Kam Moore 6-1 205 Freshman Seminole HS 3-star recruit (247)
41 Tre'Von Moore 6-2 230 Sophomore Dodge City CC 24 tackles, 4 TFL
44 Branden Jennings 6-3 226 Sophomore Maryland 23 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 Forced Fumble
48 Stone Boss 5-11 205 Freshman Lake Mary HS #25 player in Florida (MaxPreps)
57 Derek Burns 6-3 200 RS Junior UCF 3 tackles