Texas’s pass defense was very bad last season. How bad? The Longhorns had the 127th ranked pass defense, in terms of yards per game, out of 130 FBS programs. However, injuries and inexperience really took a toll on the secondary.
Entering this season, the secondary now has more experience and has new coaches in defensive coordinator Chris Ash and cornerbacks coach Jay Valai. In addition, Ash is a proponent of the 4-3 defensive scheme, which should add more pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Last season, former Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando utilized a base 3-3-5 scheme and often had to call a blitz in order to get to the opponent’s quarterback.
Despite the lack of success last season, there are reasons to be optimistic. The leader of the secondary, Caden Sterns, has the potential to go in the first round of the NFL Draft. Furthermore, the secondary returns a more experienced group.
Today, we begin to look at the defensive side of the ball and preview the Longhorns’ secondary. Our last position preview looked at the quarterback position.
2020 Secondary Options
CB: D’Shawn Jamison (Junior)
2019 Stats: 35 total tackles, 3 INTs, 3 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble.
The Longhorns were in need of a defensive playmaker and Jamison was their answer. Last season, Jamison started in 9 games and brought energy to a depleted secondary. For his efforts, D’Shawn was named to the 2020 All-Big 12 Preseason Team. This season, the Longhorns will place a lot of responsibilities on Jamison’s plate. As a result, D’Shawn will be one of the team’s players to keep an eye on.
CB: Josh Thompson (Redshirt Junior)
2019 Stats: 11 tackles.
Thompson played in the team’s first four games before deciding to burn a redshirt after sustaining an injury. However, Thompson is well in the mix for a starting cornerback job in 2020. Prior to the start of the season, Josh will have to compete with Jalen Green for that title.
CB: Jalen Green (Junior)
2019 Stats: 30 tackles and 5 passes defensed.
Last season, Green started in seven games for the Longhorns. Jalen has the potential to be a great cornerback for the Longhorns, and was the nation’s sixth best cornerback recruit in 2018. In addition, Green stands in at 6’1″, which is a decent size for a defensive back. However, Green must prove to the country why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. Entering this season, don’t be surprised if coaches Jay Valai and Chris Ash are able to get the most out of Green’s talent.
CB: Chris Adimora (Sophomore)
2019 Stats: 10 tackles and 2 passes defensed.
Adimora played in all of Texas’s 13 games in 2019. Entering the 2020 season, Adimora is slated as the team’s nickelback, a role that was previously primed for Anthony Cook. However, when Cook entered (and later exited) the NCAA transfer portal in June, it created a window of opportunity for Adimora.
CB: Anthony Cook (Junior)
2019 Stats: 24 tackles, 2 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble.
Last season, Cook started in six games as a sophomore. As I previously mentioned, Cook decided to both enter, and then exit, the NCAA transfer portal this summer. Although this move might hurt his playing time in the short-term, I believe that Cook will be a big part of the Longhorns secondary in the long run. Currently, he is battling Chris Adimora for the role of nickelback.
CB: Kenyatta Watson II (Redshirt Freshman)
2019 Stats: 3 tackles.
Last season, Kenyatta appeared in only four games before deciding to burn a redshirt. Prior to joining the Longhorns, Watson was ranked as the nation’s 16th best cornerback in the class of 2019. Now, with a little bit of experience under his belt, expect to see Kenyatta on the field quite often, especially against conference opponents who like to air it out.
FS: Caden Sterns (Junior)
2019 Stats: 59 tackles, 1 sack and 1 pass defensed.
Banged up in 2019, Sterns was only able to start in eight games for the Longhorns. However, entering the 2020 season, Sterns will once again be the leader of Texas’s defense. Although this season will provide a big test for Sterns as he will have to lead the team through uncertainty and coaching changes.
As I previously mentioned, Caden has the potential to be a first round NFL Draft pick and is frequently selected there in mock drafts. However, this season, Sterns has the opportunity to solidify himself among the Longhorn greats. The team is well positioned to make a run at the College Football Playoff and will need Caden to be at his absolute best in order to do so.
SS: Chris Brown (Redshirt Senior)
2019 Stats: 49 tackles, 2 passes defensed and 1 INT.
— Mike O’Brien (@OBsOpinion) January 11, 2020
Brown, a fifth-year senior, is one of the few remaining Longhorns from the Charlie Strong era. Last season, Brown started in 10 games for the Longhorns. However, it is not guaranteed that Brown will enter the season as a starting safety. As a result, Brown will have to fend off the encroaching B.J. Foster.
SS: B.J. Foster (Junior)
2019 Stats: 35 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT and 1 pass defensed.
— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) August 26, 2020
Prior to the start of the season, Foster will have to compete with Brown for the starting nod at safety. However, Foster will find his way onto the field regardless. In his first two seasons with the Longhorns, Foster has started in 14 games. Foster has made many big plays since joining the team and will continue to contribute.
Quite frankly, it would be pretty difficult for the secondary to be as bad as it was last season. Although the group did have some valid excuses for their struggles in 2019. However, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the secondary in 2020. The group has arguably the team’s best player, when healthy, in Caden Sterns, and returns more experience as a whole. In addition, it will be interesting to see how much the additions of Chris Ash and Jay Valai will help the defense. However, do not expect the secondary to be magically better to start the season. With so many uncertainties prior to the season, have some patience with this group.
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