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2020 Position Outlook: Defensive Line

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The Longhorn defensive line arguably stands to benefit the most from the addition of Chris Ash to the Texas staff. After three years mostly utilizing a three-man, odd front with directives to allow for other defenders to make plays, the Longhorn defense will switch to a four-man front in order to let the D-linemen make plays themselves.

Now, “four-man front” does not equal “four players with hands in the dirt.” The strongside end, defensive tackle, and nose tackle will begin plays in three-point stances, while the weakside end or “jack” could start in a two-point stance to allow for the occasional drop into coverage.

Tom Herman explained the physical attributes he wants his defensive linemen to have during his April sit-down with Inside Texas.

“You want a 310, 320-pound nose guard, which we still do, but our defensive ends were 290-pound guys that were playing the B-gap most of the game,” Herman said. “So you’re still gonna want that 290-pound 3-technique that plays on the edge of the guard. Then our ends are kind of two different ends. What we call our defensive end are bigger, stouter, set-the-point guys like Moro Ojomo at 280 pounds, Marqez Bimage at 275 pounds.”

“But then you look at the jack position, which is a pass rush guy that can drop into coverage in some of your zone blitzes, and Joe (Ossai) is kind of prototypical of that. He’s 6-foot-3, 250-255 pounds but really, really twitched up, really athletic.”

In simple terms, the switch to a four-man front will create more one-on-one, O-linemen versus D-linemen matchups than in the previous three seasons.

Since returning to Texas, Oscar Giles has coached two Big 12 defensive linemen of the year in systems not conducive to defensive linemen. Those accolades played a part in helping him draw composite top 150 players like Alfred Collins, Vernon Broughton, Keondre Coburn and Prince Dorbah to Texas. Other players just outside that top 150 on the roster include Joseph Ossai, Moro Ojomo, and T’Vondre Sweat, who could all see starter snap volume this year.

Texas players’ skill sets fit into Ash’s four-man front. That scheme, plus coaching from Giles and associate head coach for defense Mark Hagen, should allow the linemen to impact games more often than in the prior system.

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