The Texas Longhorn defensive frontline is definitely the group that suffered the most loses this past offseason. The stop force loses four of its top five linemen (Orakpo, Miller, Lewis, and Melton) as Lamarr Houston is the lone returning starter (8 of the 13 games) in the front four.
Those loses are going to force some young guys to step up early as well as quite a bit of juggling on the part of Coaches Giles, Tolleson, and Muschamp. The play of the youngsters up front and at the third linebacker spot will likely determine how much Sergio Kindle plays with his hand on the ground. Look for a lot of rotating of players including multiple linebackers getting a chance to rush the passer.
Spotlight: Lamarr Houston
Senior Lamarr Houston brings some gray hair to a bunch that has no other players with a game start (counting Kindle at LB), so Houston needs to be a steady, consistent influence in the middle. Houston will be entering his second season as a starter at tackle and his third season as a starter. In 2007, he started eleven games at DE. In his four-year career, he brings 102 tackles, seven sacks, 21 TFL, 37 quarterback pressures, nine passes defensed, and a forced fumble.
Freshman Spotlight: Alex Okafor
Pflugerville High’s Alex Okafor meets all the criteria for an immediate impact guy: early enrollee who earned reps during spring practice, a body that will be college ready with a spring and summer in the Texas strength and conditioning program, a high skill level featuring long arms and a quick first step to get up the field, and a wide open depth chart at his position. With both starting defensive ends headed to the NFL (Orakpo and Melton), Okafor has a real chance to contribute significant minutes as a true freshman on what figures to be a very good defense for a national contender.
After a very impressive first offseason and spring practice, Alex Okafor is the name that just keeps popping up. Many expect that Okafor will actually start the season opener.
Other key contributors: Sam Acho and Kheeston Randall
Junior Sam Acho has already played in 24 games in two seasons, but has yet to start a game. That should change quickly as the junior from Dallas St. Mark’s is in position to contribute in a big way for the ‘Horns. Acho is a cerebral player with the explosive ability to rush the passer. In limited opportunities in his first two seasons, Acho has logged 4.5 sacks and eleven QB pressures.
With two of the top three defensive tackles gone off of last year’s squad, the 6-5 Beaumont Kelly star, Kheeston Randall, will almost certainly be in the rotation by default. Randall has a tendency to play high that he has been working on but he has shown flashes which excites those around the program.
Oft-injured defensive end Eddie Jones will contribute if he can manage to stay healthy.
Lamarr Houston will be the lone casualty from the ’09 starting squad so the 2010 outlook is more of the same as virtually every one else should return. The most interesting thing about the 2010 look is just how young the defensive line will be with eleven and perhaps twelve DL in the last two recruiting classes.
Sam Acho, SR
Eddie Jones, SR
Kheeston Randall, JR
Russell Carter, JR
Michael Wilcoxon, JR (status up in the air)
Tyrell Higgins, JR (non-scholarship)
Dravannti Johnson, SO (could also be at TE)
Alex Okafor, SO
Calvin Howell, RFR or SO
Derek Johnson, RFR or SO (expected to return to team August 8)
Tevin Mims, RFR or SO
Kyle Kriegel, RFR or SO
Dominique Jones, RFR or SO (could also be at TE)
Taylor Bible, FR
De’Aires Cotton, FR
Ashton Dorsey, FR
Reggie Wilson, FR
Greg Daniels, FR
Other Longhorn Position Previews: