Texas notebook: Linebacker Joseph Ossai is learning that to be successful, it takes being vocal

Linebacker had an interception, sack against LSU, but coaches were all over him for not talking to teammates

Posted September 10th, 2019

Story highlights
  • Ehlinger: Teammates still firming in RB Keaontay Ingram's corner.
  • “You’re gonna make mistakes. It's not rare, by any stretch of the imagination.”
  • WR Collin Johnson having to be patient as teams roll safety help over the top against him.

Texas linebacker Joseph Ossai played in all 14 games last season, mostly as a backup and on special teams. He’s finding that life as the every-day starter is quite different.

The sophomore had a big interception against LSU plus one sack. But he admitted to some busted assignments and not being as vocal as he should in crunch time.

Asked if that spoke to his inexperience, Ossai said, “Nah, it just comes with laziness and not wanting to speak when you’re tired. So we’ll fix that. We’ll overemphasize that during practices this week.”


Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando plans to fix it, all right.

“He actually has a thing going for every time we don’t communicate, we have 30 yards of air raids,” Ossai said. “So that should get us get us going. So hopefully a lot of communication this week and cleaning a lot of that stuff up.”

Communication is critical in a loud, rowdy environment, although NRG Stadium could be awfully tame this week against 0-2 Rice.

Defensive end Malcolm Roach said the entire unit is responsible for looking over at the sideline to get the calls. The safeties talk to the corners to double check responsibilities. The linebackers call out things to the defensive linemen.

Late in games, communication becomes even more vital, Ossai is learning.

“Sometimes you see it, but you keep it to yourself because you’re tired, like I said, and you don’t want to communicate,” Ossai said. “But it’s better for the team, better for them, it’s better for you to communicate and make sure everybody’s on the same page.”

Supporting Ingram: Texas coach Tom Herman said after the LSU game that he still trusts running back Keaontay Ingram, who dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter on a fourth-and-goal play. On Tuesday, quarterback Sam Ehlinger said the team was firmly in Ingram’s corner, too.

“You’re gonna make mistakes. It’s not rare, by any stretch of the imagination,” Ehlinger said. “So understanding that, we all love him, and we all believe in him. And that doesn’t affect how any of us think and it does not matter in any sort of way. I mean, we had four other downs down there. So it’s not like that was all on him.”

Lower targets for Johnson: Stopping receiver Collin Johnson will be a priority on every opposing team’s defensive game plan. Teams can roll safety help to Johnson’s side of the field, prompting Ehlinger to look elsewhere.

Johnson was targeted just six times against LSU; he finished with three catches for 49 yards. He was targeted eight times in the season opener against Louisiana Tech.

Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson (9) catches a pass against LSU during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

“I always say this as a receiver, you want the ball, but you got to be humble enough to know the big picture,” Johnson said. “They came out there and started doubling me early in the game, and that allowed some other people to be open.”

Slot receiver Devin Duvernay was targeted a team-high 14 times. He finished with 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs, earning him Big 12 co-offensive player of the week honors.

In two games, Duvernay has been targeted 24 times and has 21 catches for 209 yards and three touchdowns.

Helping Coburn: Roach said he felt the entire defensive line has produced solid pressure the first two games. The starting front three has not registered a sack yet, but Herman said “stats don’t matter for defensive linemen.” It’s more about disrupting the offense.

“The whole D-line up front, I think we have enough chemistry,” Roach said. “We know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s just about going out there and playing, growing together each game.”

Roach said the unit has taken defensive tackle Keondre Coburn under the veterans’ wing. “He’s come a long way. He’s only going to get better,” Roach said.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email