Last season, one of the main criticisms of Texas’s defense was that they could not pressure the opposing quarterback. However, former defensive coordinator Todd Orlando received the brunt of the blame and was ousted. This season, the Longhorns will have a new defensive coordinator in Chris Ash. In addition, Texas will be using Ash’s 4-3 defensive scheme this year.
In 2020, Joseph Ossai will be unleashed on defense. Ossai is moving to the Jack position, where he will be rushing the passer much more frequently. In addition to Ossai, the Longhorns have a lot of talent up front.
Today’s Longhorns position preview concludes our look at the team’s position groups. Last week, we focused our attention on the linebackers.
2020 Defensive Front Starters:
Jack: Joseph Ossai (Junior)
2019 Stats: 90 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 INTs and 1 forced fumble.
Last year, Ossai was a major contributor for the Longhorns throughout the season, leading the team in tackles and sacks. In addition, he ended the season on a positive note, as he earned the Alamo Bowl’s Defensive MVP award.
Despite all of last year’s success, you could argue that he was being utilized at an unnatural position. This season, Chris Ash plans to line Ossai up closer to the line of scrimmage. As a result, Ossai will be asked to supply pressure, something that he is more than comfortable doing.
NT: Keondre Coburn (Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 Stats: 24 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
After burning a redshirt in 2018, Coburn was a big factor for the Longhorns in 2019. Last season, he started in 12 games and provided some consistency on a defense that was ravaged with injuries. This season, Coburn will be a part of a very talented defensive line and should benefit from the base 4-3 defensive scheme.
DT: Ta’Quon Graham (Senior)
2019 Stats: 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Similar to Coburn, Graham was another defensive stalwart for the Longhorns in 2019 as he started in all 13 of Texas’s games. Entering the 2020 season, the Longhorns will need Graham to be a mentor to some of the team’s young talent on the defensive front. In addition, it will be vital that Coburn & Graham are able to plug up the gaps up front, helping to take pressure off of Texas’s inexperienced linebackers.
DE: Moro Ojomo (Redshirt Sophomore)
2019 Stats: 13 tackles.
Highest graded returning Big 12 DTs:
1. Jalen Redmond, Oklahoma – 82.6
2. Darius Stills, WVU – 76.1
3. Moro Ojomo, Texas – 76.0
4. Samuela Tuihalamaka, Ok St – 75.3 pic.twitter.com/1DNiyQcMej
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 22, 2020
Last season, Ojomo appeared in all 13 of Texas’s games. However, this season, he will have an elevated role with the team as a regular starter. At 6’3″ and 276 pounds, Ojomo is decently sized and has the potential to create havoc for the defense.
2020 Defensive Front Rotation:
Jack: Reese Leitao (Junior)
2019 Stats: 1 tackle.
During his Longhorns career, Leitao has primarily been a contributor on special teams. In addition, he has changed positions multiple times. With that said, it is impressive that Reese has been able to make his way into the defensive rotation. Currently, Leitao has earned the right to be Joesph Ossai’s backup.
NT: T’Vondre Sweat (Sophomore)
2019 Stats: 8 tackles and 1 sack.
Entering this season, Sweat is lined up to be Keondre Coburn’s backup at nose tackle. In addition, Sweat should receive plenty of playing time in his role as he will provide the defensive front with fresh legs.
DT: Alfred Collins (Freshman)
2019 High School Stats (Courtesy of 247Sports): 86 tackles, 8 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
Prior to the start of the 2020 season, Collins has already worked his way into the defensive line’s rotation. Last year, Collins was one of the most highly touted high school football recruits in the country. In fact, 247Sports listed Collins as the nation’s second best strong-side defensive end prospect for the 2020 recruiting class. It will be interesting to see how much of a role Collins is given as a freshman, however his combination of size and athleticism should make any Longhorns fan excited.
DE: Jacoby Jones (Senior)
2019 Stats: 14 tackles and 1 forced fumble.
Last season, Jones appeared in 11 games for the Longhorns. Prior to the 2019 season, Jones transferred to Texas from Butler Community College. He made a name for himself at Butler as he was ranked as the nation’s 17th best 2019 junior college prospect by 247Sports.
This year’s defensive front is one of the more exciting groups that Texas has recently had. This season, Joseph Ossai has the potential to make his draft stock skyrocket. Furthermore, Ossai is joined by a group that is poised to create some damage. The addition of Chris Ash should help the defensive front in particular, as his defensive scheme places a focus on getting a pass rush. However, ultimately, it will be up to the players to make the game changing plays, not the coaches. The Longhorns will only go as far as the defense takes them.
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