January 9, 2009

Kindle gives his decision to Muschamp, Chambers

Sergio Kindle met with Will Muschamp and Bruce Chambers in Dallas today and told them he will be back at Texas for his senior season in 2009.

Hugs were exchanged, and Kindle, in his typical low-key fashion, said he was ready to get to work in spring ball and to accomplish all the goals he's been contemplating while making his decision.

Kindle wants to help Texas win a championship and see if he can have the kind of year Brian Orakpo had in 2008 in which he gets recognized as the one of the best - if not the best - defensive player in college football. He also is taking up Muschamp on his vow to help turn Kindle from a 3-4 linebacker into an every-down pass rusher all 32 teams in the NFL will covet.

Muschamp's role in all of this has been invaluable. Had he moved on to another job and not been retained at Texas, there is almost no chance Kindle would be back to learn a new defense under what would be his fourth defensive coordinator in four years. Kindle totally trusts Muschamp, and that relationship was enough to satisfy Sergio's father, Johnny, that coming back to Texas could improve Sergio's draft stock dramatically while Kindle also closes in on his degree.

"He's relieved to have the decision made," said a source close to Kindle. "He just wants to play ball."

After an incredible high school career at Woodrow Wilson in Dallas, Kindle's career at Texas got off to a slow start the first two season. But he had a breakout in 2008 with 10 sacks, one and a half behind Orakpo (11.5), in his first year with his hand on the ground since ninth grade. Kindle's return is welcomed news for a defensive line that is taking some serious hits with the departures of seniors Roy Miller, Orakpo, Henry Melton and Aaron Lewis.

With Kindle back in the mix, he will continue to fluctuate between an outside linebacker in a 3-4 set and a defensive end in a 4-3. Muschamp has told Kindle he will not be coming off the field next season, so Kindle will have to put in the work necessary to shed the blocks of offensive tackles when rushing as a defensive end.

"I can improve on shedding blocks and using more technique," Kindle said at the Fiesta Bowl.

He said he got his sacks this season "off natural ability" and wants to learn some of the "basketball moves" Orakpo used.

Kindle has come a long way in his three years at Texas on and off the field. As a freshman, he suffered an ankle injury and struggled some in the classroom, even missing the spring game his freshman year because he didn't have enough hours (he had 11 and needed 12). His sophomore year started off slowly because he was charged with DWI and was suspended the first three games of the season after a summer in which seven Longhorns had brushes with the law.

He struggled to connect with then-linebackers coach Larry Mac Duff, who kept Kindle on the sidelines for much of his sophomore season because he wasn't as fluid in pass drops as Mac Duff would have liked.

Everything changed this season with the arrival of Muschamp, who needed exactly one practice to put Kindle in a pass-rush drill and start creating the Buck Package, which used Kindle as a pass-rusher with his hand on the ground. Kindle also made a 3.0 GPA last spring and has become a solid student.

Kindle's junior season was a huge success, and Kindle gained confidence throughout the year. He caught everyone's attention with his relentless motor, big hits and positive energy. While Kindle has indicated it will be hard to see his best friends - Ryan Palmer, Orakpo and Miller - move on, he has also said he expects taking over a leadership role "to be an easy transition."

That leadership will be key because Miller, Orakpo and Palmer handled much of it this season, although Kindle gave a couple fiery speeches - including one before the Oklahoma game - that had all of his teammates ready to go to war with him.

Kindle and Palmer even got matching tattoos on the inside of their right biceps that read "BLB" next to a bag of money. It stands for Bad Luck Boys because Kindle said he and Palmer's luck at Texas got off to a "shady" start. "But it seems like things are on the right track now," Kindle said. The bag of money represents their dreams of playing in the NFL.

Palmer will begin trying to accomplish that dream immediately. Kindle, who was projected as a "low second-round pick" by the NFL evaluation committee in news broken by Orangebloods, is going to wait a year before pursuing his NFL dreams. And that is huge news for all Longhorns and Longhorn fans.

The Predator will be back preying on quarterbacks in 2009.

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