College football in the state of Texas made major strides in 2018, and it’s time to honor the best players on the defensive side of the ball.
Texas has a reputation for only producing explosive offenses, but that’s changing quickly. TCU has set the standard in the state, but Texas and Texas A&M are investing more on defense. North Texas produced a couple elite players, and Texas Tech is making strides. Most notably, the best player in the state played defense at Houston.
Sorting through all the talent is difficult, but perhaps nowhere more than linebacker. Even after choosing a 3-4 formation, we had to leave off elite playmakers like UTSA’s Josiah Tauaefa, Baylor’s Clay Johnston and Texas A&M’s Tyrel Dodson. Any team in the country would take those players.
Texas and Texas A&M led the way with three honorees each. North Texas and Texas Tech were the only other two teams to have multiple honorees.
Without further ado, here is our All-Texas Defensive Team. Make sure and check out the All-Texas Offensive Team.
All-Texas Defensive Team
DL: Ed Oliver, Houston
Oliver didn’t have the junior year he wanted, but he was still the best defensive player in the state of Texas. The Houston Westfield product posted 54 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries in just eight games.
DL: Charles Omenihu, Texas
Omenihu was the Texas rush for much of the 2018 season. The senior finished with 9.5 sacks for the Longhorns; no other defensive lineman posted more than 2.5 sacks. He added 18 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries to lead a resurgent defense.
DL: Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M
Sorting through the Texas A&M front seven to find standouts is difficult, but Keke fits the bill. As a defensive lineman, he posted 51 tackles and 11 tackles for loss. Keke led the team with seven sacks and set the edge as well as any lineman in the state.
LB: Dakota Allen, Texas Tech
The numbers are good-not-great for Allen in his senior season, but the impact on the defense was obvious. Allen played through a broken hand and knee issues, and didn’t play for much of the final three games. Tech gave up 127 points in those games and lost all three.
LB: E.J. Ejiya, North Texas
Ejiya’s stats are ridiculous. He posted 121 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, nine sacks and 11 quarterback hurries while leading the Mean Green to consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time since the 1970s. Ejiya made critical plays all year long and will now get a legitimate NFL look.
LB: Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M
Despite missing a game, Alaka led the Aggies in tackles and tackles for loss. He became arguably the most disruptive member of Texas A&M’s SEC-best run defense. In addition to 14.5 tackles for loss and 79 tackles, Alaka was credited with four quarterback hurries.
LB: Gary Johnson, Texas
Johnson took the step from very good to star as a senior. He led the team with 90 tackles and trailed only Omenihu with 16.5 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries and 6.5 tackles for loss. He helped set the tone for a still-developing Texas defense.
DB: Jeff Gladney, TCU
The Big 12 didn’t properly reward Gladney for a phenomenal season. We’re happy to fix that. Gladney was one of the best pass defenders in the Big 12, and helped lead one of the best pass defenses in the conference.
DB: Adrian Frye, Texas Tech
Frye emerged as one of Texas Tech’s best defenders as a freshman. He posted only 21 tackles, but that was because he led the team with five interceptions and 13 pass breakups. Teams eventually just stopped targeting him because he was so effective.
DB: Caden Sterns, Texas
Sterns didn’t keep up his torrid pace from the first half of the year, but still made a huge impact on this Texas team. He posted four interceptions this season, and all were huge. The combination of Sterns, Brandon Jones, B.J. Foster and a stable of cornerbacks will be terrifying heading forward.
DB: Nate Brooks, North Texas
Maybe it’s cheating to put three cornerbacks on the list, but Brooks was a dynamic playmaker all over the field. He posted 67 tackles at the position, including four for loss. More importantly, Brooks broke up 10 passes and added six interceptions.
P: Braden Mann, Texas A&M
Mann was the best punter in college football this season, and it wasn’t really close. He became the first American in half a decade to win the Ray Guy Award after averaging 51 yards per punt. Nineteen of his 50 kicks landed within the 20-yard line.