After two years of strong performance, Texas’ defense took a massive step back in 2019. The Longhorns fell 30 spots in the national total defense rankings, with the passing defense ranking among the five worst units in the nation.
To get back on track, Texas hired Chris Ash to lead the unit. Ash helped coach Ohio State to a championship alongside Herman in 2014 and produced a top 10 defense en route to earning the Rutgers job. Things didn’t work out at one of the toughest jobs in the sport, but Ash’s defensive credentials are pristine, and his mindset is direct.
“It’s an attitude and mindset towards fundamentals and execution,” Ash said. “If we can accomplish those things, with the talent we have here, we have a chance to be successful. If they don’t have the right mindset and the right attitude, the rest isn’t going to matter.”
Getting a stronger pass rush will be top priority. The Longhorns will move to a four-man front with Joseph Ossai switching into a dedicated pass rushing role. Former end Ta’Quon Graham projects to slide inside next to Keondre Coburn, who excelled when he could stay on the field. Someone must step up to take on the other defensive end role.
Switching to a 4-2-5 base will ease the pressure on a shallow linebacker corps. Sophomore Ayodele Adeoye played well in his first year as a starter and will improve. DeMarvion Overshown shifted down and will provide a speedy presence alongside Adeoye and reserve LB Juwan Mitchell.
However, Ash’s specialty is coaching up secondaries. After Texas’ struggles defending the pass in 2019, his instruction is badly needed. Free safety Caden Sterns is a known commodity when healthy, but the Cibolo Steele product has struggled with injuries. However, his missed snaps allowed Chris Brown, Montrell Estell and B.J. Foster to get major opportunities.
Cornerback was consistently an issue, but D’Shawn Jamison is transforming into the one consistent option. Alongside Jamison, Jalen Green, Josh Thompson, Kobe Boyce and Kenyatta Watson will all fight for snaps. Other converted corners and safeties will also battle at the fifth “spur” DB spot.
Ash has coordinated defenses at the highest levels of college football. With so much talent returning to Austin, there’s only one question on which to evaluate this defense: Did they play well enough to win?
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