Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Despite his productivity with Texas' defense, linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy might be one of the most underrated defensive players in the Big 12.
Muckelroy led Texas in tackles last season, starting all 13 games at middle linebacker. His 8.6 tackles per game ranked 50th nationally, including a career-best 16 tackles in the Longhorns' victory over Oklahoma.
Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is counting on Muckelroy to step up even more during his senior season, when he will be counted as one of the leaders of the Texas defensive unit.
We caught up with Muckelroy for a few minutes after a recent practice to talk to him about how the Longhorns were affected by sharing the Big 12 championship but not advancing to the championship game. He also discussed growing up in tiny Hallsville, Texas, his comeback from a serious finger injury and his development in football techniques since he arrived at Texas.
How would you describe your career so far at Texas?
Roddrick Muckelroy: It's been a lot of work. Coming into college was a challenge for me with a different attitude and different terminology in the defense I had to learn. I just had to learn how to practice and dealing with the meetings in order to prepare myself to contribute here.
Some of your teammates have described, in detail, how you had to learn how to watch film after you arrived at college. How much of a challenge was that?
RM: When I got here, I really didn't know much about watching film or studying my playbook. I didn't really know what to look for. I think the first time they showed film to us, I was just watching it just to watch guys make plays. It was a big transition from high school to get where I am now.
How have you changed in what you look for as you study opponents?
RM: That's what film is for. You learn to study the game and you get a good idea of what the offense is running. I've found that you just learn a lot as time goes by. I've learned how to break down film about an offense.
Your career was almost shelved by a pretty serious finger injury back in your freshman season in 2006. How has that changed you?
RM: I really didn't know what to think when they told me I had torn a tendon. But I knew something was pretty bad when they called me the day afterwards and told me I had to come over [to the doctor's office] right now. It was 16 weeks before I could do anything as far as lifting or contact or anything like that.
They told me if I didn't get it taken care of, I could lose my finger. When they said that, I took care of the injury right away. It was a play against Rice where I made a tackle and it just slipped out as I was grabbing the guy. I was tackling somebody and as I hit the ground something happened.
I know your teammates give you some grief because you might not have the prototypical physique for a linebacker. Do you give it back to them when they kid you?
RM: They mess with [me] a little bit. I don't have the build of a muscle man. I might not look I'm very athletic, but I'm not worrying about how I look. As long as I feel I can go out and help my team and produce on the field, I don't care what anybody says.
As you guys go through summer practice, how much confidence do you have in the returning defensive unit?
RM: I think we'll be ready to have a good year. Really, we just lost a few guys on our defensive line, but the young guys are really coming along there. As far as our linebackers, the safeties and the corners, we've all been there and have faith because we've been there before. I think we have a chance to be a great defense if we all work together.
You grew up in Hallsville, Texas. Was there any lifestyle change when you moved to Austin for college from where you grew up?
RM: You might say that. The only traffic jam we would have there would be in the morning when everybody was coming for school. Here is Austin, you can sit in traffic for 35-to-40 minutes. I still haven't gotten used to it yet. I've had to do some things with my time management to get accustomed to it. But now that I've been here for five years, it's getting a little easier for me.
Were there any scars with how the season finished up, especially with all of the controversy of sharing the Big 12 championship and still not advancing to the Big 12 championship game despite beating Oklahoma earlier in the season?
RM: I think we're just going to pick up where we left off. I think we should have played for the national championship, and so did everybody else around here. People thought we would be a little down and not be ready to play in the Fiesta Bowl. But we knew we had to take care of business when we played at Ohio State.
How has last season shaped how you guys are approaching the upcoming season?
RM: We're just trying to pick up where we left off. No half-stepping through workouts. If we're going to reach the goal we set for ourselves, we're going to need to be working hard all summer long. And that's how we are trying to do things until practice starts next month.