Position Preview: Interior Defensive Line is Deep, but What About Edge?

In 2021, the Texas defensive line was mediocre at best. More often than not, the group proved to be incapable of forcing pressure on opposing quarterbacks and allowed opposing offensive coordinators the ability to run the football whenever necessary. The inability to stop the run did not solely fall on the Texas defensive line, but everything on defense starts up front. 

The Longhorns gave up 31.1 PPG (99th nationally) including 202.4 YPG on the ground and 224 YPG through the air.

The good news for the Longhorns is the defensive line returns most of its players from 2021, especially on the interior. The bad news is substantial improvement may not be possible until the underclassmen gain more experience.

On the interior, Texas returns everyone who saw meaningful snaps in 2021. That group includes veterans Keondre Coburn and Moro Ojomo, talented players who are looking to break out in Alfred Collins and Byron Murphy II, along with T’Vondre Sweat and Vernon Broughton who are in jeopardy of getting passed on the depth chart. 

Collins primarily played the “Jack” edge position in defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski’s defense in 2021. This was out of necessity due to a lack of depth in the OLB/Edge group. Collins has since moved back to the interior where he possesses his highest ceiling.

The interior group has the potential to be a strength of the Texas defense in 2022, but the veterans of the group must step up. If Collins and Murphy continue to build on a strong spring, they should be starting by the end of the season.

Edge is a different story. The OLB/Edge position on the Texas defense will likely remain a weakness for the team given the lack of talent and depth. Ovie ​​Oghoufo manned the “Buck” position in 2021. While Ovie has improved this spring, he does not possess the tenacity needed to provide a consistent pass rush. 

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Barryn Sorrell projects as the starting “Jack” on the opposite side of the defensive line. Sorrell flashed in limited time as a freshman in 2021 and continued to flash in spring camp. However, Sorrell is likely a year or two away from being a proven commodity Kwiatkowski can look to in order to get after the quarterback.

Texas missed big on All-Big 12 edge transfer Ochaun Mathis from TCU. Had Texas landed Mathis, it would have healed a major hole on the Texas defense and allowed younger players like Sorrell another year to develop before being forced into a starting role.

The newcomers on the Longhorn defensive line should give Texas fans hope that it could be a dominant group in years to come. Texas signed one of its best defensive line classes in recent memory consisting of edge Justice Finkley, who already looks like an NFL player. Finkley should see significant time this fall contingent on Texas not adding talent through the transfer portal. 

Texas also signed talented edge rushers J’Mond Tapp, Ethan Burke, and Derrick Brown. Bo Davis, the Texas defensive line coach, also added a plethora of interior talent including Jaray Bledsoe, Kristopher Ross, Aaron Bryant, and Zac Swanson.

Kwiatkowski is going to be asking a lot of its interior defensive line to make up for the lack of talent on the edge. Will it be enough for a group that must take a big leap after a historically bad 2021 campaign? Longhorn nation will find out when Texas hosts UL Monroe on September 3rd.

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