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When Keondre Coburn followed Bijan Robinson at a media breakout session at Big 12 Media Days, it was the first time in months a Longhorn defender spoke to the press. Coburn was peppered with questions about the previous season, Steve Sarkisian, and the rest of the new coaches.
He also was asked about his teammates, including how they were performing and who was standing out in offseason conditioning. Coburn seems to be a consummate teammate, offering something positive on whoever he was asked about. But when questions arrived about his fellow defensive linemen, he took it to another level.
“We know we are,” Coburn said when asked if he thought the D-line was the strongest position group on the defense. “We’re coming in every day with that mindset.”
Coburn’s claim may hold true in 2021. New defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has four experienced players on the interior with Coburn, T’Vondre Sweat, Moro Ojomo, and Alfred Collins. All except Collins are at least in their third year in the program, and what Collins lacks in snaps he makes up for in talent.
“We’re coming,” Coburn said. “We know that we’ve got a big chip on our shoulder, and I think with coach (Bo) Davis being our coach really helped that a lot because he knows that and he’s going to make sure we know that every day.”
He then went into specifics about several fellow defenders. Coburn identified Collins as one of the quickest players on the team even with his 6-foot-5, 302-pound listing.
“He works every day,” Coburn said. “He smiles every day. It’s kind of weird because sometimes you shouldn’t be smiling, and he’s smiling. We’ll be at workouts and I’m dead, and I’m looking at him like, how are you smiling? That dude loves football. He loves Austin. He loves Texas.”
Regarding Sweat: “He makes me look little sometimes. T’Vondre, he’s athletic. He has the ability to probably play linebacker, he’s just in a big frame to be honest. He’s probably one of the best pass rushers we have on the team. He’s precise with every move, and not just with bull-rushing. I’m talking about finesse. He finesses very nice, and he loves the game of football.”
Coburn was not asked about Ojomo, but when pressed to identify a younger player who had done well throughout summer workouts, one name quickly came to mind: Byron Murphy
“He really reminds me of Aaron Donald in a way,” Coburn said. “Probably not the fastest like Aaron Donald, but that dude right there is by far the strongest person. He’s like a real pit bull. The comparison is a human pit bull. He’s strong. He wants to work. He comes in every day working hard.”
While Coburn has worked with those interior players for several seasons, a large chunk of the edge defenders joined the program via transfer. Ben Davis, Ovie Oghoufo, and Ray Thornton all bolstered Texas’ numbers at the Jack and X linebacker spots, but also brought experience from programs with playoff and championship pedigrees.
“They know how to win,” Coburn said about Davis and Oghoufo. “They come from places that won championships. All they did was bring that and brought it to Texas and showed us ways of how to be a champion. I think they did a very good job of doing that.”
Thornton falls into that category, too. Coburn mentioned how the night before his trip to Arlington for media days, he drove by the facility late at night and saw Thornton’s car. It wasn’t the first time Thornton was getting extra work, either. After a full day of conditioning during the summer, Thornton asked Coburn if he wanted to get even more reps.
Coburn was surprised, but Thornton’s attitude was indicative of the work ethic common on championship teams.
“Ray, I can say is different in a way, too,” Coburn said. “Ray runs to the ball. Ray wants to work.”
Coburn’s loftiest praise was saved for someone who was on Texas’ roster last year and returned thanks to eligibility relief due to the pandemic. Jacoby Jones was tabbed by Coburn as a breakout player and someone who could be the best person on the Longhorn defense this season.
“He comes in,” Coburn said. “He works very hard. He’s not going to stop, and he’s been in college. He knows what to do and what not to do. I like Coby a lot. Coby is going to make a lot of plays this year.”
It takes position groups (D-line, linebackers, secondary) working in tandem in order to be successful, but Coburn thinks the big boys up front will allow the other defenders to do their jobs well.
“I feel like every group has a strong output for the team,” Coburn said. “Because if we work hard, that means the DBs are working hard, that means linebackers are working hard. It starts up front first, obviously.”
Cover photo courtesy of the Big 12/Liz Parke