Clogging up holes

Clogging up holes

Coming into the 2010 season, Texas coach Mack Brown said he thought the Longhorns' defense could be the best he's had in Austin.

There was just one question mark: defensive tackle. More specifically, the defensive tackle spot next to Kheeston Randall, who had star potential. The Longhorns had talented ends, a linebacking corps among the Big 12's best and arguably the most dynamic secondary in the country.

There was just that one hole.

But the last two games, sophomore Alex Okafor has filled that hole the same way he's filled ones sought by opposing running backs. A former defensive end, Okafor moved inside to help provide depth to a position of need. According to Brown, Okafor wanted to remain on the outside. But he was willing to follow direction from the coaches and they had a success story to sell him — Sam Acho.

"Whenever you ask a guy to move positions, I think it has to be mutual," said Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator. "Especially moving in there now, because that's a different deal. I was very pleased with his response and wanting to do it. He has done nothing but what we've asked him to do since he's been at the University of Texas."

Acho payed both defensive end and tackle, succeeding at both and helping the Longhorns steal some snaps on the interior. Okafor had similar size to Acho at 265-270 pounds, but he had more length at 6-foot-5. Against Nebraska, Okafor played both spots, making a sack and helping to eat up blocks on the interior.

Just how good was he? Brown said Okafor was the difference between the UCLA effort and the Nebraska one, lauding Okafor's ability to penetrate and keep his pads low.

"Alex is playing great, just great," Randall said. "He really plays blocks well."

Muschamp agreed with Randall's assessment.

"Sometimes, especially the way we play, you may not get all the production, you may not get the ink as far as a lot of the production issues, but you're doing a really nice job," Muschamp said.

Muschamp said the sky was the limit for his new defensive tackle. Muschamp cited Okafor's running ability and athleticism, while adding that he has the frame to bulk up to play at 285-290 pounds. Muschamp called Okafor's development "a process," adding that it was often difficult to move a player inside, where the game is faster and the bodies are bigger.

"I think Alex has played well," Muschamp said.

HornsDigest.com Recommended Stories