Texas defensive coordinator Vance Bedford (center) and linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary (right) are rebuilding a defense that allowed more than 30 points per game in 2015. (RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Football

Malik Jefferson, DBs highlight Texas defensive depth chart projections

Charlie Strong on his expectations: “We have to be a better defensive team than what we are.”

Posted August 28th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • In 2016, Longhorns need to generate more pass rush off the edge.
  • Defensive backs Davante Davis, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd still upholding DBU pedigree.
  • Michael Dickson, Trent Domingue holding down the special teams.

Texas coach Charlie Strong left no doubt about his expectations for the Longhorns’ defense. Things must get better this season.

“You look at our numbers, and it’s embarrassing,” Strong said in early August. “We have to be a better defensive team than what we are.”

The few defensive players that met with reporters in August didn’t want to talk about last year, either. Nobody wants to rehash memories of a unit that allowed 30.3 points and 452.6 yards per game, making it one of the worst defenses in school history.

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Texas defensive end Naashon Hughes tackles California's Jared Goff during the game at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas defensive end Naashon Hughes tackles California’s Jared Goff during the game at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford got himself an influx of talented freshmen to work with. It’s unclear how many will emerge as starters or key contributors as the season progresses. But many will get their shot.

“Guys were talking about last year, and I forgot about last year,” Bedford said. “I’m an old DB. You keep thinking about what happened in the past — good or bad — you’re going to stay in the past.”

Strong left no doubt that Bedford is the one in charge. And the former UT defensive back is motivated than ever to right the ship.

“I sit in the defensive meetings and sit in the offensive meetings, but I don’t make the defensive calls,” Strong said. “You hire coaches, that’s their job. I gotta run a team, and it’s hard for me to run the defense with what y’all ask me to do around here.”

Here’s a look at the projected starters and some depth on the defense:

Defensive ends: Naashon Hughes, Bryce Cottrell. Charles Omenihu will be heavily involved, as will Breckyn Hager.

Defensive tackles: Paul Boyette, Poona Ford. Both of these players must hold their own or get pushed aside by sophomore Chris Nelson and a slew of freshmen.

Middle linebacker: Malik Jefferson, Edwin Freeman. Strong has insisted he wants to be strong up the middle, thus Jefferson is anchored there so he can race either way.

Outside linebacker: Tim Cole, Anthony Wheeler. The Horns don’t really have a linebacker with big pass rushing potential. At least, not yet.

Nickel back: Antwuan Davis, P.J. Locke. Close observers have been surprised how well Davis has played this August.

Cornerbacks: Davante Davis, Holton Hill, Kris Boyd. These three will have plenty of chances to strut their stuff in the pass-happy Big 12.

Safeties: Dylan Haines, Jason Hall, DeShon Elliott, Brandon Jones. Hall is the one who needs to show more, not Haines.

Punter: Michael Dickson. Here’s one position Strong doesn’t have to worry much about.

Punt returner: Devin Duvernay. Easily one of the fastest players on the team.

Kicker: Trent Domingue. Graduate transfer from LSU fell into UT’s lap earlier this summer.

Kick returner: Kris Boyd. He averaged 20.6 yards on nine returns last season as Daje Johnson’s backup.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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