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UConn football 2023 position preview: Linebackers

This position group had the most turnover, but also has seen a lot of experienced additions join the squad and returns its star.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Welcome to our position previews! We’ve already covered the quarterbacks, running backs, offensive line, and wide receivers, and now are on to the defense.

UConn’s linebacker group was pretty solid and experienced in 2022, but a lot of that experience ran out of eligibility. Longtime Huskies Ian Swenson and Hunter Webb are no longer on the team and former grad transfers Brandon Bouyer-Randle and Marquez Bembry are also gone.

As a result, linebacker was the position where it seemed like the most reinforcements arrived via the transfer portal. The Huskies returned the star of this group in Jackson Mitchell, but he is the only entrenched returning starter. How the rest of the group would shake out was a mystery until the two-deep depth chart came out on Sunday.

#8 - Jackson Mitchell - Senior

Mitchell could have gone pro or transferred to a bigger program, but he chose to stay and keep building what he started when he arrived in Storrs four years ago. He’s on all the watchlists this year after going buck wild last year, with 140 tackles (50 solos), 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries, three pass break-ups, an interception, two forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries, which led all of FBS.

The Ridgefield, Connecticut native will start the season at middle linebacker and look to continue boosting his pro stock as a legit NFL Draft prospect.

#15 Tui Brown - Junior

Brown has been a rotational player for two years and now he’s earned the opportunity to start as the strong-side linebacker.

He had a nice interception and a number of run-stuffing tackles in the live scrimmages this preseason. Hailing from Gateway High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he also played basketball, Brown played in 11 games as a freshman and another 11 as a sophomore, but hasn’t made a ton of tackles. This will be his chance to show what he’s made of as the season starts with a challenging NC State squad.

#22 Noah Plack - Grad Student

Plack transferred to UConn from FCS Delaware, where he played in 43 games, and has earned the other starting linebacker job as the outside WILL, or weakside, linebacker. Last year, he was second on the team in tackles and earned First-Team All-CAA honors.

Jim Mora has compared Plack’s athleticism to the departed Swenson. But like Brown, Plack may be in a rotation here and could cede time to someone else depending on how things shape up as he looks to adjust from FCS to FBS play.

Syndication: Wilmington News Journal
Noah Plack in action at Delaware.
William Bretzger/Delaware News Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

#13 Alfred Chea - Junior

Chea came to UConn from Jacksonville, Florida as a defensive back before moving over to linebacker. This year he’s listed as a primary backup at the weakside linebacker position behind Plack. After redshirting in 2020, Chea appeared in 11 games in 2021 and made four appearances in 2022, surviving the coaching change and remaining one of UConn’s 22 best defenders since he hit the field. This is his chance to enter the rotation.

Without having seen lots of film on him, Chea seems like a natural football player being asked to move to a position of need to help the team. I could see him going back to safety in the future or bulking up and positioning as a strong coverage linebacker for the sake of his pro prospects.

#0 - Eriq Gilyard - Grad Student

Gilyard came to UConn from Kansas, where he registered 24 tackles in 12 appearances for the resurgent Jayhawks. He began his college career at UCF, where he started 22 games across his sophomore and junior seasons before an injury.

Like Chea, Gilyard is from Jacksonville, where he was a four-star recruit out of Trinity High. He’s listed as Jackson’s primary backup in the middle and should see considerable time as a rotational player.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Pittsburgh
Gilyard back in 2019, tackling now-Pittsburgh Steeler starter Kenny Pickett.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

#17 - Kevon Glenn - Redshirt Junior

Glenn is a new transfer from Georgia Southern who joined the team right before or very early in preseason camp. He played in four games with one tackle in 2022 after playing in all 12 games in 2021. His college career started at Florida State, making three appearances for the Seminoles in 2020. Right now he’s a rotation player, listed as the strong-side backup to Tui Brown.

Glenn in a preseason practice this year.
Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

#12 - Amir Renwick - Junior

Renwick comes to UConn from Coffeyville CC in Kansas, where he spent two seasons making 111 tackles in 17 total games with 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, and two interceptions. Originally from the Baltimore area, where he played high school ball at Milford Mill Academy, Renwick has earned praise from his teammates for his performance in camp and could see more playing time over the course of the season given his size, strength, and versatility.