With Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Poona Ford serving as an anchor in the trenches last season, the Texas Longhorns’ defensive line was undoubtedly a team strength.
Ford is now playing for a paycheck in hopes of making an NFL roster, but the Longhorns defensive line again possesses plenty of talent and should be a force to be reckoned with in 2018, as noted by ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
“Despite losing several key players off last season’s defense, the Longhorns stand to be dynamic off the edge,” Trotter wrote. “Charles Omenihu has NFL measurables. Breckyn Hager and Malcolm Roach boast plenty of experience. Ta’Quon Graham has the talent to break out.”
In Ford’s place, senior Chris Nelson is expected to anchor the interior at nose tackle, and as Trotter noted, former 4-star prospect Ta’Quon Graham has bulked up to 290 pounds and received plenty of praise for his transition to nose tackle throughout the spring, so there’s solid depth there.
Texas would benefit if Omenihu produced up to his potential; his NFL tools paved the way for 7 tackles for loss, including 4 sacks, in 2017.
Hager was a force off the edge once he cracked the rotation down the stretch, finishing with 22 tackles, 9 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. Meanwhile, after suffering through a bit of a sophomore slump, Roach made the switch to B-Backer this offseason, where he’ll be able to utilize his size and athleticism as a hybrid edge rusher. The early returns on that move have been positive.
The group is experienced, with 112 games played between them, and reports throughout the spring indicated defensive line coach Oscar Giles’ group was in for a breakout season.
With the majority of the talent that headlined the defensive line in 2017 set to don burnt orange in 2018, there’s reason to believe those reports will prove true.